IIHS Evaluating Crash Test Equipment to Tackle Heavy EVs
With automobiles becoming heavier every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced that it’ll be updating its crash-testing rigs to handle more weight. Up until now, the heaviest model to see an IIHS sled has been the roughly 6,000-pound Audi e-tron. While all vehicles have been packing on mass lately, EVs tend to be substantially heavier than their combustion-reliant counterparts due to the battery. For example, the new GMC Hummer is so insanely heavy that there are roads that its 9,600-pound frame simply cannot handle. All that mass likewise means the IIHS is going to have a hell of a time doing any crash testing if its equipment isn’t ready.
The group has been evaluating its existing hardware by loading up old vehicles with concrete blocks and steel plates to create units that exceed 9,500 pounds. This is important because the IIHS doesn’t actually drive the test vehicles into barricades. Instead, the system pulls them along using a system of hydraulic cables embedded beneath the floor. But this has to get those cars up to 40 mph for testing and wasn’t sure that the existing system was up to the challenge.
Despite having been in operation for over two decades the IIHS “crash machine” isn’t accustomed to loads in excess of three tons and that’s about to become very important, assuming the industry-wide EV offensive is still on.
While loading up vintage trucks and SUVs with giant anchors did reveal something about their own safety limitations – as the added load ultimately became a projectile that would have liquefied occupants – the important factor was that the testing system managed to get them up to 40 mph reliably enough for the IIHS to feel comfortable about the future. Though it doesn’t sound as though the system is capable of exceeding that speed threshold by much, were the organization to increase its frontal crash test speeds. Regardless, the group feels it’s good enough for the time being.
That doesn’t mean there won’t still be some blind spots, however.
Crash testing is an invaluable tool for determining the relative safety of specific vehicles, we just like to remind drivers that the laws of physics are always at play. Just because a model handled itself well when being thrown into a barricade, that doesn’t mean the matchup is even when it’s going head-to-head with a vehicle twice its size. For example, it’s fair to assume that an oncoming collision between a 2008 Honda Accord and the brand-new GMC Hummer EV probably isn’t going to work out well for the people riding in the sedan just by nature of the electric SUV weighing three times as much.
But tossing dozens of differently-sized vehicles at each other from every perceivable angle is costly, time-consuming, and ultimately unrealistic. The testing protocols we have today are arguably the best modern safety nerds could put together and build off decades of people trying to perfect the process. At least the monstrous EVs the industry has been rolling out will get to be part of that at the IIHS, resulting in more valuable data for people interested in knowing where their car might stack up in a collision.
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