Going green may carry weighty consequences

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Electric cars have had a long journey to prominence. Once thought to be “destined for failure,” Elon Musk put his spin on the vehicles, and consumers have responded with record numbers of purchases. Overall domestic sales of electric cars increased 65 percent in 2022 for a total of 807,000. Nearly six percent were new car sales.

Risks on the road

The new era is not without controversy. The mass of the batteries required in these vehicles creates significantly extra weight, creating potential risks that could result in injuries and deaths when colliding with lighter vehicles.

While a common complaint about battery life led to so-called improvements, for cars to travel 300 miles without charging requires significant battery mass. Examples include:

  • The GMC Hummer weighs approximately 9,000 pounds, with the battery pack accounting for one-third of the vehicle’s weight.
  • Ford’s F-150 Lightning EV pickup maxes out at 3,000 pounds, which is heavier than the same model with a combustion version.
  • Mustang’s Mach E electric SUV and Volvo’s XC40 EV are approximately one-third heavier than their gas-operated counterparts.

Overall, the poundage of all the vehicles mentioned above comes close to the total weight of a Honda Civic. In addition, electric cars have significantly higher horsepower, which helps to accelerate faster than most drivers can anticipate. Add to that the tall SUVs that limit visibility.

While work continues on batteries with more energy at a lighter weight, potential dangers continue. Over the past decade, bigger became better. The roads throughout the nation are continually packed with heavy vehicles with combustion engines. That continuing trend of consumers purchasing larger cars, trucks, and SUVs shows no signs of slowing.

Research has been slow in coming. A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2011 revealed that vehicles with an additional 1,000 pounds colliding with a smaller vehicle increase the probability of death by 47 percent.

If size matters, what are the consequences when fellow drivers who lack the size and power become injured or killed?

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