Many fleet owners and operators are interested in reducing operational and maintenance costs with electric vehicles (EVs), but they worry about vehicle safety. When you are used to one technology, how do you prepare for the next one? The fact is that EVs are just as safe as internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and, in many ways, they are even safer. Here’s what you need to know about EV safety.
EVs Must Meet Testing and Certification Standards
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states:
“All light duty cars and trucks sold in the United States must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. To meet these standards, vehicles must undergo an extensive, long-established testing process, regardless of whether the vehicle operates on gasoline or electricity. Separately, EV battery packs must meet their own testing standards. Moreover, EVs are designed with additional safety features that shut down the electrical system when they detect a collision or short circuit.”
A vehicle is not allowed on the road unless it is certifiably safe, and virtually every government has a way of testing vehicles to make sure they are safe for their citizens to drive. As for vehicle recalls, Kelley Blue Book offers a tracking webpage, and National Highway Safety Administration offers a vehicle search by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Are EVs Safe in a Fire?
While there have been fires involving electric vehicles, these are no more common than fires involving ICE vehicles. In fact, according to the available data, the opposite is actually true: EVs are much less likely to catch fire than ICE vehicles. As The Guardian reports, “In Norway, which has the world’s highest proportion of electric car sales, there are between four and five times more fires in petrol and diesel cars, according to the directorate for social security and emergency preparedness.”
It should also be noted that electric vehicles are built with many fire suppression safeguards in place to help prevent fires from starting, and also prevent them from spreading if they do start. In a collision, an EV is less likely to cause a fire, as there is no liquid fuel to leak and catch fire.
When an EV does catch fire, the fire tends to burn hotter and longer than an ICE vehicle fire due to “thermal runaway” caused by the chemicals in the battery, but there are solutions. In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers online training for teaching first responders how to deal with these rarer fires.
Are EVs Safe for Pedestrians?
One area that is of legitimate concern when it comes to EVs is for people outside the vehicle, specifically pedestrians and cyclists. One of the key features of EVs – the fact that they’re much quieter than ICE vehicles – can make them a potential safety hazard to pedestrians. At high speeds, a vehicle’s tires will make enough noise to alert people to their presence. However, at low speeds, an EV’s tires will not make enough noise to be heard by pedestrians and their electric motors only emit a low hum. This can mean pedestrians may not hear them. That is why many governments have mandated that EVs are fitted with low-speed noise emitters, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Earlier in the industry, automakers could design customized pedestrian alert sounds, but as of 2022, the United States’ National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has standardized the low-speed hum.
Are EVs Safe for the Environment?
With no tailpipe emissions and reduced noise, EVs are unquestionably safer for the environment once they are built and operational.
However, there are greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the manufacturing of EVs and there can be emissions associated with their charging depending on how the electricity used to charge them is generated. This is referred to as “well-to-wheel emissions.” However, the EPA says, “Over the lifetime of the vehicle, total GHG emissions associated with manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV are typically lower than the total GHGs associated with a gasoline car.”
Why Are EVs Safe?
EVs have a lower center of gravity
Thanks to the heavy battery packs sitting at the bottom of the vehicle, EVs have a lower center of gravity and are less prone to rolling over in a collision. This is especially good for fleet vehicles, which often carry heavy loads that can potentially add weight near the top of the vehicle.
EVs require less maintenance
Maintenance is one of the areas where EVs are safer than ICE vehicles because they have far fewer moving parts. EV motors and drivetrains only have about 20 moving parts compared to approximately 2,000 for a typical ICE vehicle.
Friction brake components like pads, rotors and shoes typically wear more slowly in an electric vehicle. That’s because EVs come equipped with a separate braking system that uses the vehicle motor to slow the vehicle. Known as regenerative braking, this feature runs the motor in reverse when the vehicle slows down, feeding energy back into the electrical system for a small range boost. By using regenerative braking some or most of the time, an EV or hybrid vehicle can go around 100,000 miles between services for the friction brakes.
EVs have instant torque
Sometimes while driving, it’s safer to accelerate away from trouble and this is where the electric car’s instant torque comes into play. As Car and Driver says, “multiple mainstream EVs —including various sedans and SUVs that make no claim of being high-performance vehicles —can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds, [and three of] 16 vehicles [it has] tested in the past decade that blasted to 60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds — supercar territory in the gasoline world.”
In a typical ICE vehicle, there is a slight delay when accelerating because multiple parts must work together. These are the steps to accelerate an internal combustion engine vehicle:
- Driver presses the gas pedal.
- The gas pedal turns a pivot which pulls the throttle wire.
- The throttle wire connects to a throttle linkage.
- The throttle linkage opens a valve which lets air into the engine.
- Internal sensors inject fuel into the combustion engine.
- In a four-stroke combustion engine, there are four steps for turning fuel into energy: air/gasoline intake, then compression, then combustion, then exhaust.
- The force of combustion pushes the pistons down.
- The pistons move the crankshaft via a rod.
- The crankshaft connects to the transmission, which regulates power to the wheels and connects to the drive shaft.
- Moving the drive shaft turns the vehicle axles and rotates the wheels.
EVs do not have this delay because they do not require combustion nor transmission. They can simply apply maximum torque from a standstill. As Car and Driver notes, the EV is like a “vehicle with a powerplant that offered an almost flat torque curve, with close to maximum output at zero rpm — and no need for a transmission to optimize its acceleration from zero to 100 mph.” Plus, many EVs are all-wheel drive vehicles with a motor for each wheel.
What this means for fleets is that if a fleet driver is in a situation where they must accelerate out of danger or merge quickly, EVs provide them with this ability.
EVs have advanced safety features
While advanced safety features are not exclusive to electric vehicles, they are still worth mentioning. Features like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring all work to mitigate driver errors and driver fatigue.
Automatic emergency braking can automatically apply the brakes if the car senses that a collision is imminent. Lane departure warnings alert drivers if they start drifting out of their lane. Adaptive cruise control helps to keep safe travel distances between vehicles, and blind spot monitoring alerts drivers when an object is in their blind spots. All of these systems work together to make driving safer. Note that drivers must pay attention when operating a vehicle, even when using cruise control or autopilot features.
How Far Can Today’s Electric Vehicles Drive?
Earlier in the industry, range anxiety was the major EV driver concern. Thankfully, there are now over 72,000 public charging station locations with nearly 200,000 charging ports in the United States and Canada, and more are added every day. EV range anxiety is becoming range confidence as technology evolves and more businesses add public charging stations. The NEVI formula program will also add DC fast charging stations along America’s highways, which will benefit fleets and vacationers. Now, EVs can handle short and long-distance trips.
At fleet depots, Blink typically recommends having at least one Direct Current Fast Charger (DCFC) like the Series 9 30kW DC Fast Charging Station, along with a number of Level 2 chargers like the Series 7. The numbers of each station type vary based on your fleet type, schedule, and needs, but Level 2 charging will charge your vehicles overnight or whenever they are parked, and DCFC can provide a mid-day charge as needed.
With Blink, fleet operators get access to the Blink Fleet Portal. With your Fleet Portal dashboard, you can keep track of your vehicles and chargers, monitor usage, schedule charging, and generate usage and environmental reports. And if your facility also offers employee or public charging, you can use the same portal to set pricing and pricing for your Series 8 charging stations, which include a credit card reader for easy payment.
If you are a fleet operator who is concerned about safety, then making the switch to electric vehicles is obvious. Ready to replace your ICE fleet? Contact Blink Charging to plan your charging program for your new, safer EV fleet.