NHSTA's Role in Safe Electric Vehicles
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is charged with two key responsibilities according to its Chief Counsel, O. Kevin Vincent: road safety and fuel economy; the latter, which it hasn't exercised for the last three decades until the inauguration of the Obama Administration. With the passage of new CAFE regulations, carmaker fleets will have to increase their overall efficiency to the equivalent of 35 mpg by 2015. The amount of fuel saved as a result will be equivalent to three years of Libyan oil production before the country descended into civil war.
Now negotiations are now underway to increase this to 56 mpg by the end of the decade. The objective being to reduce oil imports, increasing America's economic and national security.
But NHTSA is even better known for its role in promoting highway safety, including the safety of motor vehicles. Electric cars now represent a new equation in terms of the batteries that make them work, batteries with dangerous high voltages and battery chemistries that can self emulate at 970C. According to Vincent, the agency is working with a long list of government, industry and academic researchers to make sure that electric vehicles are safe; engaging, for example, in battery failure analysis.
The Chief Counsel points out that in 2009, 2.2 million people were injured in traffic accidents and a tragic 33,808 were fatalities. Based on year 2000 statistics, traffic accidents cost the economy $230 billion, averaging $820 per person. The agency wants to make sure those numbers decline as the Administration pushes for its 1 million electric-drive vehicles by 2015.
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