The Truth About Electric Car Safety

If you’ve been holding off on buying that nifty electric car because you’re worried about its safety, think again.

  • Crash Test Chevy Volt
    Worried that an electric car might explode after a collision? In fact, after extensive crash testing like the side-impact test pictured here, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf were awarded five stars and high safety ratings for rollover protection and front, rear and side collisions.
  • David Strickland Left
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland, left, is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, prior to testifying before the House Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending subcommittee hearing on the safety of the all-electric car, the Chevy Volt.
  • GM CEO Dan Akerson
    General Motors CEO Dan Akerson is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, prior to testifying before the House Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending subcommittee hearing entitled, "Volt Vehicle Fire: What did NHTSA Know and When Did They Know It?"
  • 5 Star Crash Safety Rating
    The electric Leaf and Volt both earned 5-star crash safety ratings.
  • Chevy Volt Plugged In Garage
    This Friday, March 25, 2011 photo shows James Brazell as he poses with a charging unit for his Chevy Volt electric car at his home in Asheville, N.C. Brazell plugs the car in after short trips. "Pretty much I top it up every time I bring it into the garage," he said.
  • Nissan Leaf Plugged In
    A Nissan Leaf electric car is plugged into a charging station at the Seward Park Co-op apartments on the Lower East Side of Manhattan May 6, 2011 in New York. Connect by Hertz unveiled its first rental electric car and charging station in New York City where customers can rent this car by the hour.
  • Gas Car Fire
    Experts say cars carrying batteries are safer than cars carrying gas tanks.
  • Sticks Of Dynomite
    One gallon of gas has the explosive power of 30 sticks of dynamite, but it's generally not perceived as dangerous.
  • Gas Vehicle Safety Sign
    At this point, most Americans have internalized the precautions necessary for safety around gas-powered vehicles.

  • Crash Test Chevy Volt
  • David Strickland Left
  • GM CEO Dan Akerson
  • 5 Star Crash Safety Rating
  • Chevy Volt Plugged In Garage
  • Nissan Leaf Plugged In
  • Gas Car Fire
  • Sticks Of Dynomite
  • Gas Vehicle Safety Sign

In November 2011, the extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt was beginning a modest sales climb when it was temporarily derailed by a report from Washington, D.C. A Volt had caught fire after a government crash test, which led to an official safety agency investigation. The fire occurred three weeks after the crash test, which damaged the battery, and could easily have been avoided if appropriate post-collision safety precautions had been followed.

According to Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, an electric car’s battery could potentially catch on fire if it heats to the point that it ignites flammable liquids near the battery. Draining fluids and removing gas tanks is common at junkyards and garages following real-life car accidents, but is not necessary in the case of gasoline-powered test crashes, because the testers use expensive, non-flammable Stoddard fuel, which poses no fire risk.

General Motors had actually developed procedures for draining and discarding the Volt’s battery pack following a crash, but according to company spokesman Greg Martin, GM hadn’t communicated them to the testing agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at the time of the test. The Chevy Volt fire received a great deal of publicity, and raised a key question for potential buyers of electric cars: Are electric cars safe?

The public was suddenly unsure, especially after the Volt fire was hit by politically motivated attacks. “Move over, Solyndra,” wrote Greenwire, an environmental news service. “Conservatives opposed to the Obama administration’s spending on clean energy have a new whipping boy. The electric Chevrolet Volt is the new focus of angry conservative blog posts, testy congressional hearings and joking videos.” In December, Mitt Romney said the Volt is “an idea whose time has not come,” and the car was derided by some commentators as “Obama’s car.” The inconvenient truth here is that the Volt was launched in 2007 with George W. Bush in the White House, and the $7,500 federal tax credit that helps people buy it was also passed on Bush’s watch, in 2008. Even the first stages of the GM and Chrysler bailouts happened before Obama took office.

The facts surrounding the Volt fire are complex, and at least partly because of the sensationalist coverage, some people were left with the impression that the Volt has a record of exploding on impact, when in fact this has never occurred.

Volt sales took a hit, dropping to 603 in January from 1,529 in its peak month (December 2011) as of our press time. A survey of 3,800 Americans in December 2011 found a drop in interested “early adopters.” The percentage of respondents “very likely” to consider a Volt fell from 21.3 to 11.6 percent, and those “likely” to consider one dropped from 38.1 to 24.7 percent.

4/1/2014 6:52:24 AM

Due to increase in the environment pollution level, everybody now conscious about how to protect the environment. So, that they started using of electric cars instead of fuel cars. By using of electric cars the environment must be pollution free and the natural sources of energy can be saved for the future period of time. if the owner will once charge the car then it will run several times. To keep the performance level of the car regular repair and maintenance is necessary.

2/7/2014 2:24:13 AM

At the time of driving a car always know details of the car like the operation and the general maintenance of the car. Sometimes people face the problems due to many type of causes and it creates a measure issue for them. In the electric car safety is the most important thing, sometimes fire catch in the car due to the short circuit or any other problem so how to avoid these things is very important.

Daniel lo
1/29/2014 4:03:40 AM

Every vehicle has some advantage and disadvantage. Car are dangerous machine. You can have car problem anytime anywhere it does not have any specific period of time. are sustainable. Every vehicle has pros and cons. Some manufacturers are actively offering some electrical vehicles, others are selling hybrid cars, and a lot of talk goes around about hydrogen cars, fuel cells. Increasing prices for fossil fuels, many people are given serious thought to the idea of replacing their present, expensive to operate conventional car by a modern electrical, hybrid or hydrogen-powered “ecological” car. The companies making them are aggressively promoting their products, promising much reduced operational costs, almost complete environmental friendliness.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters