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Abels & Annes, P.C. Personal Injury Blog

What Electric Vehicles Could Mean for the Future of Driving

car accident lawyer in Chicago Illinois

Electric vehicles (EVs) are on the cusp of taking over the personal transportation market. But what does that mean for the future of car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents, especially since accidents are the third leading cause of death for Americans?

The rise in the amount of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the US hints that EVs could begin outnumbering gas-powered vehicles in the near future. Furthermore, projections say that 62% of cars sold in 2050 will be electric. President Biden’s push for more infrastructure and an even quicker rollout of EVs could mean that electric vehicles take over more quickly. While this is better for air quality, climate change, and the environment as a whole, there are still unanswered questions about electric-powered cars when compared to gas-powered cars.

This article will answer the following questions:

  • Are Electric Vehicles More Dangerous During Accidents than Gas-Powered Vehicles?
  • Do Electric Vehicles Create Unique Hazards for their Operators or Other Drivers?
  • Are Electric Vehicles More Dangerous to Pedestrians and Bicycles?
  • Is there Still a Fire Risk with Electric Vehicles?
  • Are Electric Vehicles More Expensive to Insure and Fix?
  • Can You Really Get Shocked by an Electric Vehicle?
  • Do Electric Vehicles Have Special Safety Features?
  • Can A Car Accident Attorney Help If I’m Involved In A Collision Involving An Electric Vehicle?

Are Electric Vehicles More Dangerous During Accidents than Gas-Powered Vehicles?

According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), electric vehicles are no more dangerous than gas-powered vehicles when considering injuries and deaths. The fact is, all car accidents are dangerous. Some collisions can cause serious bodily injury. And severe collisions can even cause fatalities.

It’s not how a vehicle is powered. Size, speed, and a driver’s behavior has much more influence on the outcome of a car accident. Nonetheless, do EVs have hidden dangers?

Do Electric Vehicles Create Unique Hazards for their Operators or Other Drivers?

It’s true EVs have unique hazards when compared to gas-powered vehicles. However, they also tend to have many more safety features than non-EVs. This is because they’re often built for people who like and can afford special technology. This means that EVs often come equipped with lane assist, automatic braking, auto-pilot, and other advanced safety features. Still, this does not mean that there are no concerns regarding electric vehicles.

Damaged Batteries Are a Liability of Electric Vehicles

The high-voltage batteries that power EVs are one potential hazard for drivers and passengers. In the event of a car accident, the batteries could deliver an electric shock throughout the vehicle. Car manufacturers are aware of this risk. As a result, electric vehicles are designed to disable their batteries when an accident occurs. However, the mechanism that prevents electrocutions could become damaged before it can intervene. Additionally, a manufacturer error could leave drivers vulnerable to a faulty high-voltage battery.

Damaged batteries can also overheat. The temperature of an electric vehicle fire can reach beyond 5,000° F. This level of heat can easily cause severe burns with fire and steam. It can also release toxic fumes through the burning of nearby objects, which may be harmful or lethal when inhaled.

Steps Electric Vehicle Manufacturers Have Taken to Make Safer Cars

Many EV manufacturers, including Tesla, have added features to protect its battery with additional shielding and a layer of fire protection between the batteries and the passenger compartment. Because of this, the risk of a passenger being injured by a battery has been greatly reduced in the last few years.

Other electric vehicles have scored similarly in passenger safety to non-EVs. However, the evolution and development of fire safety in electric vehicles is moving at a rapid rate. Volvo’s electric model has the battery in a location farther from the passenger compartment. Toyota and Sakti3 are pioneering new solid-state batteries that don’t rely on flammable electrolytes to power electric cars.

Speed is another hazard that can affect anyone on the road. Most EVs can accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in under eight seconds, and some of the world’s fastest accelerating production vehicles are now electrics, such as the Tesla Model S Plaid and the Porsche Taycan Turbo S. The quick change encourages speeding, which is a contributing factor in 33% of fatal car accidents.

Overall, the NHTSA concluded that passengers are slightly less likely to sustain injuries in crashes while in electric vehicles when compared to accidents involving vehicles with gasoline and diesel engines.

There is, however, another concern about electric vehicle safety. This one has to do with people who are not inside the vehicle at the time of the collision: pedestrians and bicyclists.

[Learn more about overall car accident statistics]

Are Electric Vehicles More Dangerous to Pedestrians and Bicycles?

Hybrid and electric vehicles are 37% more likely to lead to pedestrian accidents. If you’ve ever been jump-scared while in a parking lot with a Tesla right behind you, you’re not alone.

One reason for this is because electric vehicle motors are nearly silent. While this is a perk for drivers, it’s a hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists who rely on engine noise to capture their surroundings.

Pedestrians and bicyclists may not hear EVs approaching. As a result, they may cross the street when it’s unsafe or miss an opportunity to dodge a driver who doesn’t see them.

However, the NHTSA has taken measures to solve this problem. The NHTSA issued a requirement that all silent vehicles come equipped with warning sounds to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. These required sounds activate when EVs are travelling under 18.6 miles per hour.

Why 18.6 MPH, you might ask? Because at low speeds, the lack of exhaust noise makes cars harder to hear. But when a car is going faster, the tire noises, wind buffeting, and other sounds make the car audible to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Is There Still a Fire Risk with Electric Vehicles?

Most electric vehicles are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are capable of spontaneous combustion. When lithium-ion batteries are damaged during a car accident, battery cells can quickly overheat. This in turn may cause a fire or explosion, a process called thermal runaway. Instances of thermal runaway are very rare. However, they are incredibly dangerous when they do happen.

No vehicle will be completely immune from fire risks, electric or otherwise. Gasoline-powered vehicles pose similar threats. In fact, the majority of highway vehicle fires involve gasoline-powered vehicles.

Electric vehicle manufacturers are taking steps to reduce the likelihood of fires in the event of a car accident. As we mentioned above, some EVs have been redesigned to keep the batteries away from the most common points of impact. Additionally, others have added supplementary layers of protection around the batteries to mitigate fire hazard.

Are Electric Vehicles More Expensive to Insure and Fix?

The allure of not having to pay for gas has attracted many drivers to EVs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s less expensive to drive an electric vehicle.

When it comes to the cost of powering a vehicle, EVs cost about as much as gas-powered vehicles given equal factors. The breakdown for a gas-powered car vs. an electric car comes out to be $9.83 per 100 miles for a gas car and $5.27 per 100 miles for an electric vehicle.

When it comes to average purchase cost, electric vehicles are $19,000 more than their gas-powered counterparts. The more expensive a vehicle is, the more it costs to insure it.

On an annual basis, EVs cost $442 more to insure. The potential cost of repairs is one of the main factors that drives the cost of car insurance. EVs are relatively new so there aren’t as many trained professionals able to repair them. Since fixing them requires a more advanced skill set, it can be more expensive. However, the cost of maintenance and repairs is likely to decrease as EVs become more common.

The good news is that according to Car and Driver, the cost of an EV should equal that of a gas-powered car in just a few years.

Can You Really Get Shocked by an Electrical Vehicle?

It is possible to get shocked if you’re exposed to a damaged or poorly manufactured EV battery. EV batteries are powered by a voltage of 400 or higher. For reference, it takes just 49 volts to stop a human’s breathing.

Again though, these incidents typically happen when someone unqualified tries working on the vehicle or when there is some unique damage. Manufacturers are quickly working to make sure that the risk of electrocution is as low in EVs as it is in gas-powered vehicles.

Do Electric Vehicles Have Special Safety Features?

Because electric vehicles are manufactured by the most advanced auto companies and are purchased by early-tech-adopters, they do tend to have more safety features than the average gas-powered vehicle.

Lots of electric vehicles come equipped with advanced safety features. For example:

  • The Nissan Leaf is able to detect pedestrians and automatically brake when necessary.
  • Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Capability enables their vehicles to auto-brake in response to changes in traffic.
  • Teslas can also auto-park and make driving suggestions, which can potentially help avoid an accident.

Of course, the Nissan Leaf, Teslas, and other EVs have these special safety features because they’re new models, not necessarily because they’re electric. Modern gas-powered vehicles often come with the same advancements. But, as we see companies try to produce the most advanced cars possible, along with the latest and greatest safety features, it’s no stretch to say that electric vehicles will be some of the safest cars available in the near future. This is especially true as innovations in gas-powered cars will decline as they become less popular.

Can A Car Accident Attorney Help If I’m Involved in A Collision Involving An Electric Vehicle?

If you were injured by or involved in a car accident with an electric vehicle, or you were a pedestrian or bicyclist hit by an EV, you may have a viable case. Regardless of the vehicle type, drivers owe other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians a duty of care to maintain their safety.

You could be eligible to receive compensation for damages you incurred through a personal injury claim. For the best chance at getting the maximum compensation you deserve, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney through a free case evaluation.

If you’ve been injured, contact us online or call us at 312-924-7575 to speak with a Chicago car accident injury lawyer today.

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