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Electric Vehicle (EV) Crashes, Wrecks and Explosions

Electric vehicle sales have increased from only a few thousand in 2011 to several hundred thousand a year just ten years later. Recent changes to U.S. energy policy virtually guarantee an even greater expansion of EV manufacturing and sales in the coming years, and California has even introduced legislation to completely ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035. EVs are not limited to Tesla and Smart cars either. Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Kia, Mitsubishi, BMW, Cadillac, VW, Mercedes and others all have at least one EV model on the market, and many more are soon to come. For now at least, it seems the future will belong to electric vehicles.

EVs can help reduce global warming by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, but are they being made as safe as they could be? Reports are mounting of Teslas and other electric vehicles exploding upon impact, or even exploding without an impact, and causing intense fires that stymie the efforts of firefighters to put out. Auto manufacturers have a legal duty to make sure their vehicles are reasonably safe and meet the federal standards for crashworthiness, which is a shorthand term for the degree to which a vehicle will protect its occupants from the effects of an accident.

Below we discuss some of the risks and dangers of electric vehicles. Our attorney practices statewide throughout California, South Carolina, and Texas, and is available to assist you anywhere within those states. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an EV crash in Charleston, South Carolina, or Southern California, call the dedicated legal team at Yanni Law for a free consultation on your potential claims against the other driver or the EV manufacturer.

Electric Vehicles Can Be Too Quiet

One problem EVs pose especially to cyclists and pedestrians is how quiet they are. Without an internal combustion engine generating noise loud enough to warn other road users of their presence, an EV at low speeds emits practically no sound at all. This fact makes EVs nearly 20% more likely to collide with a pedestrian or cyclist than a gasoline-powered car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), prompting NHTSA to implement a “quiet car” rule. This rule requires EVs to emit a sound when operating at speeds under 20 miles per hour. The rule was finalized years ago and was supposed to be implemented for all new electric vehicles manufactured after 2019, but objections from the powerful automaker lobby have led to the deadline being repeatedly extended. Even without being forced to change their vehicles by law, automakers have a responsibility to produce safe vehicles, and victims of bicycle or pedestrian accidents struck by electric vehicles might have a case that the car that struck them was dangerously defective.

EV Crashes and Explosions

A bigger issue for electric vehicle safety is the tendency of EVs like the Tesla Model S to explode or ignite devastating battery fires. EVs have been known to explode after a crash, and there have even been reports of EVs catching fire or exploding even without a crash while they are parked on the street or in the owner’s garage. The problem lies with the lithium-ion batteries that power these vehicles. These batteries hold a tremendous amount of energy that can fuel an intense fire if the battery pack breaks down.

Of course, gasoline contains a tremendous amount of energy potential as well, and gasoline-powered vehicles can and do catch fire or explode in a crash. However, auto manufacturers take many steps to protect the gas tank and fuel lines in order to prevent these fuel-fed fires from occurring. What steps does Tesla take to keep their batteries from exploding or to prevent a horrific tragedy if the battery catches fire? As recently as April 2019, the battery case in a Tesla Model S was damaged in a crash, and an intense fire followed.

Since electric vehicles are newer on the market, the data is limited when it comes to EV safety. There are fewer crashes to study, and less crash testing has been done. However, according to available data, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have said that gas-powered fires occur in one out of 32,603 crashes, whereas the Tesla Model S catches fire in one out of every 6,333 collisions. This data seems to indicate that crash fires with a Tesla Model S happen five times more often than in vehicles with internal combustion engines. More studies need to be done and more data collected to determine how great a risk EVs pose in this regard.

Gas fires and battery fires aren’t the same, either. Lithium-ion car battery fires are more powerful, more intense, and harder to put out. These fires keep burning until the battery runs out of power. There have even been cases of fires re-igniting after the initial fire was put out because the damaged battery continues to power itself. Firefighters have been left with the option of letting the fire burn until the battery runs out of power and stops fueling the fire or using many times more water to put out the fire than is required for a gas vehicle explosion.

  • Are Electric Vehicles Dangerously Defective?

    The propensity to explode into a raging fire after a crash (or even without a crash) raises the question of whether electric vehicles are being manufactured as safely as they could be. Yet another danger of an EV crash is the risk of electric shock or electrocution for people working with or near the EV after a crash, including firefighters, paramedics and other first responders, as well as tow truck drivers hours after the crash. Firefighters sometimes have to cut into a vehicle to rescue the people inside, but the multitude of high voltage wires running throughout the vehicle puts the first responders at risk of electrocution, which can result in people being trapped inside their vehicles longer than in conventional cars. This danger was reported by CNN over ten years ago, but have the automakers responded with a factory-installed kill switch or other solutions, or does the danger continue to exist?

    Injured in an EV Crash? Get Help Today

    More and more electric vehicles are coming on the market every day, with more models from more automakers than ever before. As agencies like NHTSA continue to grapple with effective safety regulations for EVs, the risk continues for bicycle and pedestrian accidents in collisions with too-quiet EVs, or serious injuries from people involved in EV wrecks and explosions from defective batteries. If you are injured in a crash with an electric vehicle, a seasoned and dedicated car accident lawyer can help you recover compensation for your personal injury or the wrongful death of a family member. Our attorney practices statewide throughout California, South Carolina, and Texas, and is available to assist you anywhere within those states. In Charleston, South Carolina, or Southern California from Los Angeles to San Diego, call on Yanni Law for personal service from an experienced car accident attorney with a record of success and a commitment to getting you the best result in your case.

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