Heavyweight BEV Safety Issues Investigated in US

US road safety regulators have begun investigating the increased danger to pedestrians and other road users from heavier BEVs.

Reuters reports that US National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy has raised concerns about the increased risk of severe injury and death from vehicles carrying heavy battery packs. She pointed to a General Motors GMC Hummer EV that weighs more than 9,000lbs, up from about 6,000lbs for the gasoline ICE version, and the Ford F-150 Lightning EV, which is between 2,000lbs and 3,000lbs heavier than the non-electric version.

The heavier weight “has a significant impact on safety for all road users,” she said in a reported speech. “We have to be careful that we aren’t also creating unintended consequences: more death on our roads.”​

GM said: “Safety is at the cornerstone at everything we do. All GM vehicles are engineered to meet or exceed all applicable motor vehicle safety standards.” Ford did not immediately comment.

Homendy’s comments come as the US has seen a sharp rise in traffic deaths since the start of the pandemic and that new vehicles have continued to grow in mass and weight compared to previous models. The Environmental Protection Agency said last month average new vehicle weight and horsepower both hit new records in 2021 with average vehicle weight hitting 4,289lbs in 2021 with the rise in SUV and truck sales and both are forecast to hit new records in 2022.

U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915, the largest number killed on American roads in a year since 2005, after rising 7% in 2020, and declined slightly in the first nine months of 2022 but remain high. Acting NHTSA administrator Ann Carlson told reporters this week that 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”. She noted that 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.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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