Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more and more popular – especially as gas prices become higher and higher. Electric vehicles (EVs), previously reserved for those with the big bucks, have been dropping in price as the technology gets cheaper and easier to reproduce, and consumers are definitely interested. Proponents of EVs point to advantages like fuel efficiency and environmental benefits, but are EVs really the better, safer wave of the future?
Although electric vehicles have come a long way since their first introduction– in, if you can believe it, 1832 – manufacturers are still working out some of the kinks. Although any car or truck has certain inherent safety issues, EVs have some specific safety problems related to them being fully electric.
Lithium ion (Li-ion) battery fires are still a common problem
Although EVs are not gasoline-powered and full of combustible fuel, they can still catch fire unexpectedly. The batteries in these vehicles have been known to overheat, burst into flames, or even explode. CNN reports “Lithium-ion batteries, whether they’re in cars, smartphones or automobiles, can catch fire if they’ve been improperly manufactured, damaged or abused or if the software that protects the battery from getting too much or too little electric charge failed to do its job.”
Although Li-ion battery car fires are rare, they also burn extremely hot in comparison to gasoline vehicle fires and can cause a great amount of destruction in minutes.
They pose a risk of electrocution
Gear and Cylinder discusses the risk of electrocution from electric vehicles, explaining, “Hybrids and fully electric cars can have operating voltages between 200 and 800 volts. These allow you to get over 100 kWh from your electric car.” Although manufacturers take care to mark high voltage wires carefully, and only a professional should ever work on or open a Li-ion battery, these batteries can become damaged in a car accident.
Per Gear and Cylinder, “ If there is ever a short, or if someone touches a bare connector they could be in serious danger. First responders are often in a very dangerous situation at the scene of a crash as well.”
The North Dakota weather isn’t conducive to EVs
Let’s face it; North Dakota isn’t like the states that are hyping these cars. It’s cold here – really cold. Electric vehicles don’t care for the cold weather and may not perform as well, either. Per Forbes, “During colder temperatures, EV batteries do not charge as fast, are less efficient, and will be more affected by electric functions within the car like heating, regenerative braking or seat warming.”
This can be a real danger if you run out of power on the middle of a highway, a hundred miles or more from the closest charging station. (For what it’s worth, there are only a handful of cities in all of North Dakota that have them – though the very first one was installed right outside the city limits of Minot at the Enerbase Travel Plaza.) Being stranded with no way to keep yourself warm is no joking matter out here.
Furthermore, cold weather slows down the chemical reactions the battery needs to perform well, which can cause problems with both braking and tire pressure. If you’re traveling in an area with a lot of traffic, or in bad weather, you could easily end up getting hurt in a wreck.
Autonomous driving dangers come standard
The majority of EVs have driverless, or autonomous, functionality. One popular example of this is Tesla – and you might also be familiar with the plethora of Tesla autopilot accidents from negligent drivers taking advantage of this feature. Until autopilot and self-driving features are better and more uniformly regulated for carmakers, driverless cars will remain dangerous.
The lack of sound poses a risk to others
EVs produce much less sound than vehicles with combustion engines; some are practically silent. This presents a significant safety concern, as people may not hear the vehicle coming. Discover Magazine notes, “The quiet can be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, who may not hear a car sneaking up behind them, as well as people with visual impairments who rely on sound to detect approaching vehicles.”
But it’s not just pedestrians or cyclists: it’s a real risk to children, too. They’re the most impulsive, and most likely to cut out into a street if their ball rolls away or they managed to slip their parents’ hands, or if they’re goofing around with friends on their bikes. Even vehicles that emit a low-level hum at slower speeds may be mistaken for something else, leaving kids to think it’s safe to cross a road or retrieve a toy when it’s not.
If you are in an accident with an electric vehicle
EVs present certain dangers in the event of an accident. If you are involved in a crash with an electric vehicle, take the following steps to ensure you and others don’t suffer further injury:
- Inform all first responders the vehicle is electric
- Always assume an EV is fully powered (even after a wreck)
- Put down the windows before powering down the car
- Remove the key and move about 15 feet away or more from the car
- Do not touch the engine, battery, any exposed wiring or components, or anything under the hood
Wait until a tow truck is on the scene to deal with the vehicle, and focus on your injuries and safety. If the EV belonged to you, ensure an authorized service provider makes the proper repairs. Never attempt to repair a damaged electric vehicle.
If you suffer injury in an accident with an electric vehicle that wasn’t your fault, accountability may fall with one or more parties. These can include:
- The driver, if their negligence caused the accident
- The car manufacturer, if a defective part or component caused the accident
- A repair shop, if improper repairs caused the car to malfunction
The experienced Minot car accident attorneys at Larson Law Firm, P.C. are here to help if you or a loved one were injured in a crash that was not your fault. We understand how to assign liability to an at-fault driver and work with insurance companies on your behalf so you can take the time to heal from your injuries. Let us work to secure the compensation to which you are entitled.
Call us at 701-484-HURT or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Our legal team serves clients in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, and we fight on behalf of accident victims throughout North Dakota. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson