Assistant Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

May 16, 2019

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Electric vehicle safety

Electric vehicles: How safe are they?

Although electric vehicles are helping with the reduction of air pollution, could thier eagerness of noise pollution be putting people at risk?

electric-vehicle-chargeConversations about global warming have been getting more intense. The demands of finding solutions to tackle it have also increased. Electric vehicles have been a popular solution in tackling road pollution, prompting Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, pledging to spend a budget of £400m on charging points for electrical vehicles.

But, although electric vans and vehicles are safer for the environment than a typical petrol or diesel run vehicle, questions have risen on whether they are safe for pedestrians, cyclists and workers because of their silent engines.

Low speeds

Kevin Clinton, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, confirmed that “the greatest risks associated with electric vehicles are when they are travelling at low speeds, such as in urban areas with lower limits, as the noise from tyres, the road surface and aerodynamic noise, are minimal at those speeds.”

Research from the University of California found that electric vehicles can only be heard one second before colliding with a pedestrian. This can be dangerous and particularly difficult for those with sight loss, as they depend heavily on surrounding sound to manoeuvre. Pedestrians with sight loss are 40% more likely to be hit by an electric car than by one with a petrol engine, according to the Guide Dogs Association.

Construction company FM Conway has recently made a £7M investment in electric vans and it is expected that more companies, within construction in particular, will introduce electric vans to their fleet is on the horizon. But as well as putting pedestrians in risk of accidents on the road, electric vans can put workers in risk of accidents at construction sites, as they will struggle to hear an approaching silent, electric van.

Distinctive sound

To combat this safety issue, vehicle safety manufacturer, Brigade Electronics, has installed a state-of-the-art system, Quiet Vehicle Sounder, in FM Conway’s electric vans to resolve the issue of workers not being able to hear them. The system sets off a distinctive sound as an alternative, and can be heard clearly in danger zones.

Pat Murphy, Reactive Supervisor at Conway, said that “before retrofitting the Quiet Vehicle Sounder it was stressful driving on to site not knowing if people would hear you”.

As the Quiet Vehicle Sounder has become successful at work sites, they can potentially be the answer to silent electrical cars on the road, to help alert pedestrians and cyclists when in a close proximity of an electric vehicle.

The sound is highly directional, which can enabling pedestrians with sight loss to tell where the vehicle is, and it varies in pitch and tone as the vehicle speeds up or slows down.

Driving for Better Safety - Free eBook download

With employees who drive for business more likely to be killed at work than deep sea divers or coal miners, driver safety is a vital business consideration.

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  • What is fleet risk?
  • Managing work-related road safety.
Driver Safety eBook cover

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andrew garside
andrew garside

yet at the microlise conference on Wednesday, the trailblazers for electric vehicles were championing this quietness, saying vehicles could drive round residential areas at night etc, even delivering inside factories, amongst production workers direct to production lines?

Stephen Perry
Stephen Perry

My concern with electric vehicles is the end of life disposal/recycling and cost of replacing the batteries. How much energy will be needed for this to be achieved in an environmental friendly way??