Can Electric Cars Get Wet, and 8 Other Questions About EVs Answered
In case you’re still wondering, there’s no stopping the popularity and adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) across the world. Despite concerns and apprehension from manufacturers and consumers, as much as 26 percent of all vehicles produced worldwide could be electric before the end of the decade, according to studies.
It’s no different in the Philippines. Sales of EVs continue to surge, reaching a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 117.6 percent between 2017 and 2022.
Still, consumers have questions about EVs. Car leasing company Nationwide Vehicle Contracts asked motor expert Mark Smith to answer some of the most frequently asked questions consumers have about EVs. Specializing in business startup and growth, Mark's automotive career began with Ford Motor Company before moving to Renault as commercial operations manager. He has vast experience in the motor industry as an automotive specialist, and has been widely featured in various motoring publications.
Here are the most commonly asked questions about EVs and Smith’s answers (except question number eight, which we answered ourselves):
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1| Are electric cars safe?
Yes, all-electric cars are built to meet the same strict design and manufacturing regulations as any conventional petrol and diesel vehicles. They go through the same rigorous process to ensure the cars are as safe as possible. Manufacturers then subject all their vehicles - including their electric offerings - to a Euro NCAP assessment and practically all electric vehicles perform as well as similarly sized and equipped internal combustion models.
Sold structures, extensive crumple zones and multiple airbags ensure that passengers are as well protected as possible in the event of an accident. Plus, with electric vehicles having large, heavy battery packs and the need to absorb the increased energy they create in a collision, electric vehicle designers arguably have to work harder to attain outstanding crashworthiness.
2| Can I charge my mobile phone?
Yes, you can charge your phone inside an electric vehicle by plugging your phone into the car’s USB port. However, if you are concerned that it will drain electricity from your vehicle’s battery, most electric cars have an eco-mode driver setting that increases the efficiency of your electric vehicle. It does this by limiting the amount of power you have for electric systems mode and will limit some functions, meaning your phone might not charge as quickly.
Nevertheless, you won’t be draining the vehicle’s battery anytime soon from charging your phone.
3| Will air con ruin my battery life?
Turning on your air con on full blast can reduce the range of your electric vehicle by 17 percent, meaning if drivers are planning a 100-mile trip, they could only travel 83 miles. However, most electric cars have a feature called preconditioning, which allows you to pre-cool your vehicle’s cabin before a long journey.
This feature works best when your car is plugged in overnight, as instead of taking energy from your electric vehicle battery, it will be taken from the mains, so your battery life won’t be affected. This means, on hot summer days, you won’t need to have your air conditioning on full blast, which drains your energy faster.
4| Can you drive through standing water?
Just like a conventional gas or diesel car, when it comes to driving through flood water, you should always find an alternative route.
The Environment Agency warns that just 300mm of flowing water is enough to float your vehicle. In an electric car, this means that the circuit breakers can trip if a car is submerged in water and water gets into the electrical system. As such, the car’s flow of power from the batteries to the motor is interrupted, and you may be left stranded.
5| Can an electric car cause electric shock?
Most electric cars operate at voltages between 12 and 48 volts which can be dangerous but is unlikely to give a fatal shock. Of course, any piece of electrical equipment is potentially hazardous, but a shock you’re likely to get is static electricity from touching it in dry weather, the same as a regular car.
As for the electrical energy stored in the battery, the high voltage cables are thickly insulated and well-protected in the event of an accident. Therefore, as long as safety regulations are adhered to, there should be no danger of an electric shock.
6| Are you allowed to take an electric car through a car wash?
Electric vehicles are perfectly safe to take to a car wash. Just like regular gas or diesel vehicles, electric cars have to go through a ‘soak test.’ This is where vehicles are tested and subjected to near-flood water levels to check for possible leaks, which is carried out to ensure the car is safe.
7| How safe are electric car batteries?
One common area of concern is that electric car batteries run on lithium-ion batteries, which are flammable in the wrong conditions. If the power cells are damaged and short-circuiting occurs, there’s potential for combustion. This is known as thermal runaway. While this sounds scary, it’s extremely unlikely, with the latest generation of EVs engineered to avoid the situation. Polestar, for example, has even created two deformable aluminum structures on either side of the front bulkhead of its Polestar 2 models.
8| What about charging?
In Manila, more and more charging stations are being installed to cater to the steady increase of EVs. These include stations at popular shopping malls and traditional gas stations. Some car showrooms like Porsche and Nissan also have charging stations specifically for clients that own the brand’s EV models (like the Taycan and the Leaf).
It gets trickier though when you have to drive out of NCR as there aren't nearly enough stations for you to charge your car beyond the city. Hopefully, this will change soon.
9| Are all electric cars automatic?
Nearly all electric vehicles are automatic since an electric motor doesn’t need gears. This means there’s no clutch and no way of stalling, unlike a standard manual car.
“Despite most new models now having an electric version available on the market, many people are still yet to make the transition to a more sustainable type of vehicle, which have been previously due to high price points and concerns over safety of electric batteries, as with all new things,” says Smith, who is also the automotive specialist and director of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts. “As we can see from these questions, many of the concerns are around the electric battery and also the ability to recharge their vehicle, and what we are seeing is reassurance around the safety of EVs, but also the increase in ability to charge your vehicle through public charging points. The on-street residential charging scheme will add charging points to many households who do not have driveways where traditional charging points are fitted.
“There is undoubtedly a future for electric vehicles, and they are constantly growing in popularity as the vehicle batteries last longer and the cars become more affordable,” he adds.