Electric vehicles have become increasingly popular because of their lower environmental impact and better economy. Technological advances have made electric vehicles even more attractive since they can travel for longer distances between charges, and more charging stations are being added across California and the U.S.
Many consumers in the U.S. are choosing to purchase electric vehicles instead of cars with internal combustion engines. With the expanded electric vehicle tax credits in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, the number of people choosing to buy new or used electric vehicles will likely grow even more. Because of some differences in how these vehicles work as compared to traditional cars, the increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads in California and across the U.S. might have an impact on accident claims. Here’s what you should know about the potential effect of electric vehicles on car accident claims in California.
Growth in the Electric Vehicle Market
According to a recent report from CCC Intelligent Solutions, 4.6% of new registrations of light vehicles between Jan. and March 31 of this year were electric vehicles. This was an increase from 2.6% during the first quarter of 2021 and 1.5% during the first quarter of 2020. In 2021, electric vehicle sales increased by 83% over 2020 with nearly 450,000 sold.
These numbers demonstrate that consumers have embraced electric vehicles as a real alternative to gasoline-fueled vehicles. The numbers are likely to increase even more because of new tax advantages, decreasing prices, and the substantially lower cost of fuel. However, more electric vehicles on the roads could result in differences in accident claims, including the potential for more severe injuries in some cases.
Electric Vehicle Factors That Could Affect Accident Claims
According to the report, there are several differences between electric vehicles and other types of cars that could affect insurance claims, including some that could result in more severe accidents and some that could result in better safety.
Differences in Stopping Distances
CCC Intelligent Solutions reports there are differences between the average stopping distances of electric vehicles and their gas-powered counterparts. For example, a Polestar 2 vehicle can come to a stop at 139 feet on average when the vehicle is traveling at 60 mph on a rain-slicked road. By contrast, the Volvo S60 gas-powered vehicle requires a stopping distance of 127 feet when traveling at 60 mph on a wet road. The Kia Niro’s electric model has an average stopping distance of 136 feet in the same conditions, while the standard Niro requires a stopping distance of 152 feet.
Electric vehicles that require lower stopping distances might be able to avoid accidents more easily than gas-powered vehicles. However, as the comparisons above show, this might depend on the specific makes and models of the vehicles.
Differences in Vehicle Weight
The batteries in electric vehicles add significant weight to electric vehicles, making them heavier than gas-powered vehicles of similar sizes. For example, the electric Volkswagen ID.4 has a 25% greater weight than the Volkswagen Tiguan, which is its counterpart. Similarly, the electric Hyundai Kona weighs 18% more than the gas-powered version.
When heavier vehicles are involved in collisions, the accidents typically result in more extensive damage and serious injuries. The physical forces released in a crash caused by a heavier vehicle are greater than those that are released in crashes caused by lighter vehicles.
At the same time, however, some electric vehicles have shorter stopping distances than their gas-powered counterparts. For vehicles with shorter stopping distances, they might not cause as much damage as vehicles with longer stopping distances because of their speed at impact. However, some electric vehicles are both heavier than their gas-powered versions and have greater stopping distances. For example, the following electric vehicles all have longer stopping distances than their gas-powered versions:
- Ford Mustang Mach-E
- Jaguar I-Pace
- Hyundai Kona
- Volkswagen Tiguan
Accidents involving these cars might be more severe both because of their heavier weights and greater stopping distances than accidents involving similar gas-powered cars.
Many electric vehicles also come with safety features as standard equipment. For example, many electric car manufacturers have voluntarily decided to equip their cars with emergency front braking systems. Electric cars also typically have telematics features and internet connectivity, which might encourage their owners to enroll in auto insurance programs that offer discounts for safe driving and use. These types of programs help to encourage motorists to avoid speeding and abrupt braking, which both have been shown to contribute to accidents. The insurance programs have helped to reduce claims.
What This Means
While electric vehicles are gaining in popularity, it will likely take years before they make up a large percentage of the vehicles traveling on the roads in California and across the U.S. Modern cars last longer, and consumers tend to keep them for longer periods than in the past. This is especially true in inflationary periods such as now when the costs of everything, including both new and used vehicles, have increased. After-market auto parts retailers have enjoyed strong revenue growth, which indicates that more vehicle owners are opting to repair their cars instead of purchasing new ones.
Some claims data has indicated a few things about electric vehicles, however. For example, small electric vehicles have an average repair cost of $4,041, which is 26.6% higher than the average repair cost of standard vehicles. Electric cars also spend an average of 31 days in the shop as compared to 28 days for gas-powered vehicles. Some of this difference can be accounted for by the fact that electric vehicles are often equipped with advanced driver assistance and other systems that require additional calibration and scanning operations.
For motor vehicle accidents, the increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads means that more claims will likely be filed that involve them. Since these vehicles tend to weigh more than other similarly-sized cars, accidents caused by motorists driving electric vehicles might result in more severe injuries and vehicle damage. This might mean that the value of claims involving electrical cars might be higher than it is for collisions involving gas-powered vehicles.
The fact that more electrical vehicles might be on the road will not necessarily mean that there will be more accidents overall. Instead, the accidents that do involve them might be more severe instead of more numerous. People who drive electric vehicles can take steps to prevent motor vehicle accidents. They should always follow the posted speed limits, avoid driving while impaired, drowsy, or distracted, obey traffic control devices, and keep their attention focused on the roads. Taking these types of steps might help drivers to avoid causing accidents while protecting the safety of both themselves and others.
One thing that motorists might want to be aware of is the need to make certain they have adequate insurance. If electric vehicles cause more extensive damage and injuries in accidents, California’s minimum liability insurance might not be enough to cover the losses of accident victims. Because of this, more uninsured/underinsured motorists auto accident claims might be filed following electric vehicle accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers. People might want to check their policy limits to ensure they have enough coverage just in case they are involved in accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Electric vehicles are better for the environment and are much more economical to drive than gas-powered cars. However, they might cause more serious injuries when they are involved in car accidents. If you have been injured in an accident caused by the driver of an electric vehicle, you should consult an attorney at an established personal injury law firm like Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your case for free and help you understand your rights and options.