The increasing curb weights of electric vehicles (EVs) due to heavy batteries and advanced electronics jeopardize safety, elevate pollution levels, and challenge previous efforts to reduce vehicle weight.
The increasing curb weights of electric vehicles (EVs) due to battery requirements threaten prior lightweighting achievements.
Heavy batteries and advanced electronics contribute to safety concerns, with studies indicating elevated crash risks.
Pollution concerns arise as heavier EVs shed rubber particles and contribute to increased environmental impact.
The remarkable progress made by automakers in reducing vehicle weight over the last decade is now being offset by the burgeoning weight of electric vehicles (EVs). This weight gain poses safety and pollution challenges, raising concerns about the sustainability of these vehicles and their impact on the environment.
Electric vehicles are bucking the trend of lightweighting that manufacturers achieved through various innovations. The introduction of heavy batteries required to provide extended driving ranges is a primary contributor to the escalating curb weights. The battery pack alone in models like the GMC Hummer EV pickup and SUV weighs as much as the entire curb weight of some compact sedans, nullifying the lightweighting strides achieved in traditional vehicles.
A compelling example is the transformation of the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, once lauded for its lightweight design. The aluminum version in 2015 shed around 700 pounds compared to its steel-bodied predecessor in 2012. However, the electric F-150 Lightning SuperCrew is now outstripping its steel-bodied predecessor’s weight by as much as 1,307 pounds due to battery requirements.
While electric motors grant the perception of lighter vehicles, the additional weight has repercussions. Notably, the extra mass has been linked to limitations in driving range and safety concerns. Studies have indicated that an extra 1,000 pounds of weight can raise the risk of crash fatalities by almost 50%, highlighting the importance of vehicle weight in passenger safety. Additionally, heavy EVs contribute to pollution through the shedding of rubber particles from tires, further diminishing the environmental advantages of these vehicles.
The challenges posed by the weight of EVs are twofold. Firstly, the increased weight can hamper driving range and overall efficiency, offsetting the initial gains in energy efficiency. Secondly, the rise in weight requires larger and heavier components, such as brakes and wheels, exacerbating the problem and contributing to safety and sustainability concerns.
Experts suggest that reducing the weight of EVs will be a complex undertaking compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles. The incorporation of lightweight materials like aluminum and carbon fiber, already common in many EVs, leaves fewer avenues for substantial weight reduction. Furthermore, the integration of safety features and complex electronics further adds to the weight.
The solution to these challenges lies in refining battery design and materials. Innovations in battery chemistry, packaging, and enclosure design can significantly reduce the overall weight of EVs. By exploring lithium iron phosphate cells and novel structural designs, automakers could minimize the weight while ensuring safety and performance. However, achieving significant reductions in EV weight will require extensive research, testing, and a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between design, safety, and efficiency.