AXA: the dangers of electric cars

AXA: the dangers of electric cars

   The risk of accidents in electric cars compared to gasoline and diesel cars is the new survey of the insurer AXA. . Risk of fire, too much power, driving assistance technologies: everything is covered to disentangle the real from the fake. But with a practical methodology that is questionable.

the dangers of electric cars are one the famous Prejudices that are hard to swallow. Some people say electric cars are more likely to catch fire than thermal cars, while statistics say the opposite. But public figures don’t help, like Elisabeth Borne, who thought that one of the mega-fires in Gironde this summer was caused by an electric car fire. The insurer AXA has just conducted a large survey to see more clearly.


Among the dangers of electric cars, we find the fire—good news: the insurer confirms the meaning of previous studies. Namely, an electric car is no more likely to catch fire than a thermal car. On the other hand, in case of fire, it is more spectacular because of the thermal runaway of the cells constituting the battery.

To demonstrate this, AXA used some really strange tricks. A Tesla Model S, more than 6 years old, pulled by a cable connected to a Tesla Model X, passing on a springboard before overturning and catching fire. But the fire was fake from pyrotechnics, as seen in the video below, while the vehicle’s battery had been previously removed.


The study’s other finding is not in favor of electric cars. According to AXA accident data, electric cars are 50% more likely to be involved in an accident. The reason is simple: for the moment, most electric cars are equipped with a very powerful engine, with a high torque available instantly.

This is what AXA calls overlapping, or unintended acceleration, an example of which is the accident in Paris of a cab driver in a Tesla Model 3 who was driving at more than 100 km/h and lost control of his vehicle. By the way, Tesla’s Autopilot prevents 40 accidents daily: when the driver confuses the brake pedal with the accelerator pedal. And with almost 300 horsepower on the least powerful version of the Model 3, such a mistake can be fatal.

The coming democratization of electric cars should reduce this problem, as more affordable electrically powered vehicles make do with less powerful and less torquey engines than the large sedans and SUVs that use technology showcases for manufacturers.

Read more: “Overheating problem of BMW i4 M50 electric car”


Electric cars are often safer than their thermal counterparts thanks to the battery that acts as a protection and the absence of an engine at the front that allows a larger crumple zone, as we can see with the various crash tests. However, another point is raised by the study: the weight of electric cars. The battery adds weight to the vehicle, which potentially has more serious consequences for other users during an accident.

But in a collision with another user, this extra weight causes more damage, as proven by the AXA example with two Volkswagen Golf VIIs: the first one, thermal, and the second one electric, with an extra weight of 400 kg. The latter is much less deformed than the combustion Golf. Statistics confirm this: “a very heavy passenger car (over 2000 kg) causes on average 10% more material damage than a light vehicle (under 1000 kg)”.


Conversely, the newer the car, the lower the risk of injury in a collision: “Compared to a modern car, the risk of injury increases by 20 percent with a vehicle that is more than 10 years old. And that’s without considering that the risk of a collision is lower, thanks to active safety features such as emergency braking or automatic avoidance maneuvers like those of Tesla.