Today's guardrails were designed for lighter vehicles, but EVs are significantly heavier than gas-powered models.  -  IMAGE: Midwest Roadside Safety Facility

Today's guardrails were designed for lighter vehicles, but EVs are significantly heavier than gas-powered models.

IMAGE: Midwest Roadside Safety Facility

Today’s roadway guardrails don’t appear to be sturdy enough for electric vehicles, according to recent crash tests.

Commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether guardrails and military barriers can handle “hostile” EVs, the tests were conducted last fall by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The facility used a 2018 Tesla Model 3 sedan and a 2022 Rivian R1T pickup in the 60-mph crash tests. It said the Tesla lifted the guardrail upon impact and passed underneath it, and the truck tore through it with little loss of speed.

The guardrail was designed for lighter vehicles of up to 5,000 pounds, but EVs are significantly heavier than gas-powered vehicles and can therefore do more damage, having 20% to 50% more energy upon impact, the facility said in a press release on the crash test findings.

The Corps of Engineers wanted to determine whether the proliferation of EVs could break through national safety defenses. It plans more such tests.

Beyond potential hostile vehicle operators who might compromise national security, there is the issue of general public traffic safety. The testing center said there are more than 100,000 off-road crashes in the U.S. each year that lead to thousands of deaths.

“It is going to be necessary to re-examine the designs of roadside barriers even beyond the EVs,” said Cody Stolle, the facility’s assistant director. “It’s a critical and timely need.” 

The university, which has led past roadside barrier design projects, will work on a new design to accommodate EVs.

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