Are electric vehicles more dangerous than gas-powered vehicles?


Written by:

Electric vehicles are touted as fuel-efficient vehicles that are better for the environment than gas-powered models — but are they better and safer for drivers? Between EV giant Tesla’s rollout of its autopilot mode and concerns over battery-related fires, a blaring question continues to grow: Are EVs actually more dangerous than gas-powered vehicles?

How does the weight of EVs impact safety?

Because EVs are powered with batteries instead of engines, and those batteries weigh more than standard engines do, EVs also typically weigh more overall (sometimes a lot more) than gas-powered vehicles. While that might offer added protection to the person behind the wheel of an EV and help the vehicle hold up during crash tests, it does pose a significant threat to other drivers. EVs can weigh hundreds, even thousands, of pounds more than their gas-powered counterparts, and according to a 2011 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the “baseline fatality probability” for car accidents increases 47% for every 1,000 additional pounds on or in the vehicle. 

This weight increase also potentially poses an infrastructure threat. In April 2023, a Manhattan parking garage collapsed and while an abundance of electric vehicles parked inside was not determined to be the cause of the collapse, it did spark some speculation that older parking garages could be at risk due to the added weight and pressure brought on by electric vehicles.

What is the risk of battery fires in EVs?

All vehicles are capable of combustion, whether powered by gas or electricity. One of the key differences between these two types of vehicles when fires are involved is the potential to extinguish them. The lithium-ion batteries used to power EVs burn with more energy than normal fires. These battery fires are extremely hot and are subsequently challenging to put out. And while you’ve always been conditioned to understand that electricity and water don’t mix, EV battery fires can be extinguished with water, it just takes several thousand gallons to do so.

Still, logistics companies handling and shipping EVs are prepared to handle potential fires, although some maritime shippers have reported trouble with cargo fires involving EV batteries

Is Tesla’s Autopilot safe?

Ever the wave-maker in the EV industry, Tesla’s Autopilot function allows drivers to sit back, relax, and let their Tesla drive for them. The function isn’t always a reliable one though, as it has been involved in over 700 crashes since its 2019 rollout. The EV giant is even facing lawsuits regarding fatalities caused as a result of its Autopilot function failures.

Are car accidents more probable in EVs?

So, there are dangers with electric vehicles (as there are with gas-powered models, too), but are they the more dangerous vehicle options?  National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy told CBS News that one of the most prevalent dangers is if a crash were to happen between a heavy EV and a motorcycle, lighter gas-powered car, or pedestrian. The impact of such an accident could prove more severe, although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not conclusively revealed any differences in crash results between EVs and non-electric vehicles. “I think it’s great that we are focused on air quality,” Homendy said, “But we are not focused on safety with these vehicles. The two are not mutually exclusive. We should aim for improved safety and improved air quality.” 

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.

Featured Image Credit: metamorworks/istockphoto.