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How Safe Are Electric Cars?

Posted March 21, 2018 | Uncategorized

In the United States, cars kill more than 30,000 people each year. Car accidents can be extremely dangerous and can harm many lives. The moments following an accident are also hazardous. Cars can catch on fire and even explode. As electric cars become more popular, it is important to look at how safe they are in an accident and what is the risk of them catching on fire.

Electric Car Fires

Even though they are not full of gasoline, electric car fires are a serious problem. Fires have been happening consistently since the creation of this new method of travel. In 2013, 3 Model S electric cars from Tesla caught fire. Two of the incidents involved the driver hitting a large, metal object at high speed. Installed warning systems gave the drivers time to pull over and get out of their cars before the cars began smoking and caught on fire. The third fire involved the driver running into a concrete wall.

Last fall, a Tesla car crashed into a concrete barrier and caught on fire. It took multiple hours and many people to put it out because electric car fires can be very difficult to extinguish. Putting out an electric car fire requires cutting the power source so you first need to get the flames low and battery cool enough to cut. Firefighters also need to wear respiratory gear because the fumes from the batteries are extremely toxic.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries power most electric cars. There have been numerous accounts of Li-ion batteries catching fire inside devices like phones and computers. In Li-ion batteries, a large amount of energy is working a small space, and this is one of the main reasons they have a higher risk of catching on fire. Part of the reason why designers choose Li-ion batteries to power electric cars is because of the energy and power that each battery holds, in a compact size. Though the high density of energy makes them ideal for providing enough power to cars, it also gives them characteristics similar to explosives.

Li-ion batteries become especially dangerous when they are hot. On many occasions when electric cars have caught on fire, one of the batteries short-circuits, allowing heat to sneak out and warm up the pack. Damage to the battery pack, either due to an accident with another car or hitting something on the roadway, can cause short-circuiting or lead to a fire.

Steps to Reduce Danger

Recognizing that energy from Li-ion batteries could quickly become dangerous, electric car makers are starting to take steps to reduce the risks. They are working on precautionary devices such as fuses and circuit breakers that disconnect the batteries when collision detectors sense impending damage.

Tesla covers their battery packs in a thick plate of aluminum and builds firewalls into the car that go between the passenger compartment and the battery pack for extra protection. After a number of accidents, they also created a software update that will automatically increase the car’s suspension, moving the battery pack higher off the ground when you are moving at highway speeds, to reduce the chances of highway debris damaging the pack.

Tesla and Ford also circulate cold air through the battery pack to keep the batteries cool, reducing the chances of an explosion. The battery pack is actually many smaller batteries separated by steel cases as opposed to one large one to prevent fire from spreading throughout the entire pack. Volvo has started designing their electric cars with the battery pack as far away from crumple zones as possible in an effort to keep the batteries from catching on fire during or after an accident.

If you were involved in an accident in Texas and need representation contact our experienced Mesquite car accident lawyers at Fielding Law. We are available 24/7.