Witness a 7,000-pound Rivian R1T demolish a guardrail in a jaw-dropping test.

Midwest Highway Safety Center Shows Guardrails Unable to Handle Heavy Electric Vehicles

A recent experiment by the Midwest Highway Safety Center at the University of Nebraska has demonstrated the inability of current guardrail systems to withstand the weight and force of modern heavy electric vehicles. This revelation has raised serious concerns regarding the safety of electric vehicle drivers and other road users alike.

In a series of crash tests conducted by the university in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers, an electric 7,100-pound Rivian R1T was propelled into a 30-year-old guardrail system at 60 mph, leading to the destruction of the guardrail and subsequent leap over a concrete median. The crash test, initially viewed as unrealistic due to the perceived frontal impact of the vehicle with the guardrail, was later clarified to be at an oblique angle, making it a scientifically accurate representation of real-world conditions. The guardrail used in the test was 31 inches high, constructed of 12-gauge corrugated steel, and mounted on six-inch-deep steel posts.

The experiment brought to light a significant safety issue with the current guardrail system, which, according to Cory Stolle of the Midwest Highway Safety Center, was not designed to handle vehicles over 5,000 pounds. With the average weight of electric vehicles exceeding this limit and electric semis even more, the findings of the crash test underline the necessity for an overhaul of current guardrail designs. The subsequent success of the Tesla crash test, where the vehicle went underneath the guardrail, further underscores the inadequacy of the existing guardrails in managing heavier modern vehicles.

The failure of the guardrails is troublesome, especially considering the significant increase in the popularity of electric vehicles in recent years. Though electric vehicles offer enhanced safety to passengers owing to their internal design, the risk of collateral damage to other vehicles and their passengers remains a critical concern. Stolle noted that due to the incompatibility between electric vehicles and guardrails, the occupants within the electric vehicle may be unharmed, but those in a lighter vehicle involved in a collision with an electric vehicle would be at serious risk.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that electric vehicles are not the only vehicles surpassing the 5,000-pound weight limit. Other heavy-duty full-size vehicles also surpass this limit, highlighting the urgency for an immediate review of the existing safety standards to address the safety concerns posed by the increased weight of modern vehicles. Given this weight disparity, it is evident that current guardrails are ill-equipped to ensure the safety of electric vehicle passengers and other road users in the case of a crash.

Though the inadequacy of guardrail systems poses a substantial risk to the safety of electric vehicle drivers and other road users, it is a problem with a solution. While Stolle remains uncertain about the construction and material requirements for the redesign of the guardrails, he proposed the possible use of more concrete barriers as part of the rectification process. Learning from past experiences and overcoming similar challenges, Stolle emphasized the need to promptly address the issue, stressing that it takes time to design and evaluate new systems for safety and effectiveness through full-scale crash tests.

In light of these findings, owners of electric vehicles and heavy trucks must recognize the increased risk posed by the current guardrail system and exercise caution when driving. Acknowledging the potential danger of operating these heavy vehicles near canyon ledges, it is incumbent upon owners to consider the weight discrepancy when assessing the safety of their driving environment.

As the electric vehicle revolution continues to gain momentum, these findings have far-reaching implications. While the University of Nebraska studies have shone a light on the need for immediate action, collaboration between government organizations, vehicle manufacturers, and academic institutions in formulating comprehensive guidelines for the development of new guardrail systems is critical. Additionally, ongoing research on vehicle-to-rail compatibility will be essential in understanding the nuances of modern guardrail systems and their effectiveness.

In conclusion, the Midwest Highway Safety Center’s experiment is a clarion call signaling the need for immediate action to ensure the safety of electric vehicle drivers and other road users. The need for more robust and effective guardrails is indisputable, and a matter that necessitates urgent attention from the relevant stakeholders. With the electric vehicle market poised for exponential growth in the coming years, addressing these concerns today is imperative to ensure the safety of the countless individuals embracing the electric vehicle revolution.