Are Electric Cars Safe in the Rain?
A short time ago, it was difficult to predict that in the 2020s, electric vehicles (EVs) would make such a fast and timely impact on society. From the 1960s through to the 1990s, electrical power was confined to outlier vehicles such as forklifts and milk floats; now, 1.6 million Americans own electric cars.
EVs are designed to be completely safe in the rain. Even if you are driving through streams of water, trying to navigate in a tropical storm, or attempting to recharge the car at a mobile station in the pouring rain. EVs offer no greater risk than cars powered by internal combustion engines.
The technology which controls a modern EV has advanced incredibly in the last ten years. Spearheaded almost exclusively by Tesla, every one of the major manufacturers is now entering this space. Volkswagen has announced that they will develop no new Internal Combustion powered cars, and the others are following this lead.
Table of Contents
- Electric Cars are Safe in the Rain
- What Makes an EV Safe in the Rain?
- Can EVs Be Driven in the Snow?
- What Happens If It’s Raining, and Lightning Strikes the EV?
- Can You Charge Your EV in the Rain?
Electric Cars are Safe in the Rain
Along with being told never to put their fingers in live power sockets, children are repeatedly warned that electricity and water don’t mix. We were all brought up hearing horror stories of electric lamps falling into occupied baths and of lightning striking people and ruining their day!
The reality is that driving an EV in the rain is no more dangerous than driving a conventional vehicle.
All batteries must be graded against an IP rating. IP (Ingress Protection) is a rating designed to assess the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical components against intrusion, dust, accidental contact, and water.
The IP rating code comprises two letters and two following digits.
- The first two letters will always be IP (which stands for Ingress Protection)
- The third digit is the score detailing how the item resists the ingress of solid foreign objects.
- The fourth digit is the score assigned to the item related to its ability to resist liquid.
A device rated as IP24 can withstand fingers or similar objects. Good to know if you have children in the house and water being splashed around.
The batteries in modern EVs must be rated as IP67.
The 6 means that they must be dust-tight, and the 7 seven means the battery casing can prevent harmful quantities of water from entering when the battery is immersed in 1.5 meters of freshwater for 30 minutes.
A level 8 or above refers to continuous immersion in water; this would apply to batteries installed in submersible vehicles.
What Makes an EV Safe in the Rain?
EVs must have the following specifications.
- An EP rating of EP67 means the EV can survive complete submersion for at least half an hour.
- The high voltage system must automatically cut all connections to the battery packs when the EV senses an impact. The 12 volt systems, however, must remain functional so that emergency flashers, etc., can be powered.
- All EVs are subject to the Euro NCAP assessment; this ensures that the vehicle’s strong structures, extensive crumple zones, and multiple airbags protect the occupants as much as possible in the event of an accident.
- A crash-resistant frame must secure the battery.
- The batteries are installed low down in the car and away from potential impact areas.
- Some vehicles even include two deformable aluminum structures on either side of the front bulkhead, known as SPOC (severe partial offset crash) blocks, which prevent the front wheels from striking the battery during a frontal collision.
- Each battery cell is surrounded by advanced phase-change materials that absorb heat and reduce the risk of neighboring cells overheating.
The most significant danger that EVs face is the possible thermal runaway of the lithium-ion battery. If a battery cell is damaged and a short occurs, the flammable electrolyte could ignite, becoming increasingly hotter and reaching greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius.
The precautions listed above are designed to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Can EVs Be Driven in the Snow?
The EV can be safely driven in snow or icing conditions, just as in the rain.
All batteries are less effective in freezing temperatures, and this should be considered when operating your EV.
It is an excellent practice to ensure that you don’t let the battery charge level reduce below 20% in these conditions; this will maximize the battery’s operation and take advantage of regenerative braking features.
If the temperatures are below zero, it is recommended that you pre-condition the battery before operating the vehicle. This function is available on most EV media systems or connected smartphone apps.
It involves the car pre-heating or pre-cooling the interior cabin. By doing this, not only is the passenger cabin brought to a more comfortable temperature, but the battery’s temperature is also brought into the optimal range.
If the vehicle is connected to the main AC power supply, this won’t reduce the vehicle’s range at all.
What Happens If It’s Raining, and Lightning Strikes the EV?
All cars are essentially Faraday cages; this means that they are closed structures, so the voltage is only generated on the car’s surface and is evenly dissipated into the ground. It does not penetrate the passenger or battery compartments.
The danger is identical to that experienced by conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.
All vehicles, irrespective of the type of power source, may have their electrical systems damaged by a focussed lightning strike.
Can You Charge Your EV in the Rain?
It seems almost reckless to even discuss this, but the reality is that you stand more charge of getting hypothermia than being injured while charging your EV in the rain.
The connection points (the charging plug and the socket in the car) are specifically designed to ensure water does not get in. EV charging stations are built as weatherproof structures.
The charging systems provided by the charging company and the EV’s systems are very sophisticated. They carry out several checks before either system allows the regenerating current to flow.
If water has somehow entered the system, perhaps through a faulty seal, the system will fail, and no current will be permitted to flow.
There is no danger unless the EV plug is sitting in a pool of water or the vehicle’s sunroof was left open, resembling a fish aquarium. The charging system’s safety protocols would prevent any current flow in these situations.
Irrespective of how cold or rainy the weather is, EVs are safe to charge.
There is no difference in operating an EV or a car powered by an internal combustion engine in wet, icy, or snow conditions. The safety systems built into EVs make these vehicles, arguably, safer than conventional cars.
Just as filling a conventional vehicle with gas when pouring with rain is safe but possibly uncomfortable, the same applies to EVs.
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