How Safe Are Electric Cars?

As electric vehicles increased in popularity the safety features have rapidly evolved too. So just how safe are electric cars?

This guide looks at how EVs perform in crashes, the risk of electrocution, and the safety features that count. We aim to provide you with a thorough understanding of the safety profile of electric vehicles.

EV charger with EV safety signs "unplug your car first"

How safe are electric cars?

Electric vehicles are very safe and often exceed the safety standards of traditional cars. They have lower centres of gravity reducing roll-over risk, they lack volatile fuel such as petrol, and have large crumple zones due to the absence of an engine. However, there are unique EV-only safety concerns such as battery fires, although rare, and silent operations potentially being a risk to pedestrians.

EV safety features and advantages

  1. Airbags and Seat Belts
    An obvious starting point, but we can’t overlook the airbags and seatbelts that EVs are equipped with to protect passengers in the event of a collision.

  2. Crumple Zones
    Many EVs have larger crumple zones compared to traditional vehicles, because there is no engine in the front of the car there is more space to absorb the energy of a collision. Tesla cars feature a large crumple zone which is one of the reasons they claim to be the safest car in the world.

  3. Lower Center of Gravity
    The placement of the batteries in the floor of the vehicle gives EVs a lower centre of gravity. This helps to reduce the risk of roll-over accidents and improves vehicle stability.

  4. Battery Shielding
    The batteries in EVs are often surrounded by a protective casing to prevent damage in the event of a crash. This helps reduce the risk of battery leakage or fire.

  5. Stability Control
    EVs often have advanced stability control systems which can detect and reduce loss of traction.

  6. Regenerative Braking
    While this is primarily a feature that helps to extend the range of EVs, it also can contribute to safety. By slowing the vehicle when the driver lifts off the accelerator, regenerative braking reduces the need for sudden braking.

  7. Pedestrian Alert Systems
    Because electric vehicles do not make much noise, some are equipped with systems that emit sound to let pedestrians know they are approaching.

  8. Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS)
    Many electric cars come equipped with advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring systems.

  9. Post-Collision Battery Disconnect
    Some EVs feature systems that automatically disconnect the battery in the event of a collision, reducing the risk of a post-crash fire.

Are electric cars more dangerous in a crash?

Electric vehicles are not more dangerous in a crash compared to conventional vehicles. In fact, the safety aspects mentioned above can potentially make them safer.

The key safety advantage that EVs have over petrol engine cars is that they don’t carry any flammable fuel that might explode during a crash. While electric vehicle batteries can catch fire in a crash, these incidents are rare.

What happens to electric car batteries in a crash?

During a crash EV batteries are well protected by the battery casing. EV batteries are typically encased in a protective shell, often composed of hardened steel or a similar durable material. This casing is specifically designed to absorb and withstand crash impacts and prevent the battery cells from taking a direct hit. 

The positioning of the battery pack also plays a significant role in its protection during a crash. In most EV designs, batteries are strategically positioned on the vehicle’s floor and centred within the chassis. This part of an EV is statistically less likely to take a direct hit during a typical crash.

Many electric vehicles come equipped with automatic battery disconnect systems. In the event of a severe accident, these systems spring into action and disconnect the battery from the vehicle’s electrical system. This precautionary measure reduces the chances of a potentially dangerous short circuit or an ensuing fire.

For EVs that use liquid-cooled battery systems, these systems are engineered to contain the coolant, even in a severe crash. This design feature prevents the coolant from leaking into the battery and causing a potentially harmful short circuit.

Despite these robust safety measures, severe crashes do pose a small risk of battery damage, which can, in some cases, lead to battery fires. The danger of Li-ion battery fires in electric vehicles needs to be balanced with the comparable dangers of flammable petrol in traditional cars.

What are the dangers of electric cars?

There are a couple of potentially dangerous downsides to owning an electric car: Lithium-ion batteries, which power most electric vehicles, can catch fire if they are damaged or improperly managed. Although these instances are rare, they can be challenging to handle because such fires can be difficult to extinguish and may reignite even after being doused.

Another dangerous characteristic of electric vehicles is their quiet operation. While this can make them nicer to drive, it can also pose a risk to pedestrians who may not hear an electric vehicle approaching, particularly at low speeds.

In response to this, many countries have implemented regulations requiring electric vehicles to make artificial noise at low speeds.

Can you get electrocuted by EVs?

The high-voltage batteries in electric vehicles can pose a risk of electric shock, particularly in the event of a crash or during vehicle maintenance. To manage this risk, electric vehicles come equipped with a number of safety features, including systems that automatically disconnect the battery in the event of a collision. 

Additionally, emergency responders or EV breakdown cover operatives receive specialised training to safely handle incidents involving electric vehicles.

RAC breakdown cover van
EV breakdown cover operatives complete ‘high voltage’ training in order to service EVs

Do electric cars explode?

Electric cars themselves do not carry a risk of explosion. However, like any vehicle, there can be circumstances where extreme heat, severe crashes, or improper handling can cause serious damage to the vehicle and its components.

Lithium-ion battery fires or explosions can occur due to a process called thermal runaway.

This is when one cell in a battery overheats, causing it to fail and release heat that causes nearby cells to overheat and fail as well. This chain reaction can lead to a significant release of energy, potentially causing a fire or explosion.

Manufacturers mitigate this risk with various safety systems, including cooling systems and robust battery enclosures.

How do EVs perform in crash tests VS normal cars?

Electric cars are designed to be just as safe as petrol cars, and in some cases, Electric cars have demonstrated better performance in crash tests. This has been largely due to the differences in the structure and design of EVs compared to traditional vehicles.

When it comes to crash tests, electric vehicles have shown excellent results. Over in the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ratings for EVs are extremely high. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Battery Placement and Vehicle Stability
    The battery pack in an EV is typically located on the vehicle’s floor, which lowers the centre of gravity. This makes the vehicle more stable and less prone to roll over in an accident.

  • Front Crumple Zones
    Electric vehicles don’t have a large engine block in the front. This allows for larger crumple zones that can absorb the energy from a frontal crash more effectively, potentially reducing the risk of injury.

  • Reduced Fire Risk
    Although electric vehicle batteries can catch fire if severely damaged, such incidents are rare. On balance, the risk of fire is comparable to or less than the risk in traditional vehicles, which carry flammable gasoline.

Can electric cars get wet?

Yes, electric cars can get wet! It’s perfectly safe to charge your EV in the rain or to drive through large puddles just as you would with your petrol car. 

EVs have many safeguards to protect electrical components and the battery pack. All high-voltage EV components are sealed off and are thoroughly tested to withstand wet conditions, including heavy rain and high-pressure car washes.

Manufacturers use extensive insulation to ensure water does not interact with any electrical component in a harmful way.

EVs charging in a rain storm
It’s fine to charge your EV in the rain

How safe are EV chargers?

EV chargers in the UK are designed with a multitude of safety measures to ensure they are safe for everyday use.

These chargers incorporate safeguards, including ground-fault circuit interrupter (RCD) protection. This is a critical feature that can detect any imbalance in the electrical current to help prevent electric shocks.

Additionally, chargers are designed to protect against overvoltage and overheating, ensuring the safety of the users and the equipment.

The UK government has implemented specific regulations concerning the sale and use of private EV charge points.

The Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021 mandate that charge points must have smart functionality. This feature enables the charging process to adapt based on the current demand on the grid or the availability of renewable electricity.

In addition to these smart features, the regulations stipulate that charge points must meet certain device-level requirements to ensure a minimum level of access, security, and information for consumers.

This guarantees that consumers can safely and efficiently use their EV chargers. The best EV charger installation companies in the UK adhere strictly to these regulations, ensuring their products are not only compliant with legal requirements but also optimised for safety and efficiency.

Compliance with these regulations guarantees that EV chargers installed by these companies are designed to manage electricity demand effectively and provide a safe and efficient charging experience for users.

The final word on the safety of electric cars

When looking at the safety of electric cars, it’s clear that brand new EVs come equipped with an array of safety features designed to protect the EV owners and manage the unique challenges posed by their electric drivetrains. 

These include innovative solutions for crash safety, fire prevention, electrical safety, and pedestrian awareness. Electric cars have been shown to perform well in crash tests, often outperforming their petrol counterparts, largely due to the structural advantages afforded by their design.

It’s important, however, to acknowledge that electric vehicles introduce new safety considerations, particularly around battery safety and the dangers of high-voltage electrical systems. While these risks are thoroughly managed through advanced safety systems and rigorous testing, owners need to be aware of and understand these risks.

Just like with petrol cars, safety varies greatly depending on the specific make and model of the car. Buyers should always check the safety ratings and features of a particular model before making a purchase.

As the country gets closer to the 2035 ban on petrol vehicles, the evolution of EV tech will sprint away further, we can expect electric vehicles to become even safer and safer with each generation.

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