By Dave Bean, Content Editor, FMW
February 7, 2024
It appears that guardrails designed to keep vehicles from running off the road are having a tougher time doing their job when struck by electric vehicles (EVs). In a test performed last year by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL), a Rivian truck and Tesla Model 3 broke through and/or passed under traditionally designed U.S. highway guardrails – roadside barriers which usually withstand high-speed impact from gasoline powered vehicles.
This issue not only presents a public safety challenge, but it has also gotten the attention of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), who are concerned that these same guardrails, which are also used for U.S. military defense, might be vulnerable to intentional penetration by hostile vehicles.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mission is to deliver vital engineering solutions, in collaboration with our partners, to secure our nation, energize our economy and reduce disaster risk,” said Genevieve Pezzola, a research civil engineer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.
There are more than 100,000 road accidents in the U.S. where vehicles crash into guardrails, resulting in thousands of deaths. According to research conducted by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, EVs have about the same rate of contact and speed with roadside barriers as internal combustion powered (ICE) vehicles. However, they break through these barriers in greater numbers, possibly a result of having as much as 50% more impact energy.
“There is some urgency to address this issue,” said Cody Stolle, assistant director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility. “As the percentage of EVs on the road increases, the proportion of run-off-road crashes involving EVs will increase, as well.”
As a result of the military’s interest in the University of Nebraska’s guardrail research, more crash tests are being developed, this time as a collaborative effort between the ERDC and the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, among others. The goal of the enhanced research is to come up with a new guardrail design that can withstand contact from a variety of vehicles, including heavier EVs, bigger SUVs and pickup trucks, as well as smaller and lighter conventional cars.
To read more about the study, click here.