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Frequently Asked Questions:

Safety

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Can I get a shock the car?

Electric vehicles have multiple layers of safety built in. In a gas car, the battery uses the chassis for its ground, which means the current path actually passes through the body of the car. The battery pack in an EV does not. It's called a "floating" system, which is completely electrically isolated from the chassis. In fact, some components, such as the speed controller and charger, will not function if they detect a current path to the chassis, even in milliamps.

The EV also has various safety disconnects built in. These include a main contactor, a circuit breaker, and fusible links. All of these can be used to manually disarm the battery pack circuit, or they operate automatically in the case of tool dropped across battery terminals, collision damage, or some other situation that causes a surge of current.

It's perfectly safe to drive an EV in the rain.

For more detailed information about EV safety, see the Tech Paper EV Myths.

What about the dangers of electromagnetic fields?

EMF is more associated with AC devices than the kinds of DC systems used in conversions. Measurements taken inside EV conversions while driving have found insignificant EMF readings. The only significant amounts of EMF were within three feet of the charger (which has AC input) during charging. However, this usually happens in the garage or driveway at night, nowhere near any people.

For more detailed information about EV safety, see the Tech Paper EV Myths.

In an accident, will the batteries explode or catch fire or spew acid all over?

No. Think for a minute about gas cars. Most of them have a battery up in the front corner under the hood - one of the first places that gets hit in an accident. How often have you heard of one of these batteries exploding, catching fire, or spewing acid in an accident? Yes, the EV has many more batteries. However, the circuit breaker and fusible links will break open the electrical circuit among them if an accident causes a short. By the way, did you know that one gallon of gasoline has the explosive power of 22 sticks of dynamite?

The acid in a battery is not as deadly as you might think. First, it won't instantly bubble and eat your skin, like the special effects in a bad movie. If it splashes on you, it should be washed off as soon as possible, but it is not an instant emergency. Gasoline spilled on your skin will also cause irritation if not washed off.

Second, the battery pack is not a big water balloon full of acid. Each battery has three separate cells with a small amount of acid in each one. You would have to split open all the cells of many batteries at once to get any sizable amount of acid.

For more detailed information about EV safety, see the Tech Paper EV Myths.

Don't batteries release explosive hydrogen gas?

There are only two conditions where this happens. One is if the battery pack is being worked very hard, especially when it is low on charge. The other is a normal occurence at the end of the charging cycle, as the batteries equalize their charges.

Hydrogen is lighter than air. Given the opportunity, it quickly rises and dissipates. If batteries are enclosed in a box, ventilation to the outside should be provided. If they are simply in a rack under the hood, there is plenty of ventilation already. Most garages also have enough air leaks to avoid problems. It requires a very strong concentration of hydrogen in the air to reach explosive levels. You would be aware of an overwhelming battery acid smell long before that happened.

Doesn't all that weight affect handling and braking?

It could, if not handled properly. It is important to keep the weight as low and centered as possible, and well-balanced front-to-rear and side-to-side. The suspension should be beefed up accordingly.

Power brakes are recommended if available for that model of car. (They can be accommodated with a vacuum pump system.) Heavy duty brake pads and shoes are recommended, and for some cars, upgrading to a heavier duty brake system is possible. If proper attention is paid to these issues when the conversion is done, it will be a safe vehicle.

What about the weight of the batteries in an accident?

It is important to be sure the batteries are adequately secured inside steel racks and holddowns, and firmly mounted to the chassis. If that is done, they do not pose a hazard. In fact, the battery pack will act as an energy absorption device.

For more detailed information about EV safety, see the Tech Paper EV Myths.

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