U.S. Highway Guardrails Fail to Withstand Electric Vehicle Collisions

Feb. 9, 2024
Recent crash test data released by the University of Nebraska has spotlighted another infrastructure issue facing an EV transition: guardrails on highways.

Recent crash test data released by the University of Nebraska has spotlighted another infrastructure issue facing an EV transition: guardrails on highways, reports AP News.

During crash tests conducted last fall at Nebraska’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, when a nearly 4-ton 2022 Rivian R1T electric pickup came hurtling toward a metal guardrail on the testing site, it tore through it, losing hardly any speed. It wasn’t until colliding with a concrete barrier a few yards away that it was stopped.

Cody Stolle of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility knew that the test would be a challenge for an EV, which on average weighs 20% to 50% more than its gas-powered counterparts and holds a lower center of gravity. 

The results of the test raise questions on if existing roadside safety systems in the U.S. are equipped to handle vehicles much heavier than the typical vehicle. Even in a test of a smaller Tesla sedan, it lifted the guardrail and passed under it during the preliminary crash tests performed in Nebraska.

The increased weight of EVs brings other infrastructure concerns, such as increased wear on streets, and whether facilities like parking garages will be able to support the added weight. 

The growing list of infrastructure problems presented by EVs will most effectively be addressed with collaboration between auto manufacturers and transportation engineers, according to Michael Brooks, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

“A lot of these parking structures were built to hold vehicles that weighed 2,000 to 4,000 pounds — not 10,000 pounds,” explained Brooks.

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