Do electric car drivers really have more accidents?

Too powerful for ordinary mortals, electric cars also have an annoying tendency to stall that isn’t easy to understand, especially in an emergency situation. A fact already mentioned in our columns and which is the object of a study carried out by the Swiss subsidiary of the insurance company Axa. This not always “natural” cocktail of speed and braking would lead electric car owners to have more accidents than average. This is also, in part, what would explain the sometimes high rates of insurance premiums for battery-powered cars (even if those premiums also depend on other factors).

Behind the wheel of a tram, dead in the corner?

Much heavier than thermal ones, electric ones cause more damage in the event of an accident. ©Mercedes

“According to the AXA study, more than 50% of electric car drivers had to adapt early on, especially in braking. velocity, but acceleration”, continues the researcher. According to him, many people would underestimate the so-called overtapping effect: “Most electric cars, especially powerful models, offer very high torque. This can result in unintentional, jerky, and uncontrollable acceleration. This effect probably also explains the increase in the number of claims recorded by powerful electric cars”.

Also read: The heaviest cars sold in France in 2022

So much for the most interesting part of the study, which also points to the high weight of these vehicles. In the event of a collision with a lighter model, the risk of serious injury to the occupants of the latter increases.

Axa specifies that “electric car drivers cause 50% more collisions causing damage to the vehicle itself than owners of traditional combustion models”. And from a strictly statistical point of view, it’s probably true! Axa was based on a sample of 1,285 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle owners. But to have a clearer view of the accidentality of electrics, it would be necessary to compare them… to equivalent thermals. Clearly, comparing the accident rate of owners of a Tesla Model 3 Performance with a BMW M340i/M3, or of a BMW iX with a BMW X5/X6 of at least 300 to 400 hp. Or at least make comparisons by “segment” rather than the “combustion engine vehicle average”.

The famous Axa crash test

Axa went further by sending a Tesla Model S to an ersatz central reserve. According to Axa, the underbody is a fragile and sensitive area of ​​electric cars. In the event of an impact, the battery may be damaged and catch fire, even if, According to Axa, you are 38 times more likely to have a weasel nibbling on your wiring than to have a battery that catches on fire.. But still: to illustrate the battery safety issues, Axa ran a crash test with a nice fire… only the Model S didn’t have a battery. Oops.

To put out the flames of controversy, Axa quickly issued a second press release: “During the simulation of an accident in which an electric car caught fire, we had to take steps to ensure the safety of the public. So the test car had no battery and the fire was started remotely. In addition, the crash test carried out with a Tesla-branded model did not cause damage to the underside of the car that could trigger a battery fire, contrary to what the recorded images might suggest. This test, therefore, did not confirm this accident scenario. We should have explicitly mentioned this fact in the post-test communication, in particular in the press release and in the images provided. Honor is safe.

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