With one major exception.
Amazingly, some people are still wary of electric vehicles for fear they'll explode in a serious crash due to the flammable nature of their huge battery packs. While there have been a few rare cases of leaked battery liquid causing a fire, automakers have steadily improved battery casings to prevent that from happening. New EVs, like any new vehicle, go through rigorous crash testing by global government safety agencies as well as private firms such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
But we were curious to see what real-life situations looked like, so we dug around and found these cases involving EVs and serious crashes. All of these EVs are currently on sale, new and used, and all emerged from the accident with the same damage you'd expect to find on an internal combustion engined vehicle. Apart from one famous exception.
This first generation Nissan Leaf has definitely seen better days. It's totaled now. That's what happens after you crash into a school bus. Fortunately, the bus did not have any kids on board at the time and the Leaf driver also emerged with only a few minor bruises. The car wasn't so lucky, but it actually held up pretty well considering the impact. The front end damage looks no different than what an ICE vehicle would have suffered. Having the battery pack under the floor is also very helpful and it held up just fine.
This poor Volkswagen E-Golf is totaled. It's now worth more as scrap. Its owner somehow smashed into some road obstacle resulting in what you see here. The engine compartment took the brunt of the impact but, again, it's clear everyone inside managed to walk away. And yet no one could tell just by looking at it that it's an EV. No flame balls here.
We've never been the biggest fans of Smart cars, gasoline or electric versions, but we do understand their appeal to city dwellers. But here's one piece of advice: try to avoid driving one next to a semi-truck, which is exactly what happened to this poor Smart. As you can see, its front and rear end took the majority of the truck bashing while its passenger compartment remained fully intact. However, because of the Smart car's diminutive size compared to the semi, its driver was hospitalized with multiple non-life-threatening injuries. And yet its battery pack remained intact.
Given the fact this BMW i3 smashed into a tree, it doesn't look half bad. All three passengers on board were completely unharmed, not even suffering bruises. No word on whether it was fully repaired or not, but it really depends on the state of the electric motor. Its battery pack? Do you see any signs of a fire? There's your answer.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was a decent effort to build a mainstream EV by the Japanese automaker, but nobody is sad it's gone. Not even the owner of this sorry-looking example. They couldn't even be bothered to have it properly fixed following an accident. All that was done was apply three strips of tape to make sure the front bumper stays attached somehow. But again, no battery fire.
This is the aftermath of when an 18-year-old driver borrowed his parent's Tesla Model S to demonstrate to four of his friends his amazing driving skills. A high-speed crash followed. Fortunately, all five passengers survived, though a trip to the hospital was in order. And wait, no fire? Surely this has to happen at some point in this feature…
Sorry, no fire (yet). Following this Kia Soul EV's accident, its owner's insurance company concluded it wasn't worth fixing. Just look at it. The entire front end is smashed in and it looks like its electric motor took a heavy beating. Its driver was uninjured and neither was the battery. You see, there's nothing to worry about regarding flammable battery packs, right? Read on.
Think of this as a crash of three powertrains: gasoline, hybrid, and battery electric, but it was the latter that suffered the most. The Tesla Roadster's driver figured it'd be smart to slow down because of a sharp curve, only the Toyota Prius driver wasn't paying attention. The impact from the Prius shoved the Tesla under the Volkswagen Touareg, which was actually dragged by the Tesla for a few yards. Amazingly, the Tesla driver emerged with their head still attached. Battery fire? Okay, we know you've been patient.
Honestly, it's amazing that Richard Hammond's Rimac Concept One didn't go up in flames immediately upon impact. In June 2017, Hammond was filming a segment for The Grand Tour in the Rimac but lost control because after approaching the corner of a mountain road too fast, causing the torque vectoring system to send the car into oversteer. The Rimac flew 300 meters horizontally, tumbling from a 100 meter height before falling another 10 meters onto an asphalt road where the fire started. Okay, so yeah, there was a fire involving the battery packs but it erupted only under very extreme circumstances. It also didn't go up in flames immediately, giving Hammond just enough time to crawl out to safety.