NTSB chief warns of risks posed by heavy electric vehicles: NPR



Jennifer Homendy speaks during a press conference on Oct. 3, 2019, in Windsor Locks, Conn. On Wednesday, Homendy, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said he was concerned about the risk posed by heavy electric vehicles when they collide. lighter cars.

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Chris Ehrmann/AP


Jennifer Homendy speaks during a press conference on Oct. 3, 2019, in Windsor Locks, Conn. On Wednesday, Homendy, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said he was concerned about the risk posed by heavy electric vehicles when they collide. lighter cars.

Chris Ehrmann/AP

DETROIT – The head of the National Transportation Safety Board expressed concern Wednesday about the safety risks posed by heavy electric vehicles colliding with lighter vehicles.

Official Jennifer Homendy raised the issue during a speech before the Transportation Research Board in Washington. As an example, he noted that an electric GMC Hummer weighs about 9,000 pounds (4,000 kilograms), with the battery pack alone weighing 2,900 pounds (1,300 kilograms), roughly the same weight as a regular Honda Civic.

“I am concerned about the increased risk of serious injury and death for all road users as a result of the increased size, power and performance of vehicles on our roads, including heavier curb weights and electric vehicles,” Homendy said in a statement prepared for the group.

The extra weight that electric cars usually carry comes from the sheer mass of their batteries. To get an EV 300 miles (480 or more kilometers) per charge, batteries must weigh thousands of pounds.

Some battery chemistries being developed have the potential to pack more energy into less mass. But for now, there is a weight discrepancy between EVs and smaller internal combustion vehicles. Electric vehicles also provide instantaneous power to their wheels, allowing them to accelerate faster than gas-powered cars, trucks, and SUVs in most cases.

Homendy said he was encouraged by the Biden administration’s plans to phase out carbon emissions from vehicles to combat the climate crisis. But he said he was still concerned about the safety risks posed by the proliferation of EVs on roads and highways.

“We have to be careful not to create the unintended consequences: More deaths on our roads,” he said. “Safety cannot be overlooked, especially when it comes to new transport policies and new technologies.”

Homendy noted that Ford’s F-150 Lightning EV pickup is 2,000 to 3,000 pounds (900 to 1,350 kilograms) heavier than the combustion version of the same model. The Mustang Mach E electric SUV and Volvo XC40 EV are about 33% heavier than their gasoline counterparts, he said.

“This has significant safety implications for all road users,” Homendy said.

The NTSB investigates traffic accidents but does not have the authority to make regulations. For vehicles, such authority rests primarily with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In addition to electric vehicles, the nation’s roads are littered with heavy vehicles, thanks to a decades-long boom in the sale of larger cars, trucks and SUVs that cause extreme odds in collisions with smaller vehicles. But electric vehicles are typically heavier than the largest gasoline or diesel-powered trucks and SUVs.

Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said he, too, is concerned about the weight of EVs because buyers require heavy batteries with a range of 300 or more miles per charge.

Brooks said the charging network was set up to ensure that there could be a safety bug.

“These bigger, heavier batteries will do more damage,” he said. “It’s a simple matter of mass and velocity.”

Brooks said he knows of little research on the safety risks of increased vehicle weight. In 2011, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper that found that being hit by a car with an extra 1,000 pounds increased the likelihood of dying in a crash by 47%.

He points out that electric vehicles have very high horsepower, which allows them to accelerate quickly even in crowded urban areas. “People aren’t trained to handle that kind of acceleration. It’s just not something drivers are used to,” Brooks said.

Also, many new electric SUVs are tall and have limited visibility, posing a risk to pedestrians or drivers of small vehicles.

Sales of new electric vehicles in the U.S. rose nearly 65% ​​to 807,000 last year, accounting for about 5.8% of all new vehicle sales. The Biden administration has set a goal of electric vehicles making up 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030, and is offering up to $7,500 in tax credits to get there. LMC Automotive, a consulting firm, made a more modest prediction: it expects electric vehicles to make up a third of the new car market by 2030.



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