Home » Watch IIHS Slam An Old F-150 Overloaded To 9,500 Pounds Into A Barrier In The Name Of EV Crash Testing

Watch IIHS Slam An Old F-150 Overloaded To 9,500 Pounds Into A Barrier In The Name Of EV Crash Testing

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Last week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published footage of a crash test quite unlike the usual new car carnage we’re used to seeing from the organization. IIHS wanted to test its equipment to make sure it can handle new EVs, some of which weigh more than 9,000 pounds. While IIHS doesn’t explicitly say which EV weighs 9,000 pounds, we all know it’s the GMC Hummer EV — that’s not a fact that’s particularly easy to hide. So how does the IIHS crash test rig work and how did these highly unusual crash tests go? Let’s find out.

Believe it or not, propelling a car down the IIHS runway towards a barrier starts with merely 40 horsepower. That’s the output of IIHS’ hydraulic pump which, as IIHS test engineer Bo Jones states in the video below, “pushes against these 18 bottles of nitrogen as we fill up these 245 liters worth of accumulators.”

Once pressure hits 5,000 psi, it’s released to turn a pulley and cable mechanism that gets the car up to speed. It sounds robust, but it comes from an era when cars were much lighter than they are today.

Iihs Hydraulic Pump

Back in the early 1990s when IIHS started testing cars, a Lincoln Town Car (see below) would’ve been considered incredibly heavy. The trouble is, a 1992 Lincoln Town Car weighs ten pounds less than the lightest Hyundai Ioniq 5 sold in America. Shocking, I know. It’s entirely possible that the people designing the IIHS crash propulsion system never foresaw cars weighing as much as a large orca, so it was rather prudent to test the rig without ruining six figures worth of lithium ion-powered truck.

Iihs Town Car

To do this, the lab-coats loaded up an old F-150 and an old GMT400 Chevrolet Tahoe with seriously heavy payloads, then fired them at the barrier with a target speed of 40 mph (64 km/h). The result was a success, with a steady target speed held and a proper crash test carried out. However, while establishing that its rig could accurately pull 9,500 pounds at 40 mph, IIHS has also given us some fascinating visuals of what happens if you crash an overloaded tenth-generation Ford F-150. Just look at that destruction.

Iihs F150 Crash Test Topshot

Mind you, there is one big issue here – the payload doesn’t appear to have been strapped in longitudinally. Then again, if someone’s going to overload a bubble-shape F-150 to 9,500 pounds, they might not have the brain cells to rub together to generate the thought of “hang on, I should strap this in both ways.” The whole truck just turned into a banana, with the payload piercing straight through the bed and the rear wall of the cab to extinguish the driver like that giant foot from the Monty Python animations. It’s also worth noting that this generation of F-150 isn’t exactly known for being a safe vehicle and there’s plenty of rust on this truck, but that’s par for the course when it comes to beater trucks.

Iihs F150 Crash Test 2

I guess the moral of the story is to secure your cargo, don’t overload your vehicle, and rest assured knowing that IIHS has what it takes to send a GMC Hummer EV into a barrier. Whether or not your daily driver’s crash structure will hold up well against 9,000 pounds of supertruck, that’s an entirely different question.

All photos courtesy of IIHS


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50 Responses

  1. I worked in Total Loss for insurance. The scary things you realize are that people don’t understand the physics and power of modern vehicles. Easily 80% of the totals were cars that were recently purchased. People get a new-to-them car, don’t get the feel for how it drives when doing emergency things and BAM. Totaled. The problem is that it doesn’t matter how safe your car is, there are still only 4 rubber contact patches touching the ground. Tires have to work a lot harder controlling 5000+ lbs then 2800-3200 lbs. And every modern car has enough power to speed quite easily. 300hp Camry? 400hp, 6000lb SUV? Madness.
    Only 4 tires and someone not really paying attention driving.

  2. our infrastructure is gonna be extra fucked with the adoption of ridiculously heavy electric vehicles. traffic-related deaths are gonna be way up, too. we are in no way ready for every person to be driving a 5k+ lb vehicle.

        1. Do you think people have been increasingly failing to use intersections for the last 40 years? This is a new thing? 12% more often in 2021 than in 2022? That people are stepping in front of SUVs 9% more often than they step in front of passenger cars, even though one would think the SUVs are easier to see? Because I don’t.


          Having said all of that, this fight is over. Vehicles are not going to stop getting bigger, though they could have front ends designed to see the road instead of to prove the driver’s maculinity.

          1. I think people ARE stepping out in front of vehicles more than they used to because of ear buds and phones. I’m in the burbs where there aren’t that many pedestrians or bicyclists, but the percentage that come flying out without looking to see if they are about to die is amazing.
            Don’t get me wrong, that’s always been true, but when I was a kid, you didn’t have people wearing ear buds or staring at their phone while walking/cycling.

    1. We do. If it were being driven commercially, a Hummer EV would require the driver to have a DOT certification due to having a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs. Why we don’t have the same types of regulations for domestic vehicles is kind of a mystery, but I imagine the AARP and RVIA are involved somewhere. Imagine if your grandpa had to get a Class A CDL in order to drive his motorhome?

      1. In Europe we have a limit of 3500 kg (7700lbs) of maximum weight , but that is the maximum for the car with the load or with a trailer loaded.
        If your car with just you in it is heavier that that it’s illegal to drive with the classic car license, you must upgrade to a better license, weight controls can happened but it’s rare.
        So a lot of those heavy car or truck are totally useless in Europe with a car license.

        1. In Finland the easiest and cheapest way to get a truck license is to get assigned as a truck driver for your mandatory military service (also applies to other driving licenses, the military offers training at 4 levels depending on the job).

      2. In some states, you do! My state of Illinois says that driving an RV exempts you from needing a CDL. But not so fast! Because Illinois driver’s licenses are based on weight class. Your regular Class D gets you to 16,000 pounds. A Class C ups you to 26,000 pounds. Then there’s Class B and Class A. Yep, you can have a Class A non-commercial license. If you do, you can drive a semi, so long as you aren’t doing it for commercial purposes.

        There is one exception to the rule, and it’s that rental vehicles allow you up to 26,000 pounds without a license upgrade. That’s so you can drive a 26-foot U-Haul or a rental RV.

        Of course, just because the license exists doesn’t mean that you’re proficient. Illinois’ written tests are easy, and if you fail one, you can retry immediately. The driving portion is harder, but I know some folks with Illinois Class As that really shouldn’t have them. Oof.


    2. Or stricter licensing requirements for non commercial vehicles over a certain weight.
      It’s articles like this that are giving me exotropia when driving, cause I always have one eye on my rear view mirror these days.

      1. Yeah, if the rear ender that took out my car earlier this year hadn’t been a Honda Fit instead of one of a pickup or oversized SUV that are typical on my commute it would have been at least three more cars totaled and me in the middle of it all. “Fortunately” it was just my car and not my life that was lost.

      2. There’s a reason I put my wife and kids in a pickup, all too often they’re surrounded by “Mormon Assault Vehicles”, read Suburbans and the like, but I still went for the most fuel efficient one I could. I still daily an R53 MINI so I tend to always look for escape routes in case Karen the soccer mom in her Telluride is too busy texting to notice she’s drifted into the oncoming lane for the fifth time in the last mile.

        Honestly it’s nice getting back OUT of Utah where less than 90% of vehicles are 4wd monstrosities. Trucks have their place, my wife has horses to tow and feed for example, but personally I prefer a car with decent handling and enough pep to toss around once in a while to make me and my kids smile.

    3. We absolutely need to. Parking structures are designed for a uniform floor load of 40 lbs/sq ft or a wheel load of 3,000lbs. The footprint of a Hummer EV plus a bit of empty space around it only displaces around 6,500lb worth of loading, far below it’s GVWR.

      This also assumes the structure is in tip-top shape, which is often not the case.

  3. I had no idea they used such a funky tow channel based propulsion system for crash tests.
    Does the IIHS have a swooping dragon problem at their crash test facilities?

  4. What’s up with the stack of cardboard in front of the barrier? I didn’t take the time to actually listen to what they were saying, so there’s that.

  5. I fully agree that loads should be secured, but I am not entirely sure you would be able to secure that much weight to prevent it from coming into the cap in these circumstances. Physics can be harsh in the real world.

  6. IF they’d successfully secured that load to the truck bed/rear frame, the aft end would simply have folded over and forward completely with the same result: mashed driver’s cabin.

        1. Agreed.
          But that brings up a question: How will IIHS simulate EV crashes without the actual batteries installed? I doubt they’ll want to risk the nasty fires that result with ruptured Li-Ion cells, but they’ll want representative weight and structural properties to simulate the batteries as installed.
          Seems like they’ll need to become expert in the creation of simulated battery packs?

        2. Battery pack with no charge have the same mechanical and physical properties as fully-charged packs.
          To see if packs catch fire after a crash–we’re gonna need a different test.

  7. I’m sure they’ve checked the slide rules, but wouldn’t the load moving so drastically at the point of impact not accurately model what an EV would be doing?

    Time of impact would lengthen, so the force of impact (Impulse) would lessen, correct? Or has it been too long since I took Dynamics?

    1. They tested if their old equipment could get a vehicle of a certain weight up to the “correct” speed before impact. What happens AT impact and after is of no relevance in this test.

      But some EV converters can use the footage to see what will happen if the batteries aren’t secured as well as in a factory built car. Like EV West, putting heavy Tesla battery packs in light old VWs.

    2. They’re not trying to model what an EV crash would look like, they’re making sure the test system can actually propel a GMC Hummer to 40 mph. I’d bet that it won’t be long before there are a few more 9,000+ pound EV trucks out there.

    3. At whatever point the vehicle has it’s impact, the kinetic energy is what ever it is, Mass times Velocity squared. If I’m understanding you, and I’m probably not, any braking or deceleration the vehicle and load might have done before impact doesn’t matter. I’m guessing there might be some stretch in some straps, decelerating the load after the impact and before the straps snap, but it would take some heavy math to add that in.

      I was going to say “Oh, look, the passenger compartment on the F-150 did really well!” before I saw the big white block of concrete sitting in the front seat.

  8. I will sign up for a Corinthian membership if Hardigree is forced to watch the video of his beloved F150 generation being destroyed over and over again until he renounces that awful take.

    1. I cannot promise I will renounce this take, but if you sign up for Corinthian I will watch this on a loop for 30 minutes, film it, and send it to you.

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