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Do Electric Vehicles Pose Additional Hazards in a Crash?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Electric vehicles can pose dangers of fire and electric shock in motor vehicle accidents due to high voltage electricity. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that all persons involved in electric vehicle accidents follow safety tips to prevent serious injuries often seen by a Chicago accident lawyer in electric vehicle crashes.

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Electric vehicles pose additional hazards infographic

Are Electric Vehicles Safe to Drive?

In 2014, approximately 55,000 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. By the end of 2016, there were 30 different electric vehicle models on the market with total sales of about 160,000 vehicles. As consumers look for ways to save on fuel costs and promote green energy for a cleaner environment, electric vehicle sales continue to rise.

The safety of electric cars is still being addressed. In some ways, electric cars are safer than gasoline-powered cars with internal combustion engines, but they add a new safety risk when they’re involved in a crash. Currently, most electric cars use high-powered lithium-ion batteries which commonly catch fire or explode. A Chicago accident lawyer often sees serious injuries, even fatalities, caused by lithium-ion batteries fires and explosions in various consumer products.

Lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density. The amount of energy packed into each battery is quite large relative to its size. Electric vehicle battery packs are made of hundreds to thousands of battery cells, each of which contains a flammable liquid electrolyte. This high energy density makes lithium-ion batteries a perfect power source for electric cars, but it also gives them a higher risk of fire and explosion in a crash. For instance, the battery pack in a Tesla Roadster consists of 7,000 batteries under the hood of a single car. Although Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers are taking a number of precautions to prevent battery hazards, the risk of fire and explosion in EV accidents is still a concern. To safely manage the risks of lithium-ion battery fires, manufacturers must prevent the electrolyte from catching fire and keep the fire from spreading if it does.

Safety Tips for Electric Vehicle Owners

To prevent additional hazards and risk of serious injuries, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following safety tips for drivers and passengers involved in electric motor vehicle accidents:

  • Inform all emergency responders that the vehicle is electric
  • Assume the vehicle is fully powered, even after a crash
  • Roll down the windows before shutting off the engine
  • Remove the ignition key, and keep in at least 16 feet away from the vehicle
  • Do not touch the engine compartment, battery, exposed electrical components, or any wiring under the hood that can cause electrical shock
  • Maintain a safe distance from any electric vehicle that has suffered extensive damage

Electric vehicles must pass inspections and undergo the same rigorous safety testing as gasoline-powered vehicles in the U.S. They must also pass safety standards specific to EVs that secure batteries in a crash, limit chemical spills from batteries, and isolate the chassis from the high-voltage system to prevent electric shock.

For electric vehicles that have been involved in a crash, but not yet repaired, additional safety tips are recommended to prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Contact an authorized service provider or vehicle manufacturer for repairs. Individuals should not attempt to repair a damaged electric vehicle.
  • Report any leaking fluids, bubbling, sparks, or smoke coming from the car’s high voltage battery.
  • Do not store a severely damaged electric vehicle inside of a building, or within 50 feet of any combustible materials.
  • Note that damage to the high voltage system in an electric vehicle can result in a delayed release of toxic fumes or flammable gasses.

There are some safety concerns related to the silent operation of electric vehicles. In busy metropolitan traffic areas like Chicago, a Chicago accident lawyer often handles pedestrian injuries caused by silent electric vehicles. Pedestrians are less likely to hear an approaching EV than a conventional vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently addressing this safety concern. One option would require electric vehicles to have audible sounds at low speeds. This option is already available on many EVs, including the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt.

EV Maintenance Safety Tips

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (AEVs) have different mechanical systems and technologies, so maintenance is slightly different. Both require regularly scheduled maintenance to their electrical systems, which include the battery and the electric motor.

Typically, AEVs require less maintenance than conventional vehicles because they contain fewer fluids, as well as fewer moving parts. PHEVs have gasoline engines, so maintenance requirements are similar to those in conventional vehicles. Due to the high-voltage batteries in electric vehicles, maintenance and repairs should always be done by a professional authorized service provider to prevent serious injuries like burns and electric shock often seen by a Chicago accident lawyer.

Categories: Auto Accidents