The motoring public is in the midst of a considerable transition – between the kinds of internal combustion-powered vehicles that have been common for the best part of a century, and a cleaner, more capable battery-powered alternative.
The battery electric vehicle promises to remove emissions at the point of use and offers a range of functional and performance benefits. But will it make our roads safer? While it’s possible to claim compensation after an accident, it’s better to avoid the accident in the first place.
There’s reason to suppose that an electric vehicle would be more reliable than an internal combustion-engine one. There is no starter motor, no cylinders, no fuel tank, and no gearbox. This simplicity, in theory should mean that fewer failures occur, which will help to drive down rates of accidents.
While electric vehicles have been known to catch fire, the same is true of petrol-powered ones. The idea of filling a car with flammable liquid is now so commonplace that we rarely think about how potentially dangerous it is.
We should also consider that much of the weight of an electric vehicle comes from its battery. This component tends to be stored along the bottom of the car, which means that the vehicle has a lower centre of gravity. This in turn means that there’s a limited chance of the car flipping over, especially during sharp turns.
This latter consideration is especially relevant in the case of 4x4s, which naturally tend to have a higher centre of gravity. This is what allowed the Tesla Model X to score so highly in crash tests.
You might suppose that rollovers are a rare, dramatic occurrence. But while they account for only a small minority of crashes, they do account for a disproportionate number of serious injuries and deaths. In other words, a car that doesn’t flip is much, much safer than one that does.
We should also consider that electric vehicles don’t require filling up at a petrol station – you can charge your car at home. Now, the number of petrol station fires in the UK is extremely low, but that’s largely thanks to the amount of health and safety measures put in place to reduce their likelihood. Fuel is delivered and put into the ground by qualified professionals, and the cashier has the ability to stop the flow of fuel if anything happens on the forecourt. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems.
Electricity, of course, poses a danger of a different kind – which is why any charging point installed at your house should be installed by a qualified electrician. Ideally, one with experience of dealing with the kind of charging point you’re going to be installing.