Oct 26, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Heavier electric vehicles increase safety risks, study says

Weight of select EVs vs. gas-powered versions
Data: Nature; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Analysis in the journal Nature finds electric vehicles' high weight relative to gas-powered models creates safety risks that can be addressed through design and policy changes.

The big picture: EVs are heavy due to battery weights and heavier equipment to provide "necessary structural support." That's a problem because heavier vehicles mean more deaths in accidents.

Threat level: This erodes the benefits of climate-friendly transport.

  • The authors — while warning this is a back-of-the-envelope tally — say the cost of extra lives lost by adding 1,500 pounds to a truck "rivals the climate benefits" of avoided emissions.
  • Heavier vehicles also create pollution from wear on tires and require more materials and energy to build and propel.

What's next: They propose setting vehicle registration charges based on weight to encourage the use of lighter vehicles.

  • Another idea is focusing more on cutting battery weight, not just today's emphasis on range extension. One specific suggestion: altering EV subsidies to make them based on storage per unit of weight to incentivize lighter batteries.
  • Other recommendations are around ways to lighten vehicle frames; technology and street-design changes to reduce accidents; and policies that encourage walking, biking and public transit.

The bottom line: EVs are "essential for decarbonizing transport" and "a focus on driving lighter, safer, cleaner and less can ensure a better future for everyone."

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