It's common knowledge that electric cars are environmentally-friendly - an important motivation for many who decide to purchase one. Going entirely electric, or even having a majority of cars be electric, would see greenhouse gas emissions drop by a significant amount.
However, the environmental benefits might not be the only incentive to choose electric. In an article in The Conversation, Basilio Lenzo argues that electric could also play an important role in making our roads safer, too.
"Both because of the way they are driven and the mechanics inside them, electric vehicles could play an important role in making our roads safer... Although the academic research into it is limited, anecdotal evidence suggests drivers of electric vehicles are more wary of conserving energy, and drive differently as a result."
The crux of Lenzo's argument is that electric cars force people to behave and think differently about driving, and these behavioural and mental shifts make for safer drivers. For example, Lenzo points out that the charge on an electric car needs to be recharged more often than a regular car needs to be refuelled, which forces electric car drivers to become more conscious of how they are expending energy:
"One way to save a car's charge is by driving more slowly. Sticking to the speed limit of 70 miles per hours, rather than going faster on motorways, saves battery. So does reducing the amount of stop-start driving, accelerating and braking more gently."
Lenzo also points out that, unlike a fuel-driven vehicle, recharging an electric car takes longer, sometimes even up to an hour:
"If you've ever seen the signs across the motorway imploring you to "take a break," you will know that stopping to recharge, and maybe grab some food or a coffee, helps concentration on long journeys. Drivers who take breaks are safer than those who do not."
While these examples may seem circumstantial, Lenzo also highlights how the mechanics of electric vehicles themselves could be utilized to improve road safety. Because electric vehicles have more than one engine, torque power can be distributed between multiple engines as opposed to one:
"If different amounts of torque are applied to the left and right sides of the vehicle, a turning effect will be produced. This can be used to influence the vehicle's concerning response, making it safer, especially in critical conditions such as avoiding a crash when taking a corner too fast, or in case of hard swerves to avert an obstacle."
While this is a capability of electric cars that could be used to our advantage right now, it's not something that has been a focus for manufacturers. While this is unfortunate, it's also encouraging to know that such technology is already within our grasp and could help improve road safety, not years down the line, but in the near future, given interest from the manufacturers. And as consumers, we also have the ability to our our voice and ask to see the changes we know are possible within the technologies that currently exist.
For more, check out the original article in The Conversation.