Saturday, December 9, 2023

Are Electric Vehicles Safer Than Diesel Vehicles?


Electric vehicles, or EVs, have become a dominant presence as consumers take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. As an increasingly affordable alternative to fossil-fueled vehicles for the average motorist, EV popularity is easy to understand. But there are still those hesitant to make the move — some of whom cite safety as a key concern.

EVs have also emerged as strong contenders for their numerous safety advantages over diesel vehicles. From reduced fire risk to innovative braking systems, can EVs help the automotive industry move toward a safer and more sustainable future?

Safety risks in EVs and diesel engines

Driving any car comes with risks. But are EVs safer than diesel engines? Here’s what you need to know.

Fire risks

There have been some notable incidences of electric vehicles catching fire as a result of the high levels of charge held by their battery packs. The incidents, while newsworthy, are relatively isolated — and isolated to outdated design practice. 

tesla evs
EVs are marketed as eco-friendly | Courtesy Tesla

Despite the proliferation of stories around EVs catching fire, there is evidence to suggest that EVs are multiple times less likely to spontaneously combust than diesel vehicles. Given that the flammability of diesel is central to the operating principles of a diesel vehicle, this should not be much of a surprise to drivers.

Handling and accidents

There are also some significant differences in handling between EVs and diesel vehicles, which contribute heavily to vehicle safety both when driving and during an accident. Despite the lack of an engine, EV vehicles remain ‘heavy’ on account of their battery packs — which are also stored lower relative to the chassis, resulting in a lower center of gravity than diesel vehicles.

The lower center of gravity makes EVs easier to handle when driving, being more responsive to steering wheel movements. EVs are also less likely to roll when in an accident, where the higher center of gravity in diesel vehicles can result in a more dangerous outcome.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Vehicles of a newer design enjoy better safety on account of ADAS innovation — or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. This bracket includes sensor- and camera-based systems that improve safety, whether providing information for intelligent traction control or using AI to recognize hazards. EVs do not exclusively benefit from these innovations but are more likely to possess them than diesel vehicles.

mercedes-benz eqs
EQS | Courtesy Mercedes-Benz

In the event of a civil claim against an at-fault driver, these systems can be extremely valuable forms of evidence. Not only can camera information be used to ascertain the timeline of an accident, but sensor data can be examined to corroborate driver and witness testimonies. 

Braking and stopping distance

EVs have also innovated in terms of braking, with a system that arguably improves safety for all drivers. EVs utilize ‘regenerative braking’, wherein momentum is converted back into electrical energy via the free motion of the tires. The motor, effectively, becomes a dynamo when the vehicle is ‘coasting’. This increases resistance, and results in shorter stopping distances — improving outcomes in accident scenarios.

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