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How Safe are Electric Cars?

Electric Car Charging

As every year passes, there are more and more hybrid vehicles or fully electric cars and trucks on the roads and highways of the United States. The technology supporting electric cars is making the vehicles more practical, given the amount of increased mileage that is available on newer models. Many people are interested in electric cars merely for the novelty of owning one. But there are many more buyers of electric cars who are concerned about global climate change and the effect that gas combustion engines have on the environment. Regardless of the reasoning behind owning a fully electric vehicle, because more of them are entering our national fleet of vehicles, there are bound to be safety concerns with the new type of vehicle. As always, avoiding a car accident is a top concern.

Are electric cars safe enough at present to become a significant method of how we travel in the United States? Before spending a lot of money purchasing an electric car, it is a good idea to discuss some safety concerns with these types of vehicles.

Electric Car Safety Issues

There have certainly been many safety issues related to the technology behind hybrid and electric cars since they first appeared on the roads many years ago. The technology has matured as well as the battery life in the vehicles, allowing them to increase their mile range. At present, the Tesla Model S, long range, has a 379-mile range on a full charge. The Tesla Model 3 has a 348-mile range. The Jaguar i-Pace has a 292-mile range. These vehicles are just some of the examples of the increased driving ranges seen over the past several years, increasing the vehicles’ popularity with the public.

But despite this popularity, there have been some safety issues and bad press as it relates to these safety concerns. When it comes to general safety requirements, electric vehicles still have to follow the rules and regulations as set forth by the federal government with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Each new electric vehicle will be designed and manufactured with standard safety devices:  seat belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and other standard safety gear. But here are some examples of the safety issues that are specific to fully electric vehicles:

  • Electric cars are quiet: Generally, electric vehicles produce much less road noise than vehicles with combustion engines. This is a safety concern because people do not hear the vehicles coming as easily as regular, gas guzzling cars. Pedestrians, bicycle riders, motorcycle riders, and drivers in other vehicles cannot hear the vehicles approach, potentially causing accidents. The amount of night-time pedestrian accidents involving electric vehicles have significantly increased in the United States over the past few years.
  • Use of Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries: One of the safety arguments for the use of electric cars is that they do not use gasoline or diesel fuel and they do not have a tank full of a highly combustible liquid that could explode on impact or when set on fire. This is a valid point. However, Li-ion batteries also tend to overheat, catch fire, and on occasion, explode. Because Li-ion batteries have to be so small to fit within the vehicle frame of the size of an average sedan, and because the batteries have to pack so much energy in them, they can become dangerous. The Li-ion battery can have issues if it is struck in an accident, for example. Some vehicle manufacturers have begun installing the battery pack far away from any crumple-zone impact site on the vehicle because of the dangers of when the vehicle is impacted in a collision. Sometimes, the battery has a short circuit and overheats, catching the car on fire while driving down the road.
  • Overcharging: Li-ion batteries have a problem if the battery is overcharged with a defective voltage regulator, alternators, or the improper use of chargers. This overcharging can cause overheating and, ultimately, a fire. Owners can just imagine leaving their electric vehicle in the garage to charge overnight and it catching on fire because of a mechanical issue with the charging port, and the house starts to burn while the driver sleeps.
  • Driverless feature: Many electric vehicles have driverless functionality built into them. This means that under certain scenarios, the vehicle can be placed in auto-pilot mode. This can be very dangerous, of course, because some people would take advantage of this capability in an unsafe manner. There have been many viral videos posted of people cruising along in stop-and-go traffic while sleeping, with their vehicle driving itself. Many electric vehicle manufacturers are creating ways for this not to happen and force drivers to have to pay attention to the road and keep their hands on the wheel.

Ongoing Lawsuits

There are several lawsuits throughout the United States filed against many electric vehicle manufacturers related to safety issues and personal injury caused in car accidents. Here are some examples of individual lawsuits or class action lawsuits against electric vehicle manufacturers:

  • A glitchy touch screen that sometimes blanks out or does not control the vehicle as it should. The safety issue with this is that, with some models, the touchscreen controls many safety devices, navigation, and communication devices within the vehicle. If that screen does not work because of a software issue, that could cause safety problems.
  • Structural and mechanical issues with electric vehicles, including a class action suit against Tesla for a dangerously designed control arm and suspension issue.
  • Auto-pilot accidents, including the striking and killing of pedestrians when auto-pilot was engaged as well as drivers of electric vehicles.
  • Automatic doors would not open after a crash and fire, trapping the individual inside and burning him alive.
  • Software problems causing vehicles to lose speed or brake lights when the battery level reaches a certain low level.
  • Defective or removed speed limiter, allowing the driver to travel at an unsafe speed. This specific case involved a teenager whose parents had installed a speed limiter on the vehicle to limit how fast their son could go with the car. The limiter was accidentally removed without the parents’ knowledge, allowing the son to go up to 116 mph, losing control of his vehicle at that speed, and dying as a result of the accident.

Electric Car Manufacturers Claim Their Vehicles are Safer

In response to these various safety concerns and lawsuits, the electric vehicle manufacturers argue that their vehicles are safer, on average, than internal combustion vehicles that use gas or diesel. They argue that there are less collision-related fires with electric vehicles as compared with gas vehicles. Also, manufacturers such as Tesla argue that their auto-pilot capability makes the vehicles safer because a computer can react faster than a human under certain driving situations.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Clients Who Have Been Injured in Electric Vehicle Car Accidents

Electric vehicle accidents can involve very complicated litigation, dealing with highly technical vehicle design, manufacturing issues, and computer software engineering. If you have been injured because of the failure of a safety device on an electric vehicle or injured in a car or truck accident involving an electric vehicle, you have a right to receive full and fair compensation for your injuries.

The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC help clients who have been injured in electric vehicle car accidents. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-8488. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Delaware County, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.