Insurance data from Switzerland shows that e-cars cause 50 percent more crashes with damage to the car than petrol or diesel. One of the reasons for this is the “overtapping effect”. Weight is also an issue – and flammable batteries.

The AXA insurance in Switzerland has again carried out crash tests with electric cars. This time a Tesla and an E-Golf were crashed. Above all, a simulated Tesla crash is spectacular: A Model S is catapulted over a ramp and overturns, with various body parts of the electric car tearing off in flight. The car hits the roof and skids on the asphalt, crunching. After a few seconds there is a bang, some battery cells explode and the front of the Tesla starts to burn.

Torn batteries have often caused serious fires in Teslas in this way – in this case, however, the mechanism of the accident was simulated: “For safety reasons, it was not possible to cause a real battery fire at an event with around 500 visitors,” says AXA.

With the demonstration, the insurance company points out dangers for emergency services. Because so-called thermal runaways, i.e. the burning of the battery cells, can be tricky for emergency services. The experts also point out that electric cars have three crucial weak points that can have serious consequences in the event of an accident: the underbody, the “overtapping” and the heavy weight of the cars.

“Investigations have shown that underbody damage can occur when driving over road islands, stones or roundabouts. Although the drive battery is very well protected by additional reinforcements in the body at the front, rear and sides, it has a weak point,” says the insurance company. If the battery is torn open in a crash, the battery may explode. A feared complication is the “thermal runaway”

Manufacturers of e-cars should therefore install special protective measures – “for example by providing the underbody with a titanium plate or similar high-resistance materials,” says Michael Pfäffli, head of accident research at AXA Switzerland.

Data from the insurance company shows that drivers of electric cars caused 50 percent more collisions with damage to their own vehicles than drivers of combustion engines. However, the data only relate to Switzerland and are therefore not representative of Germany.

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One of the reasons for the many accidents is the so-called “overtapping” effect, i.e. that drivers simply accelerate too much if they are not yet used to the performance of their electric vehicle: “Most electric cars, especially the powerful ones, have a very high torque , which is immediately noticeable when the current pedal is tapped. This can lead to unwanted, jerky acceleration, which the driver can no longer control,” explains accident researcher Michael Pfäffli. Data from Denmark has also shown that e-car drivers are at a greater risk of accidents, especially when they are getting used to their vehicle.

The insurance company therefore recommends that electric newbies get used to the handling of the car very carefully and, if possible, turn down the power of the car. Some Stromers have special economy programs in which the implementation of the gas pedal commands (except for kickdown) only takes place with a delay. This is supposed to save electricity, but in this case it can also increase safety for inexperienced pilots. Since – at least in Europe – only electric cars will be allowed as new cars in a few years, the problem should decrease to the extent that learner drivers should only learn in electric cars and should therefore be able to better assess the driving behavior of a Stromer from the start.

Due to the batteries in the underbody, electric cars are very heavy compared to normal vehicles. Some examples:

The difference in the Mercedes EQE is particularly striking in this exemplary list: the new electric company car weighs 600 kilograms more than a normal E-Class. Although many e-cars can still somewhat conceal their high weight in terms of driving dynamics due to the low center of gravity of the batteries, in the event of an accident, the heavy eco-mobiles become a problem, especially for the other party involved in the accident.

AXA demonstrated this in a crash between an electric Golf and a petrol Golf. The accident researchers describe the result: “The electric Golf has exactly the same dimensions, but at an additional 400 kilograms it is a lot heavier, which is due to the battery and the greater rigidity of the electric car. The 1,250-kilogram combustion engine Golf is exposed to a significantly higher load in this crash and consequently suffers visibly greater body damage than its electric counterpart.”

After all, the passenger compartments of both cars remained intact, so that the occupants would probably not have been seriously injured. Even a fire did not break out. But the basic rule is: The lighter accident opponent is left behind in the crash.

AXA is therefore appealing to electromobility enthusiasts to be aware of their responsibility for their vehicles, similar to the case with large SUVs: “Drivers of heavy vehicles tend to have greater intrinsic safety. That is precisely why they should be aware of their responsibility towards other road users, ”said the insurance company.

When it comes to fire, electric cars have a particular problem – they are difficult to extinguish. However, the insurance company also gives a general all-clear as far as the frequency of fire accidents is concerned: “The risk of fire in cars, regardless of whether they are petrol or electricity-powered, is very low and is greatly overestimated in public perception. Statistically, only 5 out of 10,000 cars fall victim to a fire, marten damage is 38 times more common than a car fire,” according to AXA.