Recommendations for New Safety Requirements and Research

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Robert Thomson

The main objective of EVERSAFE is to facilitate integration of electrical vehicles (EVs) into European vehicle traffic. The performance and control characteristics of electric machines also offer more opportunities for vehicle designs and systems that benefit segments of the population, an example being semi-automated vehicles that provide mobility to an aging population. There are many opportunities for a strong market value of European vehicle manufacturers that can be exported worldwide.

Customer acceptance increases when EV safety is guaranteed for normal operation or an accident. The consequences of a negative image for EVs are considerable and will limit the development and penetration of a new vehicle type that can have financial, environmental, and social benefits for Europe. The EVERSAFE project had three main areas of research to ensure a robust market for EVs:

  1. The perceptions of electric vehicles from a user point of view
  2. Investigations of vehicle safety encompassing both active and passive vehicle safety implications that are part of the vehicle’s design
  3. Developing guidelines and recommendations for post-crash handling of electric vehicles that are not addressed in the practice for conventional (internal combustion) drivelines

The research plan was developed to identify the most high risk scenarios, investigate their potential consequences, and identify any corrective actions in terms of further research, industry standards, or government regulations.

The project used focus groups of consumers to identify perceived issues as well as expert judgement to identify specific research cases. Building on accident analysis, critical load cases for investigation for both active and passive safety were identified. Lateral and longitudinal load conditions for the vehicle were identified. For active safety the longitudinal case of interest was regenerative braking and yaw stability due to wheel hub motor failure on one wheel was the lateral case. Passive safety research was focused on pole side impacts for the lateral load case and rear end crashes for the longitudinal case. Post-crash handling of vehicles with electric drive trains was also identified as an area for investigation.

The main findings of the active safety investigations suggested that the potential failures for regenerative braking and wheel hub motors could be compensated by the drivers. Volunteer drivers participated in controlled studies in a driving simulator and a modified vehicle. For the investigated controlled cases there were no major safety issues identified, however the cases were not in real traffic and did not present complex traffic threats.

Passive safety investigations used component tests of battery cells, full scale crash tests, and numerical simulations to study the risks during a crash. The tested cells and vehicle crash tests demonstrated good safety levels. The simulations and component tests were useful to identify that the main risk for vehicles is crushing the battery pack and battery modules.

The safe handling of electric vehicles after a crash requires updates to the conventional rescue operations. The main issue is to identify when an electric vehicle is involved in a crash and to ensure the high voltage system is disconnected and preferably neutralized.

The results of the EVERSAFE project indicate that the general level of EV safety is quite high and that no critical safety issues have been identified. There are areas where the industry should develop universal standards to improve the driver interaction with the new EV systems and minimise the risk of crashes due to inappropriate driver expectations. When a crash with an EV occurs there appears to be little chance for fire or the emission of toxic substances, but there needs to be more work to assist the firefighters in identifying EVs, disconnecting electrical systems, and possibly neutralizing batteries after a crash.

Improving safety for the road user is an ongoing process and EVERSAFE has recommendations to further improve the good level of safety of the existing vehicle fleet. The results of EVERSAFE indicate that current and potential owners of vehicles with electric drivetrains should not consider these vehicles as less safe than vehicles with conventional (internal combustion) drivetrains.

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