Electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to be safe in a crash. They perform similarly to gasoline or diesel-powered cars in tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and have been shown to have no increased risk of fire from the batteries, as a general rule. However, that’s not to say that EVs aren’t free of potential safety defects. Also, EVs have unique features that may increase the likelihood of a catastrophic injury or death for the driver and passengers. EVs push the envelope of technology in multiple ways, and new technology isn’t always the best technology. So, are electric vehicles safe in an accident? Yes and no.
Electric vehicle manufacturers are on the cutting edge of automotive technology – a good thing for consumers overall. The major issue with EVs is the fact that many of their technologies are barely a decade old, and there is considerably less data (including test results) for EVs relative to their gas-powered competition. If you’ve been in an accident with an EV and suffered injuries that may be the result of a manufacturing or design defect, contact an experienced Houston car accident attorney for help with your potential claims.
The following is a look at the safety of electric vehicles in accidents.
Electric Vehicles are Built to the Same Standards as Conventional Cars
Manufacturers of EVs made sure that their finished product could withstand the forces of impact and protect the occupants the same as a conventional car. The frames and bodies of EVs have the same crash resistance as comparable conventional cars. They handle and behave the same way in an accident, providing predictability for the driver and predictable outcomes for the crash investigator.
EVs provide their occupants with excellent crash safety as well as carrying the safety equipment consumers have come to expect, such as airbags, warning systems, and more. However, even the best safety systems can’t overcome some of the features that encourage poor decision-making by the driver. Read on to learn more about what happens when an electric car is in an accident.
Electric Vehicles Have Unique Accident Risks
One of the most exciting features in EVs is autopilot. This feature isn’t truly hands-off or foot-free, but it is the closest thing to autonomous driving that’s currently in regular use on the roads. Unfortunately, people make bad judgment calls when it comes to abusing the autopilot feature, as evidenced by the many viral videos of people sleeping or not paying attention behind the wheel of Teslas with autopilot.
An ongoing problem with EVs is the fact that they make very little noise. Pedestrians and the blind are accustomed to hearing a car’s engine as it approaches and can adjust accordingly. This is one of the original risks associated with hybrids and EVs, with manufacturers not doing much to mitigate the issue of a pedestrian’s safety. Manufacturers have relied on safety systems to identify a collision with a pedestrian instead of giving the pedestrian a chance to react, but some are now including a speaker that generates sound when the electric side of the engine is in motion. However, there are millions of EVs on the road with no speaker to alert pedestrians.
Battery Packs Can Catch on Fire
EVs use lithium-ion battery packs to store the energy that propels the car, and regenerative braking sends energy to the batteries to help with charging. Manufacturers have put a lot of effort into making the battery packs as safe as possible, but EVs are not immune from a battery fire. A battery fire in a car is nothing new. Conventional vehicles are prone to catching on fire when something shorts in the 12V electrical system. The issue at hand with a battery fire in an EV is the type and placement of the batteries.
A battery fire in an EV can start when there’s damage to the battery housing, it was improperly manufactured, or the software controlling the batteries hasn’t been properly designed. A crash can also rupture the battery housing and cause the chemicals to leak. To date, Chevrolet Bolts and Hyundai Konas have had recalls for batteries that were improperly manufactured and had defects that increased the risk of fire.
Further complicating the issue of a battery fire is the fact that batteries are placed under the vehicle. Firefighters can’t easily reach the battery packs with their hoses, and new firefighting equipment to put out these fires has to be developed. Another aspect of a battery fire comes from the materials used to make the batteries. Lithium-ion burns hot and requires large amounts of water to douse. Firefighters are tied up for far longer than they should be when putting out the fire, and the damage to surrounding structures is far more catastrophic.
Manufacturers Don’t Always Get It Right With Electric Vehicles
One of the major issues with electric vehicles is the fact that quality control seems to be left behind when it comes to getting cars to the consumer. Tesla has led the way when it comes to creating a connected car, but hasn’t always been able to quickly eliminate defects. In late 2021, Tesla issued a recall affecting its Model 3 and Model S cars from the years 2015 to 2020 for issues including the trunk opening suddenly while the car is in motion and defective rearview cameras. Other issues include Teslas with touch-screen failures and the poor decision to allow drivers to play games on the touch-screen while driving.
Electric vehicles are literally driven by their software. Each manufacturer writes their own code for their EVs to operate everything from door handles to the brake lights. While the operating software feature isn’t unique to EVs, it’s something that the car requires for its existence and ability to operate. EVs have an increased risk of failure due to their heavy reliance on their software to function. An unknown bug or break in the code can disable an EV, or worse, lock the occupants inside the car with no way out.
Some issues with EVs are minor and will eventually disappear as manufacturers find fixes for them. Older EVs will age off the roads and be replaced with newer models that have improved designs overall. As it currently stands, the issues facing EVs are primarily found in the batteries and operating systems. When looking at what happens when an electric car is in an accident, there are multiple things that can go wrong, and they’re not always what you expect.
Contact Our Houston Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you’ve been injured in an accident with an electric vehicle as an owner or as an accident victim, contact the law office of Terry Bryant Accident & Injury law today. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages, and our Houston car accident lawyer can help. Call our office now at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 to schedule a free consultation.