Protecting military bases from EV threats

Electric vehicles are good for the environment, but the nation’s infrastructure wasn’t built with them in mind.

Barriers on U.S. military bases designed to foil gas-fueled vehicles intent on harm may need to adapt to withstand threats from EVs.

From left: Ronald Faller, Joshua Steelman and Cody Stolle

To help develop next-generation protection, the U.S. Army turned to Nebraska’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility.

“EVs are a different kind of an animal compared to gasoline vehicles,” said Cody Stolle, the facility’s assistant director. EVs weigh up to 50% more, have a lower center of gravity and can accelerate much faster.

These differences alter the forces acting on a barrier. It’s much like striking a nail with a sledgehammer instead of a hammer.

A cable system for highway medians at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility

Husker researchers will use sophisticated computer modeling and simulations as well as real-life crash tests to understand the forces and other dynamics of high-speed, ramming EVs. The goal is to design barriers capable of blocking EVs.

Nebraska’s facility is one of few globally that can safely perform crash tests at the speeds and forces required.

Its unique expertise stems from longstanding research developing race car barriers to protect drivers and spectators. The Husker-developed Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier System has been adopted by nearly all IndyCar and NASCAR racetracks.

Additionally, its Midwest Guardrail System has become the standard across highways in the U.S., Asia, Africa and Australia.

This track record and its crash testing capabilities make Nebraska uniquely qualified to help the military safeguard bases with advanced barrier systems.

The research will apply to redesigning highway barriers as the nation adapts its infrastructure to accommodate growing numbers of EVs.

“Nebraska is a worldwide leader in the design and evaluation of safety features as well as serving as a connecting hub to maximize all forms of transportation safety,” said Stolle, research assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering.

Nebraska is collaborating with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and Auburn University, which is studying threats posed by EV drivers. ERDC funds this four-year, $3.6 million project, of which Nebraska received $2.2 million.


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