IIHS Evaluating Crash Test Equipment to Tackle Heavy EVs

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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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.

[Images: IIHS]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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2 of 11 comments
  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Dec 17, 2022

    Used to be that the 4,000 lb plus Town Car was the killer machine. Today its pickups...tomorrow it will be electric cars...then electric pickups. I don't stand much of a chance driving a sportscar...any one of these things would roll right over me...

  • Bobby D'Oppo Bobby D'Oppo on Dec 18, 2022

    You make it easy as possible to get a driver's license. Then you make it easier still to acquire a 5000 lb vehicle with over 300 hp and horrendous sightlines. Then you find it curious when your infrastructure begins to look woefully ill-equipped and wonder why your citizenry have become prone to vehicular manslaughter.

    Just don't forget to stay positive, because you've taken all of these measures in the interest of social engineering. Besides, look how all of the catastrophies you've fostered generate endless revenue streams! The courthouses, prisons, and pockets of insurance company executives were never more packed! And of course, your friends at the big auto companies couldn't be happier living in a world where bigger and newer is always better. After all, it's so much easier to scale-up than to innovate! It's America on top again; her glory only surpassed by the trail of rubble and detritus left in her wake.

  • Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
  • Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
  • Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
  • SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
  • Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.