Electric cars might be the wave of the future. Since 2010, more than 2.3 million plug-in electric vehicles have sold in the United States, and millions more could soon be charging at a station near you. In fact, the federal government is continuing to promote electric cars as a key plank in reducing carbon emissions in the U.S.
Electric car manufacturing is a global phenomenon. Some of the largest manufacturers include Tesla, Audi, BMW, and Chevrolet. Many companies are planning on rolling out new electrical models in the coming years.
One thing you can be sure of: electric cars will continue to get into accidents, just like their older fuel-powered cousins. And when they do, several complications can arise. Our Vegas electric car accidents legal team reviews some of the more serious problems these vehicles encounter when they crash.
Most electric cars have high-powered lithium batteries which are rechargeable. It is this battery which powers the vehicle instead of fuel. However, these batteries are highly combustible. Indeed, problems have arisen over the past ten years with lithium batteries in laptops and cell phones, all of which have caught on fire. Airlines have required that people store their lithium batteries in a fire-proof box to reduce the risk of an in-flight fire.
And these batteries in laptops and cell phones are much smaller than the battery found in an electric vehicle. If a small lithium battery is a hazard, what about a much larger and more powerful one installed in a vehicle that crashes?
One early study supported the idea that electric cars pose a greater risk of causing a fire. For example, fires in fuel-powered cars occurred at a rate of 1 in every 32,603. By contrast, a Tesla Model S (one of the more popular electrical cars) had a fire rate of 1 in 6,333. Researchers admitted that the numbers could be skewed by how few Teslas were in operation. Nonetheless, Tesla changed the design of their batteries to burn energy much more slowly.
However, this design change has also created problems. Firefighters in California, for example, have found that lithium batteries in electric vehicles are much harder to cool down—precisely because the newly designed batteries burn energy more slowly. In other w
ords, the redesign meant to protect occupants from a fire ended up endangering those who tried to move the car after an accident. Firefighters kept trying to remove the battery over the ensuing days only to find that it was continually catching on fire.
The good news is that passengers should be able to escape any electrical vehicle involved in an accident in enough time to avoid a burn injury. Unfortunately, those who tow the vehicle or do repair could still be seriously injured if they don’t know how to remove a hot lithium battery safely or cool it down quickly.
This is another complication with electrical cars involved in accidents. Electrocution probably poses a greater risk than fires.
In theory, the battery shouldn’t move in an accident. It is well anchored in most electric car models. But it’s always possible that a devastating crash could dislodge it, allowing it to contact the car frame and send electrical currents throughout the car. As you touch the door or accidentally impact the frame, you could be electrocuted. There is also a risk of electrocution if your car slides off the road and enters water. Although no one should deliberately drive through a flooded street, accidents where you slide into a river or off a bridge do happen.
If you are involved in a wreck, try to have only one person exit the vehicle first. If an electrical current is running through the frame, then the other passengers might need to wait inside the vehicle for emergency services to arrive.
A gruesome accident could damage a car so totally that the battery ruptures. Consequently, some of the acidic fluid in the batter could be splashed about, where it catches on fire or splashes onto a passenger. Any exposed skin could suffer a chemical burn.
Chemical burns are every bit as serious as burns caused by fires. They can easily disfigure a person’s face and melt their fingers together. An injured passenger would possibly need reconstructive surgery to return to something like normal.
Because there are risks associated with electrocution and fires, some firefighters or EMTs might hesitate to help passengers in electric vehicles following a wreck. Yes, emergency personnel promise to protect the public, but they also must protect themselves. These concerns arose in 2016 when a man in Amsterdam slammed into a tree while driving an electrical vehicle. Firefighters delayed rescuing him out of concerns with electrocution, and he ended up dying before he could get to the hospital.
If you’re trapped in an electrical vehicle, emergency personnel will probably need to take extra precautions so that they don’t get burned or electrocuted. These precautions can slow down your rescue, possibly leading to more serious injuries in the event of serious trauma to the body.
Electric vehicles often rely on complicated artificial intelligence which manage the vehicle and help with driving. Unfortunately, the more complex the technical architecture, the more that can go wrong. We don’t have enough experience to fully understand
how these cars respond in a crash. But there could be software malfunction and glitches which could compromise passenger safety and delay your ability to break free of the vehicle.
Electric vehicles create far less noise than other vehicles, so fewer pedestrians or cyclists will hear a car coming up behind them. Indeed, statistics have shown that electric vehicles are involved in a higher number of these collisions than you would expect given their numbers on the road.
Recently, the government required that electrical car manufacturers install some sort of warning system that activates when the car is moving at slower speed
s. This system should emit a noise which makes pedestrians and others aware of its presence.
However, the system won’t work at higher speeds, and a fast-traveling vehicle is a danger to pedestrians and cyclists. Also, many people might not identify the sound coming from the vehicle and therefore not assume a car is approaching them from behind.
It isn’t unusual for a crash to cost thousands of dollars in repairs so that you can drive your car again. Until then, people need to carpool or use public transportation. One complication with an electrical car is getting it repaired. Few small-town mechanics have access to the parts, and they might be completely unfamiliar with the vehicle.
To get your car fixed, you might need to take it to the dealership—which could be hundreds of miles away. Consequently, many motorists will have significant travel expenses following an accident as they rent a vehicle.
In many ways, accidents involving electric vehicles will resemble those involving combustion engines. Accident victims might be in so much pain that they ca
n’t safely exit their vehicle but instead will wait helplessly for emergency personnel to arrive. Recovering from these
At Ladah Law, our Nevada car accident lawyers stay ahead of the technological curve. We welcome anyone who is injured in an electric vehicle accident and will do everything in our power to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 702-252-0055.