You have heard of the benefits of electric cars. For instance, EVs do not require oil changes. The benefits are many and they sound too good to be true. There are some rumors about the dangers of electric cars in the past. I know your major concern when you think of electric cars’ safety is flammability. This may have led you to ask yourself, are electric cars safer than gasoline cars? What are the chances its battery will not explode? Can EV charge themselves? In this article I will discuss the safety of electric cars and whether they are any more dangerous than the regular cars you and I have been using for a very long time.
So, are electric cars safer than gasoline cars? Honestly speaking, electric cars are safe. They are not any more dangerous than normal cars. Due to continuous improvement in technology, they are better than they were several years ago. You may know that the most dangerous part of an electric car is its lithium battery. When poorly maintained, they degrade and fail with time. Electric car safety statistics indicate that electric car safety rating has been raising continuously.
However, Teslas and other cars today come with a highly efficient and reliable thermal control system. This is a system that keeps your battery at its optimum temperatures; not hot and not cold. When the temperatures are too high, the battery discharges faster than normal. In my previous article about the best scooters for winter, we saw that lithium batteries are affected by low temperatures. Sometimes they fail to operate completely. Many safety issues electric cars suffer from are related to their batteries. Let us now look at how flammable electric cars are.
Are electric cars flammable?
Do not panic because of what am about to tell you. Lithium-ion batteries are flammable. These are the type of batteries that I have found in all my electric cars. It is not likely to change any time soon.
So, why is the lithium-ion battery flammable? While your gasoline car battery uses acid, lithium uses an electrolyte that is known to overheat and then burst into flames. This, however, does not just happen. Before becoming overheated, your battery has to be exposed to the wrong conditions for too long. When I wrote about electric cars getting overheated, we saw why your electric car can get overheated.
Why would your electric car get overheat?
Some of the reasons your car can get overheated and burst into flames include;
- Charging habits
- Driving habits
- Where you are located (where you park your car)
- Battery management system.
Charging habits mean how many times you will charge it in one day. Electric car safety statistics indicate that charging it more than 3 times a day can cause overheating. When we talk about driving habits, we mean how long you drive without stopping. When your car continuously draws power from a battery, overheating takes place. This also causes other components to get overheated as well. Motors get overheated when used continuously. Electric vehicle battery safety standards require you to take a break after driving for 100 miles (220 km).
There are places on earth that are extremely hot such as India. If you are in such places, your battery is bound to get overheated. Where you park your electric car also matters. Having it in the sun for long can cause overheating. However, most of the time your battery management system (BMS) usually takes care of this. Even so, if your BMS is not efficient, you are in for a rude shock. Make sure your battery management system is well maintained.
How electric car`s battery burst into flame?
This is how your lithium-ion battery burst into flames. When your battery becomes overheated, the power cells are damaged. This leads to short-circuiting. Those short circuits ignite the electrolyte if there, not proper precautions exercised.
Nonetheless, this should not deter you from going for an electric car. Electric car safety standards have risen over the past few years and with it the battery safety. In fact, the risk of fires in gasoline cars is higher than those from lithium-ion explosions. Furthermore, the fires from the explosion of the battery are limited to the areas where your battery is located. The battery does not occupy a large area. In case it explodes, you will have time to use an extinguisher to save your car. This is not the case with gasoline cars. The fire usually spreads faster than one can contain it. Furthermore, the low flash temperatures of gasoline cause it to ignite very fast.
You might be using a laptop or a phone. They all use lithium batteries. More often than not, you never think they will explode in your face when on a call or when chatting. Why? Because the safety standards of the battery have risen. In the same way, the electric vehicle battery safety standards have risen. Electric car safety statistics have done research which shown that less than 1% of lithium battery explode. So, you are safe with an electric car. So, are electric cars safer than gasoline cars?
Thermal run away
Thermal runaway is a phenomenon where the cells in your lithium battery short circuits causing combustion. Manufacturers say this is an unstoppable chain reaction that causes fire when your vehicle`s battery is at 60 C and above. There are many safety features in place to prevent this from happening.
Manufacturers have approached this problem in two ways. One, they are extensively researching to create a less flammable electrolyte. A breakthrough in this area would mean we do not have to worry about battery explosion any longer. The second way is to have the battery divided into many small cells that are separated by fireproof walls. The idea behind this is that if one of the cells is on fire due to a short circuit, the rest of the battery does not have to go down with that one cell.
Electric cars vs regular cars
There are a few keys and significant differences between electric cars and normal cars. The first difference is the temperatures at which they are meant to operate. You now know that overheating is not good for your electric car. This is because lithium batteries are designed to operate at temperatures between 15C and 45C. Your regular car engine is meant to operate at temperatures between 95 Cand 104C. That is a very big difference.
When it comes to speed, there is no much difference between them. Furthermore, you can only drive as fast as the laws of your country dictate.
Noise is another significant difference between the two. When I wrote about how loud are electric bikes, we saw that motors are very silent. This is also the case with electric vehicles. They are very silent. Regular cars on the other hand produce noise from the engine. To make the matter worse, some people make adjustments to exhaust pipes to make them very loud. You cannot make an EV loud because they have no exhaust pipes.
The other difference between EV and internal combustion engines (ICE) is emissions. The ICE produces oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide after combusting the fuel. EV produces no gases at all.
Do electric cars need oil changes? Well no. This is the other difference between the ICE and an EV. Since an EV does not have engines that require lubricating oil, you will not have to change it. A regular car will require one to change the oil from time to time. Even so, there are the brake fluid and the cooling systems that use a special kind of oil in EV. They have to be maintained at the required level.
As for the motors in an EV, you do not have to change oil at all. They come with enough amount of grease. It was also what we saw about electric scooters that use hub motors.
Lastly, well-cited research has shown that the cost of fuel per mile (km) is far less for EV than it is for regular cars. This means that it is cheaper to operate an EV than a regular car. In the USA, 9 liters of gasoline will take you 100 km. This is approximately $ 27 given the price as of 2021 April 1 liter costs $2.9. You need approximately 15 kWh to cover 100 km on an electric car. This will cost $ 1.8 given 1kWh costs approximately 12 cents in the US. You see, you will save more on an electric car.
Electric cars and accidents
Are electric cars safer than gasoline cars topic will not complete without talking about accidents. What about in an accident, are EVs any dangerous than regular cars? Structurally, all the cars meant for use on public roads have to meet certain standards. Compared to regular cars, electric vehicles have few components. Nonetheless, the frame, chassis, and every component are structurally sound.
In addition to a well-designed structure, more safety features are included. For instance, there are airbags in place. Because of the fewer components, there are large available spaces. Many crumple zones are also available in electric cars. Electric cars designers are a force to work very hard to achieve crash worthiness.
Even though today’s EV safety standards have increased considerably, data from the electric vehicle safety statistics indicate EV accidents in the past had cars burn to the ground during the accidents. Many people were afraid to buy them. Now because of the safety features discussed above, fire incidences due to thermal runaway have reduced.
Moreover, there are other safety measures engineers have employed to make sure your car does not burn in the case of an accident. Firstly, the batteries are not only placed very low but also as far as possible from areas of impact. Secondly, batteries are also mounted on crash-resistant structures. Thirdly, there are SPOC blocks. In full SPOC stands for the severe partial of a class block. SPOC is meant to prevent the front wheel from crashing the battery after or during a collision.
Will I get electrocuted in an accident?
You may or may not be aware that your electric car operates at voltages as high as 400 v. Hybrid electric cars operating voltages are between 100 V and 200 V. This is why manufacturers have put in place measures to ensure there is no electrocution when accidents take place. You are sure to die if you come into contact with 400 V. This will not happen because safety features in your car ensure the battery is isolated in a crash. The sensors in your car burn the fuses so that the connection between the battery and cables is cut. You may be using one of the vehicles that have a wedge driven between cables when the airbag is triggered. This is very cool, isn`t it?
What about the pedestrians?
I said earlier that the motors are very silent and so is the whole car. A pedestrian may not hear an EV that is one meter behind her. This can be dangerous. This is why manufacturers have installed a noise-making device so that the pedestrians will hear the vehicle when it is operating at low speeds.
Can you charge your EV when it is raining?
I have written a whole article addressing the question, can you charge an EV in the rain? Yes, you can charge your electric cars in the rain. The manufacturers know that some charging stations are in the open and it rains. Some people are known to use regular outlets to charge. Many conditions have to be met before charges flow between the charger and your car. This is why the plug and the port were designed to ensure no water or dust particles get inside.
Final thoughts on are electric cars safer than gas cars
Now you have an answer to, are electric cars safer than gasoline cars? Soon and very soon, the cities will be filled with electric cars, electric scooters, and electric bikes. All this is thanks to the ever-advancing technology. As manufacturers venture into further researches about electric vehicles, safer and more efficient cars will be developed. Electric car safety ratings will continually increase. Furthermore, have we not seen from the discussion above that safety issues electric cars have had in the past have been addressed? They are now safer than ever. Perhaps, even safer than gasoline cars. Hopefully, in the future, they will become more affordable.