U.S. Official Airs Safety Concerns over Heavy Electric Vehicles

FILE - A truck drives down a rural road near a water tower marking the location of the Mem
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

The safety risks posed by heavy electric vehicles in any collision with lighter vehicles has pushed the head of the National Transportation Safety Board to issue a general warning to all road users.

The official, Jennifer Homendy, raised the issue in a speech in Washington to the Transportation Research Board. AP reports she pointed, by way as an example, to an electric GMC Hummer that weighs about 9,000 pounds with a battery pack that alone is 2,900 pounds  — roughly the entire weight of a typical Honda Civic.

“I’m concerned about the increased risk of severe injury and death for all road users from heavier curb weights and increasing size, power, and performance of vehicles on our roads, including electric vehicles,” Homendy said in remarks prepared for the group.

File/Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board speaks during a news conference, Oct. 3, 2019, in Windsor Locks, Conn. On Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, Homendy raised concerns about the risk heavy electric vehicles pose if they collide with lighter vehicles. (AP Photo/Chris Ehrmann, File)

The extra weight EVs typically carry stems from the outsize mass of their batteries. To achieve 300 or more miles of range per charge from an EV, batteries have to weigh thousands of pounds, the AP report sets out.

Homendy said her worries about safety risks stem from a steady proliferation of EVs on roads ands highways.

“We have to be careful that we aren’t also creating unintended consequences: More death on our roads,” she said. “Safety, especially when it comes to new transportation policies and new technologies, cannot be overlooked.”

The official noted Ford’s F-150 Lightning EV pickup is 2,000 to 3,000 pounds heavier than the same model’s combustion version. The Mustang Mach E electric SUV and the Volvo XC40 EV, she said, are roughly 33 percent heavier than their gasoline counterparts.

“That has a significant impact on safety for all road users,” Homendy added.

Reuters reports acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson told reporters Monday the agency was studying the impact of vehicle size on roadway safety.

Carlson said the agency was “very concerned” about the “degree to which heavier vehicles contribute to greater fatality rates,” further noting some subscribe to the “mantra that bigger is safer” but that did not necessarily take into account other factors.

“Bigger is safer if you don’t look at the communities surrounding you and you don’t look at the other vehicles on the road,” Carlson said. “It actually turns out to be a very complex interaction.”

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