from the sorry-didn't-see-you-there dept
The United States is already a global leader in traffic-related fatalities, with a thirty-percent jump in the last decade. That’s in contrast to every other developed country, which saw a decline.
With that as backdrop, there’s some growing concerns about not just the safety of undercooked autonomous driving, but the extreme weight of larger electric vehicles. The electric Ford Lightning, for example, is a whopping 6,500 pounds. The Hummer EV is even heavier, clocking in at 9,000 pounds. It’s battery alone weighs more than a Honda Civic.
Combine that incredible weight with amazing acceleration in a country with soaring traffic fatalities and fairly feckless regulatory oversight and you’ve got a bit of an obvious problem:
Car companies are touting these acceleration rates as a selling point, which is ominous. Although supercharged pick-up speeds serve no practical purpose, they create real danger for other road users—especially those on foot or in a wheelchair who have scant time to get out of the way.
Neither regulators nor automakers seem particularly keyed into this looming problem. All of the power and acceleration are little more than marketing points to move electric vehicles off the lot, and there doesn’t seem widespread safety considerations being integrated in vehicle design. Instead, the closest we seem to be getting to any kind of innovative adaptation is a proposal to tax heavy EV users more money:
Here’s a promising model: The District of Columbia recently adopted a creative vehicle registration fee schedule that charges owners of vehicles weighing more than 6,000 pounds $500 per year, seven times more than those registering light sedans. (D.C. gives EVs a 1,000-pound “credit.”) A sliding scale for vehicle fees can influence buyer decisions, and it also encourages carmakers to utilize battery technology improvements to reduce their vehicles’ weight, rather than to expand driving range from a single charge.
But these vehicles are (for now) luxury items, and their owners will think nothing about paying a bit more money. There’s also the risk of an arms race as soccer moms and dads also migrate to comically large EVs just to ensure their own safety. They too won’t really care about paying a bit more money to keep junior safe, so it’s not clear if such a proposal would genuinely protect public safety in practice.
Just for reference, kids are already eight times more likely to be killed in crashes involving SUVs and pickups than regular cars, and SUVs and pickups account for 38 percent of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.
So everybody rushes toward bigger and heavier EVs, ensuring that the massive amount of rare metals and materials are used for the biggest batteries possible, undermining the underpinning efficiencies of the transition to EVs, while also boosting already high U.S traffic fatalities? Good times.
Of course, this being America, like most things we won’t act on this in any regulatory capacity until after these extremely heavy vehicles with ferocious acceleration have turned an arbitrary number of Americans into paste, years down the lane. For, you know, freedom or whatever.