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Use and operational safety

Reed, Nick; Charisis, Vassilis; Cowper, Stephen


Nick Reed

Stephen Cowper


Daniele Ventriglia

Martin Kahl


Whether you are an individual buying your first car or replacing an existing vehicle, or if you are a fleet manager making vehicle purchase decisions on behalf of a company, the acquisition of a car is usually a highly significant purchase. Increasingly, consumers are choosing to switch from traditional, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs). Becoming accustomed to any new vehicle brings safety challenges as one learns the performance, handling and user interface aspects of the vehicle. Switching powertrain brings additional safety concerns as the user becomes familiar with the features and characteristics of electric propulsion. This extends beyond the driving experience to the day-to-day use of the vehicle.
This chapter explores some of the everyday safety issues that might be encountered by users of EVs.
It should be noted that we are not implying that EVs are necessarily riskier than ICE vehicles – indeed the switch to a modern EV is also likely to mean that the vehicle will be equipped with advanced driver
assistance systems (ADAS) and score highly in Euro NCAP occupant protection crash tests. We are simply noting that these safety concerns are present and different to those of ICEs and are therefore worthy of discussion.

Online Publication Date Sep 14, 2023
Publication Date Sep 14, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 19, 2023
Pages 107-111
Series Title Intelligent Safety White Paper
Book Title FISITA Intelligent Safety White Paper – The Safety of Electro-Mobility: Expert considerations on the Safety of an Electric Vehicle from concept through end of life
Chapter Number 5
Publisher URL
Additional Information "The safety of Electro-Mobility" – Expert considerations on the Safety of an Electric Vehicle from concept through end of life.

FISITA brings together the global automotive mobility sector to share ideas and advance technological development for the automotive industry. FISITA’s mission is to help create efficient, affordable, safe and sustainable automotive transportation, serving a global forum between engineers, industry, government, academia, environmental and standards organizations.

Within FISITA, the Intelligent Safety Working Group (ISWG) represents a global network of safety engineers, providing a platform for a precompetitive exchange of safety-relevant information and experience to further improve traffic safety. In 2020, the ISWG published the first White Paper on the Safety Aspects of Assisted and Automated Driving (Reference FOP2020-10-01). The response to this publication was a motivator for the ISWG to start working on a second White Paper, this time focusing on the safety aspects of electric vehicles (EV).

The safety of mobility is an essential part of sustainability; however, we are still far from the vision of zero traffic fatalities. Every year, the lives of approximately 1.3 million people globally are cut short because of road traffic crashes. Between 20 and 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury. This number would be much higher were it not for the numerous safety features brought to the market by modern vehicles, infrastructure and medical services.

Today, vehicle occupants can survive collisions which, just a few decades ago, would have resulted in severe injuries or fatality. Many crashes can be avoided or at least mitigated by the support of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as automatic emergency braking (AEB). Even vulnerable road users such as pedestrians often now suffer less severe injuries when being hit by a modern car compared to an older vehicle. In Germany, for example, the number of annual traffic fatalities decreased continuously from approximately 20,000 in the 1970s to 3,000 in 2019. The numbers are even more impressive when considering the fatality rate (fatalities per vehicle miles travelled (VMT)). Other countries show similar trends, even though country-specific situations can introduce variance in the final numbers. In the US, the total number of traffic fatalities has changed little in the last 20 years; the fatality rate has declined from 1.53 to 1.1 fatalities per one hundred million VMT, and the vehicle population has increased from 282 million to 331 million during this time frame. In the UK, the number of fatalities fell by 18% between the years 2011 and 2021.