Recent tests by Swiss insurance company AXA Switzerland highlight the dangers of electric vehicles. As an analysis by Streetsblog explains, the company’s research found that electric cars “cause more damage in collisions than conventional cars” and that their larger size increases the risks they pose, both to pedestrians and to occupants in lighter vehicles. “[D]rivers of electric cars cause 50 percent more collisions with damage to their own vehicles than those of conventional combustion engines,” said AXA in a statement translated by Streetsblog.
One reason for this phenomenon is the cars’ rapid acceleration, which an AXA researcher said “can result in unwanted, jerky acceleration, which the driver can no longer control.” Another is the cars’ weight, which resulted in considerable damage to lighter cars in head-on crash tests. A test of a conventional Volkswagen Golf (2,775 pounds) and an electric model (3,637 pounds), for instance, caused “visibly greater body damage” to the lighter mode. Fortunately, AXA found that in both cases the cars’ passenger compartments were undamaged, though this may not be the case in older models.
“The triumph of electromobility can no longer be stopped,” AXA executive Nils Reich said in a statement released by the company. “This is not only good for the environment, but also makes driving fun. However, we insurers and our customers also have to manage new risks: Although e-cars do not cause more accidents in this country, they can often lead to more expensive individual claims.”
AXA found that not only do electric batteries make cars heavier—increasing the damage they can cause in crashes—but that they also pose a fire risk in the event of a collision. “If the battery is damaged, it can quickly lead to immense fires,” Reich said. “If there is only a risk that the battery could catch fire, the vehicle is kept in the extinguishing container for days. The fact that we all still have a way to go can be seen, for example, from the fact that there are not many fire-fighting containers yet and some of these cars have to be kept in locked parking lots.” Fortunately, AXA found that this risk is fairly low, with only “5 out of 10,000 cars” catching fire.