Aside from driving range anxiety, safety is one of if not the largest areas of concern for potential Electric Vehicles buyer.
Whether it be worrying about the cars’ high voltage electrical systems or their flammable batteries, there are enough issues raised by EV naysayers out there to make one hesitant about buying into something new.
Of course, many of these issues have been latched onto and overblown by those skeptical of moving away from conventional vehicle ownership.
Let’s discuss further, three safety concerns that are often brought up, and why they should not deter any potential eco-conscious consumer.
Flammability of Electric vehicles
Back in 2013, three vehicle fires involving Tesla’s Model S took over the news cycle, drawing immediate criticism from both pundits and the general populous alike, who claimed that electric vehicles were flammable and unsafe.
Despite Tesla being quick to point out that all of the fires involved some sort of accident, their stock took a significant hit as the unease around EVs grew.
Electric vehicles run on lithium-ion batteries (also called Li-ion batteries), which are indeed flammable. When exposed for lengthy periods to the wrong sort of conditions or if the power cells are damaged and short-circuiting occurs, there’s potential for combustion. This is referred to as thermal runway.
But the likelihood of such a thing occurring is incredibly minimal. There are presently millions of Li-ion battery-fuelled products (including computers and phones) on the market, but the instances of fires are few and far between. In fact, Jeff Dahn, a professor of physics and chemistry and Dalhousie University, has produced research that states that just one fire occurs for every 100 million Li-ion batteries on the market so long as they’re used properly.
In what may come as a surprise to some, Li-ion batteries actually pose less of a risk of fire or explosions than gasoline. In cases which involved the former being damaged and causing fires, the flames were held to the small area that contains the batteries until they were extinguished. When it came to fires caused by the latter, the flames spread to other parts of the vehicle before they could be put out.
None of this means EV designers and engineers haven’t addressed the concerns surrounding the possibility of thermal runway, though. To make things safer than ever, batteries have been encircled by a protective cooling layer just like the ones found in traditional automotive radiators. If somehow the batteries still manage to overheat despite the excess cooling, they have been installed as an assortment rather than as one large pack and are further divided by firewalls.
Not only did the Tesla Model S receive unfair bashing for the concerns over flammability, it was also given the highest possible safety rating in crash tests by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) thanks to the external aluminium plating surrounding its battery array and the extra layer of fire protection between its batteries and passengers.
While the Tesla Model S presently has more fire safety features than numerous other electric vehicles, plenty of other models scored similarly in terms of passenger safety. And in the wake of the Model S’s success, a movement has begun to improve the level of fire safety in all EV models.
In crashes involving electric vehicles, the NHTSA actually concluded that the chances of the people involved getting injured were lower than they were with vehicles that run on gasoline and diesel engines. To put it plainly: Electric vehicles are safer to drive and ride in than traditional options.
There have been numerous studies that have suggested EVs are more likely to be involved in accidents with pedestrians than regular vehicles. This is due to the fact that EVs are far quieter than their solely gas-powered counterparts, and therefore could pose a threat to people out walking their dogs or those with disabilities, such as the blind.
Areas, where the speed limit is lower, are particularly dangerous, as moving at a slower rate means there isn’t enough friction between an EV’s tires and the road to create a substantial amount of noise.
However, Canada is presently in the process enacting a change to the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard so that all new electric vehicles will have to be fitted with an electronic noise emitter, something that is already in place in the U.S. and Europe.
This will outfit electric cars with one or two devices, usually mounted behind the front and rear bumpers, which will create sound at a frequency that’s similar to the internal combustion engines of typical vehicles at a similar speed, effectively getting rid of the likelihood of an accident based upon lack of noise.
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