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The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: How Safe Are They?

Last updated: May 29, 2021
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The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide

As battery technology prices go down it is inevitable that Electric Vehicles will dominate in the years to come. 

Although proved to be much safer than regular ICE cars, there have been issues with electric and hybrid car fires. Recent news from Hongkong and Shanghai reported explosions of Tesla Model S vehicles which raised suspicion related to their safety. 

In order to power through those suspicions here are some facts about Electric Vehicle Safety why they catch fire and how this is being solved.

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Charging standards – One can be better than two

When talking about EV chargers standards we have CHArge de Move(CHAdeMO), Combined Charging System(CCS), Tesla Supercharger, and Guobiao(GB/T). 

And that’s exactly the problem. Having all of these standards gives enough room for infrastructure builders to create problems when supplying power and voltage.

However, the idea to have one global standard has been present since 2017 when Infineon and STMicroelectronics joined Charging Interface Initiative e.V. to develop a global charging standard.

Please note that EVs must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and go through the same rigorous testing as conventional vehicles in the USA. 

Apart from that they also must meet the electrical and safety standards by the Society of Automotive Engineers and the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Working Council.

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Overcharge & Overheat equals battery cell damage

It’s true that the Li-ion batteries of EVs have lower flammability rates, but they too can get overheated due to alternators or a defect in the regulators. Chargers also play a role since they can fast charge EVs which are default meant to be slow charged. In all of these cases if Thermal runaway happens it can lead to fire.

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Electrically flammable? Oh yes.

We all know gasoline is highly flammable, but that goes for Lithium-ion batteries that go in all-electric vehicles. 

Oh yes, they burn too when exposed to the wrong conditions. Yet when actually comparing them to gasoline, they are far less risky. When burning the fire gets limited to that particular area and does not spread. The same cannot be said for Gasoline.

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Maintain that maintenance

Yes, we all love less maintenance and that’s one of the reasons we like EVs, but that does not mean that the electrical systems, electric motors together with all components, and the battery itself don’t need maintenance. 

That’s why it is very important when it comes to safety that regular checks are being done.

Please note:

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) require more or less the same amount of maintenance like conventional cars. 

This is true because they still carry an internal combustion engine which has the same maintenance requirements as normal vehicles. 

The other electrical parts require minimal scheduled maintenance.

EVs require less maintenance because:

  • All associated electronics require little to no regular maintenance
  • Overall fewer fluids. No engine oil means no maintenance
  • Regenerative braking reduces brake wear
  • A lot fewer moving parts compared to a regular gasoline engine 

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Battery Maintenance

A battery can be charged and discharged for a limited amount of time. 

This process called the life cycle should be checked with the manufacturer alongside all related warranties and battery recycling policy. 

You could say that with the modern coolant systems batteries are safer and require less thought, but these systems that keep the temperature down are exactly the ones you should check regularly.

Prevent rather than cure

EVs are being recalled by their manufacturers. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Risks unfold especially when it comes to the wiring harness causing moisture in battery cells. 

Continuing on this route of safety is great since it will reveal many updates to battery design, improved voltage harnesses, battery boxes, temperature issues and waterproofing.

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: How do you measure safety?

Numerous things can go wrong with a vehicle, but what matters most about safety is the actual number of injuries that were inflicted on the passengers. 

This covers the performance of a car protecting its occupants from the side, front and rear impact collision injuries. 

This can be measured by conducting crash tests at the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). When exploring the current topic, Tesla’s Model S performed much better than conventional vehicles in front and rear-impact crashes. 

But not better than the side-impact collisions.   

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Future-proof safety

Remain cool. 

Many people say that. Even some from the automakers do since they shift to liquid cooling that will solve battery temperature issues.

If that is not enough, Tesla uses an extra aluminum plate that is exactly made for fire protection. 

Slides right between the passenger compartment and the battery pack. It is something that needs to become a standard in all EVs.

Even though technology as a whole changed a lot in the past 15 years, batteries have not. But many big players such as Tesla, Toyota, BYD, BMW, and Volkswagen put in their investments in next-generation solid-state batteries. Battery safety? Yes, please. 

The Electric Vehicle Safety Guide: Conclusion

By now, we hope you got a good feeling of where electric vehicles may lack safety. But rest assured, they are a much safer choice than conventional cars.