In recent years, Electric Vehicles (EVs) have gained significant traction as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional combustion-engine cars. With advancements in technology and growing environmental concerns, many consumers are making the switch to EVs. However, an important question arises: how safe are these electric vehicles?
The Anatomy of EVs: Battery Safety
A primary concern regarding EV safety revolves around their lithium-ion batteries. These high-capacity batteries are designed to store and provide energy to the vehicle. While incidents of batteries catching fire are rare, they have attracted attention due to the potential risks. Manufacturers prioritize the development of advanced battery management systems and fire suppression mechanisms to mitigate these risks effectively. If an EV suffers impact from the rear or drives too fast over a rocky or hole-filled road, the batteries stored beneath the vehicle can catch alight. Often, the only solution for the fire department is to lower the car into a container filled with liquid for a number of days.
Collision Safety and Structural Integrity
Manufacturers invest extensively in collision safety and structural integrity for EVs. By optimizing vehicle design and utilizing advanced materials, EVs can better withstand and manage the impact of collisions. The strategic placement of batteries within the vehicle’s frame not only contributes to better weight distribution but also reinforces the structural integrity of the entire car, preventing catastrophic injury when an accident occurs. This innovative design approach improves occupant protection and minimizes potential injuries in the event of a crash.
More Weight Results in Greater Danger
The batteries in electric vehicles contribute substantially to the overall weight, typically weighing significantly more than an ordinary vehicle’s full tank of fuel. For example, the overall weight of an EV GMC Hummer might exceed 9,000 pounds, with the battery alone accounting for more than 2,800 pounds. This additional weight is associated with a higher risk of fatalities and severe injuries in the event of a collision. Research has shown that if a vehicle is 1,000 pounds heavier than another involved in an accident, the risk of death escalates by 47 percent. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that electric vehicles can be up to one-third heavier than their gasoline-powered counterparts, resulting in more forceful impacts during accidents.
Dangers of EV Batteries in Crashes
Electric and gasoline-powered vehicles both carry the risk of fire and explosions, but the batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) often produce hotter fires fueled by gasoline. In a case where a Tesla ignited, firefighters required several hours and about six times the volume of water to put out the flames, compared to a conventional gasoline-powered car that might only need half an hour and up to a thousand gallons. EV batteries can also present increased hazards to those near the vehicle following an accident, as any battery leaks have the potential to harm first responders and those inside the vehicle.
Risks Related to EV’s Fast Acceleration
Unlike traditional internal combustion engines, which gradually build up power, electric motors can deliver full torque almost instantly. This allows EVs to reach high speeds in a matter of seconds. While this can be exhilarating for the driver, it also requires a level of skill and understanding that not all drivers possess. It’s a simple matter of underestimating the power behind an EV for a novice or reckless EV driver to lose control and collide with obstacles such as other cars, parking barriers, or possibly even pedestrians.
Electric Cars and Accidents
Emergency services are always searching for better methods to put out electric cars that are on fire more effectively. If an accident occurs, disconnect the EV’s batteries from the vehicle. However, if the orange electricity cables are exposed, it’s best to stay away from the vehicle, as these cables carry the most dangerous voltages. It is advised then to wait for specialized emergency services to arrive and take care of the situation.
The Challenge of Extinguishing Electric Car Fires
The challenge of extinguishing electric car fires remains a significant concern. There have been instances where EVs were removed from a tank of water after several days and again caught fire. The current lithium-ion batteries are extremely hard to extinguish, and an electric car has thousands of batteries. This problem continues to be an ongoing difficulty for manufacturers and emergency services, and finding efficient ways to handle these situations is crucial.
Electric Cars: Not Inherently Unsafe
The fact is that EVs are not intrinsically riskier than their counterparts fueled by diesel or gasoline. A lot is dependent on the behavior of the person driving. If drivers can adequately tune their driving behavior to the way electric motors behave, then one can effectively avoid potential accidents. Electric cars are than other cars because they carry massive batteries, and it is usually lighter cars that sustain the most damage in a collision.
Contradictory Statistics on EV Safety
Interestingly, according to early information from insurance providers, the number of injury claims made by EV owners following collisions is lower than typical, possibly showing that electric vehicles are safest for anyone inside the car. Compared to traditional gasoline vehicles, which have 55 fires per billion miles traveled, electric vehicles have only had five car fires per billion miles traveled, according to information shared by Tesla. These statistics present a complex picture of EV safety, with some aspects appearing safer and others more dangerous. Ultimately, it is up to the driver to decide if the pros outweigh the cons, just like any other vehicle on the roads today.
At Pencheff and Fraley, we understand the complexities that can arise in the world of electric vehicles and personal injury law. If you find yourself facing legal challenges due to an EV-related incident, our experienced team is here to assist you.
Visit us at one of our offices below for legal advice when you need it:
- Westerville – 4151 Executive Pkwy, Suite 355, Westerville, OH 43081
- Mansfield – 33 S. Lexington-Springmill Rd, Mansfield, OH 44906
Alternatively, reach out to us at (614) 224-4114 for a consultation, and let us help you navigate the legal landscape in the event of something going wrong.