Why EVs Are Heavier Than Gasoline Cars: Batteries


The batteries are heavy. This is why, in general, electric cars weigh considerably more than similar gasoline vehicles. Take the GMC Hummer EV, for example. The Edition 1 version, which has plenty of batteries for extra runtime and power, weighs over 9,000 pounds. That’s about three times the weight of a Honda Civic.

This has important implications for security, but it’s more complicated than the traditional thinking that revolves around questions of mass and speed.

In terms of crash safety, this extra weight actually helps people inside EVs. Insurance claims statistics show that people riding in electric vehicles are less likely to be injured in an accident than people riding in otherwise similar gasoline vehicles.

This could be attributed to the fact that EVs don’t carry a large metal motor under the hood, so they have more empty space that can cushion occupants. But the same injury claim trends apply to hybrid vehicles, said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesperson Joe Young. Hybrids also have extra weight from the batteries as well as an engine under the hood. The difference therefore seems largely attributable to the pure mass.

But that extra weight can be bad news for people who are struck by electric vehicles, as the extra impact force is transferred to the other lighter vehicle.

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It is a matter of simple physics. When two moving objects collide, the heavier one will tend to continue more or less in the direction it was going. The lighter, on the other hand, will abruptly change direction. Even if this lighter vehicle is not run over, this jarring deflection is bad for the people inside. Meanwhile, for people in the heavier vehicle that just made its way, that extra weight can be a lifeline.

Other electric vehicles also weigh more than similar gasoline models. The Ford F-150 Lightning will weigh about 1,600 pounds more than a similar gasoline F-150 truck. Likewise, the Volvo XC40 Electric Recharge weighs about 1,000 pounds more than a gasoline-powered Volvo XC40.

The GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 has the longest range and most power of any version of this truck, and long range and big horsepower means a lot of heavy batteries. Those heavy batteries, along with rugged off-road parts, are the reason it weighs so much, General Motors spokesman Mikhael Farah said.

During the development of the Hummer EV, we put a lot of thought into minimizing the risk of an accident for the sake of the occupants of the Hummer and others on the road, said Farah. For example, a variety of collision avoidance technologies, such as lane keep assist and pedestrian detection, which are available on many modern vehicles, will be standard equipment on the Hummer EV, including the starting price will be around $ 80,000.

Of course, increasingly heavy vehicles are not new, nor unique to electric vehicles. The average weight of passenger vehicles has increased over the past 40 years, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report, from an average of around 3,200 pounds to nearly 4,200 pounds. This is largely due to the fact that consumer preferences are shifting to trucks and SUVs and those vehicles themselves are getting heavier.

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And it is not the weight itself that is the problem from a safety point of view. These are the differences in weight between vehicles. This, too, is something that has always existed as long as small cars shared the roads with heavy trucks. When a small car and a truck meet in an accident, the difference in weight is so great that it would hardly make a difference if the truck was electric, said David Zuby, senior vice president of vehicle research at the IIHS. But when two passenger vehicles collide, if one of them carries 1,000 pounds of batteries, it could make a difference in the bottom line.

There are, in theory, steps that automakers could take to lessen the shock when heavy electric vehicles collide with lighter gasoline-powered vehicles, Zuby said. For example, vehicles could be designed with additional collapsible space beyond what is needed to protect the occupants themselves. It could be a tough sell to consumers, however.

“The only way to do that is to make vehicles bigger than they are,” he said, “and bigger in a way that isn’t really usable for the person buying the vehicle. car.”

Hitting the sidewalk

Heavier vehicles can also impact road surfaces and bridges, but experts differ on the extent of the problem. Most roads, highways, and bridges are designed to carry the weight of huge commercial trucks that are much, much heavier than even the most rugged electric passenger vehicles.

Maria Lehman, an infrastructure engineer with consulting firm GHD and president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said the repeated pounding by the extra weight of all of these vehicles could wreak havoc over time, shortening the duration of road surface.

“I have more worries about [Chevrolet] All-electric suburbs that [Chevrolet] Bolts because of the weight, ”she said. “It becomes the composite effect of all that weight over many cycles. “

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Don’t worry, though. David Orr of Cornell University’s Local Roads Program said the smaller two-lane local roads can easily withstand the weight of the GMC Hummer EV. Yes, there are more passenger vehicles than trucks, but the difference in numbers, even though these SUVs and cars weigh more, still won’t hurt the roads.

“It should be a much higher percentage than you think,” he said.

Either way, even if electric vehicles were going to crush the pavement faster, it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of a healthier environment, said Doug Mensman, City of Los Transportation Director. Angeles.

“If this is just an additional or more frequent maintenance or reconstruction of infrastructure,” he said, “then that could be the price at which we as a society are deciding. that we are prepared to factor in future budgets to achieve these benefits. “

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