The lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles can pose unique safety hazards in a car accident. These include electrical fires, electric shocks, electrocutions and explosions. If you drive an electric vehicle in New Mexico, it is important to know how to navigate these potential injury risks after a car accident.
Risks Associated With Electric Vehicles in Car Accidents
Electric vehicles and hybrids have boomed in popularity over the last couple of decades. Globally, electric vehicle sales reached an all-time high of 6.9 million in 2021. This was a 107 percent increase from 2020 and the first time that global electric vehicle sales doubled in a year since 2012. However, many electric vehicle owners are unaware of the potential risks associated with their cars in accidents.
Electric vehicles are safer in some ways during accidents than traditional cars that have internal combustion engines (ICE). In an ICE vehicle, fluids can ignite after contact with the car’s exhaust, potentially causing fires and explosions. Yet electric cars have their own disadvantages in accidents, mostly related to their high-voltage lithium-ion batteries.
During a car accident involving an electric vehicle, extensive damage can be caused to the protected area of the vehicle’s battery case. This could cause damage to the battery modules and individual cells. The National Transportation Safety Board identifies risks of electric shock, battery ignition and reignition, thermal runaway (a chain reaction where increased temperature releases energy that further increases the temperature), and stranded energy (energy stuck in a cell) connected to this damage.
Electric vehicle batteries have a high energy density, meaning a lot of energy is packed into each battery cell. If an electric vehicle’s internal battery fails after a car accident, this could cause many bodily injury risks. The high-powered lithium-ion battery could catch fire or explode, for example, causing thermal burns, electrical burns, electric shocks, electrocutions, amputations or death.
How to Respond to an Accident Involving an Electric Vehicle
Manufacturers of electric vehicles must design and build their cars to secure the batteries, limit chemical spills and prevent electric shocks as much as possible in a crash. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, manufacturers cannot guarantee that the lithium-ion batteries will not catch fire or explode due to the forces of an accident. If you get involved in an accident in an electric vehicle in New Mexico, take the following steps to keep yourself and others safe:
- Pull over and call the police to report the accident immediately.
- Notify the police and all first responders that the vehicle is electric.
- Assume that the vehicle is still fully powered after the crash.
- Roll down the windows before turning off the engine.
- Remove the key to the vehicle and keep it at least 16 feet away from the car.
- Do not touch any components of the engine compartment, battery or wiring.
- Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle while emergency responders do their jobs.
First responders who are trained to deal with electric vehicles after an accident will disconnect the 12-volt battery to immobilize and stabilize the vehicle before extracting any victims. If there are any exposed wires, leaking fluids, sparks or smoke, the emergency responders will deal with it appropriately. Keep a safe distance from the electric vehicle and allow the professionals to handle any hazards presented by the battery.
Injured in an Electric Vehicle Fire or Explosion? Contact an Attorney
There are potential fire and explosion risks in car accidents regardless of whether the vehicle has an electrical or internal combustion engine. Knowing how to navigate the unique risks posed by an electric vehicle can help keep you safe after a crash in New Mexico. If you do get injured by a component specific to your electric vehicle in a car accident, consult with an attorney about your legal rights. You may be able to hold the vehicle manufacturer responsible for your injuries.