European Researchers Find EVs Cause More Expensive Collisions and Do More Damage than ICE Vehicles

Considering EVs are heavier and feature a lot of technology, the findings make sense.

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An electric car crashed during a test of alternative-power vehicles, Budapest 2011.
An electric car crashed during a test of alternative-power vehicles, Budapest 2011.
Photo: FERENC ISZA/AFP (Getty Images)

New research data from European insurer AXA has found that when electric cars crash, they’re more expensive to fix and can do more damage than a comparable combustion-engined vehicle. But when you think about it, those findings aren’t exactly a shock.

See, EVs are generally loaded up with a ton of new technology. Batteries are expensive, and electrified vehicles often feature more advanced cabin tech that, if damaged, can lead to a hefty repair bill. This contrasts to other reports that suggest EVs are less costly to maintain than ICE cars thanks to the fact that EVs feature fewer moving parts. However, in the event of an accident or tech failure, the bill will be more substantial.

AXA also stresses that while EVs are not more likely to be involved in accidents when compared to ICE machines, there is one particular time EVs are more prone to accidents: During acceleration.

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“Most electric cars, especially the powerful ones, have a very high torque, which is immediately noticeable when you tap the accelerator. This can result in unwanted, jerky acceleration that the driver can no longer control,” said Michael Pfäffli, Head of Accident Research at AXA Switzerland (whose quotes have been translated from German to English).

If you’re not totally familiar with driving an EV, the instant torque provided by the electric motor can be a little bit of a surprise initially. I know that I personally have experienced wheelspin plenty of times when driving an EV — even ones with minimal torque figures. It takes some getting used to, especially in sportier EVs.

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Other interesting stats include:

  • EV drivers cause 50 percent more damage to their own vehicles than do ICE drivers involved in a crash.
  • Battery fire concerns are negligible, with about five in every 10,000 vehicles — both ICE and EV — succumbing to flames.
  • The weight of an EV’s battery often contributes to more damage during a crash; any heavy vehicle will cause more damage than a lighter one, but EVs tend to be heavier than direct ICE counterparts thanks to the inclusion of the battery pack.
  • The underbody of electric cars remains their biggest downside, thanks in large part to the fact that significant damage here can hurt the battery and cause another costly repair bill.
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All told, the findings of this study aren’t exactly shocking; they largely reinforce common-sense understandings of physics and tech costs. But it is helpful to have hard facts about EVs as we transition into an era of greater electrification.

H/t Carscoops