Many prospective EV owners are put off by range anxiety, but others are concerned about safety. With highly flammable batteries and high voltage electrical vehical systems, it’s easy to see how these machines could be dangerous. In reality, however, electric vehicles are just as safe as any other, thanks to a variety of innovative features designed to protect occupants and other road users. Here’s our in-depth EV safety guide.
Electric Vehicle Safety
To begin, all electric vehicles must adhere to the same stringent design and manufacturing standards as their gasoline and diesel counterparts. They go through the same meticulous process, with an almost obsessive amount of time spent on making these machines as safe as possible. To emphasise their efforts, most manufacturers then subject their EV offerings to Euro NCAP testing, with nearly all performing as well as similarly-sized and equipped internal combustion models.
In the event of an accident, strong structures, extensive crumple zones, and multiple airbags ensure that occupants are as safe as possible. Indeed, because of the extra mass of their battery packs and the need to absorb the increased energy they create in a collision, it’s arguable that EV designers have to work even harder to achieve exceptional crashworthiness. You can read more about it here.
Electric Vehicle Threats
However, one source of concern is fire. A few years ago, a rash of high-profile EV accidents that resulted in cars catching fire caused concern among new car buyers. You might think that fire is more likely in an internal combustion car, especially one powered by a flammable substance like gasoline, but an EV is just as likely to suffer from a conflagration after a collision.
Should the worst happen, the most serious potential issue with an EV’s lithium ion battery is known as thermal runaway. Essentially, if one of the cells is damaged and short-circuits, the flammable electrolyte inside can ignite, becoming hotter and hotter as it uses up all of the stored energy, eventually burning at temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius. If the increased heat damages neighbouring cells, it can set off a chain reaction in which hundreds or thousands of cells begin to burn in an ever-increasingly fierce fire that can be impossible to put out – instead, you must wait for it to essentially ‘burn’ itself out.
While this sounds terrifying, it is extremely unlikely because the latest generation of EVs are designed to avoid this situation. To begin with, the EV battery is very well protected in a crash-resistant structure that is mounted as low as possible in the car and as far away from potential impact areas as possible.
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