Just how safe are electric cars?

Everything EV | 16 April 2024

There are over 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) currently on British roads. As this figure is expected to continue growing over the next few years, it’s no wonder that questions are being asked about EVs’ overall safety. After all, cars that run on batteries and can be powered from home are quite different from the vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) we’re more accustomed to. 

Yet the truth is that electric cars are as safe as any car powered by diesel or petrol—and in some areas, may even be safer. 

However, we know that just stating that isn’t enough to alleviate all worries. So, in this article, we’re endeavouring to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about electric car and home charging safety. 

Q: Have EVs been road safety tested?

A: As with all vehicles, electric cars undergo rigorous testing by car manufacturers, including the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP). Most EVs have achieved top scores in this assessment, with one of the most popular electric cars, Tesla’s Model Y, earning accolades as the highest-scoring car tested by Euro NCAP since the latest standards were introduced in 2020. 

Alongside, these pre-road tests, every EV aged three years old and over is legally required to have a valid MOT. And like their ICE counterparts, this test must be passed annually. 

Q: What are some of the safety features that EVs have? 

A: Electric cars have long been labelled the “cars of the future”. But the fact of the matter is, the future is now—and that goes for all the modern technology and safety features that come with it. 

For instance, most EVs have automatic braking systems, forward collision warning (FCW) systems, pedestrian detection, blind spot alerts, and more. Several EVs also have digital dashboards and touchscreens, which offer more function and quicker access to information. 

In addition, EVs have a lower centre of gravity due to the location of their batteries, which are placed on the bottom of the car instead of the front. This makes them generally more stable than ICE cars and means that if they were involved in an accident, they would be less likely to roll over. 

Q: Are EV batteries at risk of catching fire?

A: The quick answer to this question is yes. Just like a petrol or diesel engine, the battery in your electric car can catch fire. Yet there’s no evidence to suggest that it happens more in a battery-powered vehicle than in an ICE car. In fact, the most recent research into this area suggests otherwise. 

Sweden, Europe’s leading adopter of EVs after Norway, found that in 2022 there were 106 fires in EVs nationwide and that most of these occurred in scooters. However, in the same report, they also noted that vehicles powered by internal combustion engines were 20 times more likely to catch fire than their electrical counterparts.   

If you are concerned about this, however, there are certain precautions you can take. The most important is to avoid letting your battery overheat. Don’t park in direct sunlight, especially during particularly high temperatures. If you’ve returned from a long drive, allow your EV battery to cool down before charging it again. And keep an eye on your battery level or state of charge (SoC). Don’t charge it beyond 80 per cent or let it drop to below 20 per cent.

Q: Can charging your EV at night in a public station be dangerous?

A: Charging your car at night at a public charging station is not dangerous per se. But let’s be honest: Anywhere you have to sit in or stand by your stationary car in the open and for a set amount of time, particularly at night, comes with a safety risk. 

This is particularly true if the public chargepoint you’re using is somewhere remote or in a place where traffic numbers drop after a specific time, like a shopping centre on the outskirts of town. 

Women in particular can feel vulnerable if they have no choice but to charge their EV at a time and place where it is dark and there is no one else around. 

Maintaining your personal safety is one of the (many) reasons that having a dedicated home EV charger is beneficial. Whether you’re powering up your electric car in the driveway or your garage, you don’t have to stand over it while it charges. 

If you have a smart charger you can also monitor charging progress from the security of your house. 

The kind of peace of mind around your safety that a home charger can offer really helps in alleviating any worries or fears you might have about needing to charge your car in public places. 

Q: Is it safe to charge my EV at home?

A: Charging your car from home is completely safe if you use a dedicated EV home charger (see the next answer for further information on this). 

Problems can arise, however, if you regularly boot up the battery using the three-pin electric car charger that often comes free with a new EV. This is used by plugging it into your domestic socket. 

However, as an electric car will draw a huge amount of power when charging, using this kind of level 1 charger will put a heavy load onto your electrical circuit, which could result in a blow-out or, at worst, an electrical fire. Our advice? Only use this charger in cases of absolute emergency. 

Q: Are installed home chargers really safe?

A: These devices are specifically designed to manage the heavy demands of powering up your vehicle. You will need your EV charger installation to be carried out by a qualified and certified electrician, though. That way you can be confident that all t’s will be crossed and i’s dotted when it comes to complying with local electrical codes and standards.

The electrician or installer will also ensure your home’s electrical system can handle the additional load of an EV charger before the standard installation takes place. 

Many reputable chargers, such as the VCHRGD Seven from Powerverse, have a free installation as part of the overall package and opting for this can give you added peace of mind that your device is being fitted by those who know it best.

Some EV chargers also come with smart features that allow for remote monitoring and control, and an overall system that provides additional safety benefits, such as alerts for unusual activity or issues.

Q: Can I charge my EV in the rain?

A: Well, you might get wet but the car will be fine! The fact is that all EVs come with safety systems designed to protect them against rain and other water damage. 

The same goes for your charger. If you charge your EV while it’s parked in your driveway overnight, don’t worry about heavy rains that may occur during this period. The cable and charge end that plugs into your EV are fully waterproofed. 

Q: If my charger is outside, can someone steal it—or use my electricity to charge their own car?

A: One of the prerequisites of having a standard EV charger installation is that you need a stable structure such as a wall for the device to be mounted securely onto. This greatly minimises the risk of theft because it makes it much more challenging for individuals to remove it. 

Alongside that, most EV chargers have built-in locking mechanisms for the charging cable. This effectively puts the breaks on any unauthorised disconnection of the cable. Some chargers also have provisions for adding external padlocks, though typically, an added lock isn’t needed.

If you have a smart charger which you control through an app, then you can add your own authentication code, which no one else will know. Also, because smart chargers have real-time monitoring capabilities, if any dodgy use of your charger is detected, it’ll notify you straight away. 

If you’d like to know more about EV charging, we have several further resources that can help you navigate the easiest, cheapest and most convenient way to charge your electric car. You can also contact us to find out more about our state-of-the-art smart VCHRGD charger and all the benefits that come with it.

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