Abstract The increasingly stringent pollution laws in North America and Europe have recently stimulated interest in the development of a new generation of electrically powered vehicles. Typically, a large number of conventional lead-acid batteries are utilized in order to ensure adequate performance as measured by vehicle speed and range. The electric vehicle design relating to this article uses a conventional General Motors G-Van as the base vehicle. The absence of an up-front internal combustion engine and the presence of a large battery tray greatly alter this design for surviving crashes. In view of these changes, a novel shock absorber utilizing a symmetric stepped circular thin-walled tube has been designed in order to provide the battery tray with the necessary compliance, thus delaying the effect of its added mass upon impact and reducing the severity of any collision. Two aspects of the work were accordingly examined in the evaluation of the current shock absorber. The first utilized plastic hinge and finite element analyses to predict the collapse loads and the level of energy absorbed, while the second utilized quasi-static axial crush tests to verify the theoretical predictions. The results indicate that the present stepped design is capable of minimizing the severity of the collision of an electrically powered vehicle.