We know we are not supposed to but most of us would probably admit to slowing down at the scene of an accident.
Some may say it is best to slow down in case of debris or the emergency services are in the road but if you are honest, you just want to see what has happened.
Fortunately, it is rare to see anything too serious and fires are even rarer still and I can only recall seeing a roadside vehicle fire a couple of times over the years. However, there are concerns electric vehicles will be a fire risk, especially after a number of manufacturers including BMW and Ford have recalled vehicles with potential battery issues.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, anything electric is a fire risk and the manufacturers are understandably being cautious as they iron out what are hopefully teething problems with battery technology. Certainly, insurers do not seem too concerned and recent research by Autocar also plays down the fears, although does highlight that a short circuit in a battery cell can burn at over 1000 degrees celsius and if the fire spreads to other cells (which can number in the thousands) they can be impossible to extinguish and must be left to burn themselves out.
Batteries are therefore protected in crash resistant structures, not just because of the fire risk but because they operate between 400 to 800 volts and are also automatically isolated in the event of a crash to protect both the occupants and emergency services.
Initially, finding an insurer for electric vehicles was difficult because of the lack of a ‘track record’ to enable insurers to properly assess the risks compared with conventional fuelled vehicles. However, insurers are now adapting their policies to include specific covers for electric vehicles such as liability arising from the charging process as well as the charging equipment.
Premiums are presently higher for electric vehicles, reflecting the increased cost of specialist repair (the batteries are deactivated to make the vehicle safe to be worked upon) and the concern that minor damage to the battery is so expensive it could write off a vehicle.
But with the ongoing energy crisis and the struggle to cope with our existing power demands let alone the millions of extra electric vehicles (there are around 40 million vehicles in the UK) you should probably be more concerned about whether there will be enough electricity rather than an electric vehicle bursting into flames.
I recently spoke to someone who has worked in the Nuclear industry for years and involved in the decommissioning of Dungeness, one of a number that will be phased out by 2025. It didn’t bode well. ‘The people in charge talk a good game about net zero but have no idea where the electricity is going to come from.’
Finally, if vehicle safety is a concern get a windscreen hammer with a cutter that you can keep within easy reach to either smash a windscreen or cut a seatbelt in an emergency. A small investment that you will hopefully never use.