Safety of four-wheeled lightweight electric vehicles

Published: Dec 2023


ISBN: ISBN 978-1-99-106835-4

Author: Edwards, M., Seidl, M., Smith, L., Lee, L. S., Masibo, L. & Mizuno, K.

Pages: 83

Reference: XPR123


Share this article:

Four-wheeled lightweight electric vehicles may have a role in enabling New Zealand to move to a low-carbon transport system by replacing the use of larger vehicles (eg, traditional cars and vans) for short urban trips and for urban freight delivery, but there is concern about the safety of these vehicles. NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) is seeking to learn from the experiences of Europe, Japan and the USA – in particular, what approach was taken to regulation and the resulting safety outcomes. A review of regulations and published literature on benefits and costs was undertaken and vehicle registration and collision data was analysed for this research study.

Europe, Japan and the USA were found to diverge in their approaches to regulation. The focus and amount of regulation for each aspect differ widely with regard to vehicle categorisation; occupant and vulnerable road user protection standards; and usage restrictions in terms of the roads that can be driven on. Japan is the only region that has safety standards that include requirements for crashworthiness and vulnerable road user impact protection along the lines of those required for passenger cars. The USA regulates the vehicles far less, with the main restrictions covering only gross mass, top speed, and the roads on which they can be driven. Europe is the only region that does not restrict usage on higher-speed roads (motorways/expressways).

The current and historical fleet size data analysed for three European countries shows that the total fleet size is largest in France, followed by Germany and then, with the by-far smallest fleet, the UK. The data identified indicates a shrinking fleet size over the past years in the UK and Germany; France showed relatively stable, but not growing, numbers over the last decade.

The collision and casualty data analysed showed that in all three European countries the vehicles in scope only contribute a small fraction to overall road casualties, which is to be expected given the small vehicle fleet size compared to passenger cars. However, the casualty rates (that is, the number of killed or seriously injured occupants per million vehicles) indicate that their safety performance is worse than that of passenger cars (47% to 280% higher) but better than that of motorcycles (14% to 71% lower).

Get in Touch

Have a question? Speak to one of our experts today