Electric cars, like most human inventions, have their advantages and disadvantages.
A major concern with EVs is their impact on our health.
It is common for people to rally against new technology at first. And there’s nothing wrong with skepticism as long as it is grounded in reality. Some groups erroneously claim that EVs cause cancers; others claim they contribute to global warming.
This article takes a deep dive to study if electric cars are bad for your health.
Electromagnetic Radiation – Between Myths and Facts
A major concern of electric vehicles is that they release electromagnetic radiation.
The truth is that EMF fields are found just about everywhere. EMF radiation at low levels is not harmful to human health. This is confirmed by the World Health Organization, which says that there is zero evidence.
Electric cars like Tesla will indeed release EMF radiation. For reference, EMF radiation of higher levels has been measured in other forms of transportation. This includes trains, escalators, moving walkways, and subways.
In fact, just about every electric motor out there will produce magnetic fields. Even low-powered devices like your smartphone produce strong EMF fields.
Most of the concerns surrounding EMF radiation refer to conspiracy theories that have been debunked.
And if you live near high voltage power lines, the exposure to EMF becomes stronger.
If EMF radiation was so harmful, doctors wouldn’t prescribe implanted devices to their patients. Medical devices such as defibrillators that generate EMF radiation can generate a lot of power.
The human body is much more resilient than we give it credit for. If EMF radiation was so bad, life on earth probably wouldn’t have thrived. Besides, there are bigger things to worry about than EMF radiation from Tesla cars.
Let’s address the giant elephant in the sky: the sun.
This massive ball of gas unleashes waves upon waves of EMF radiation. It even propels powerful coronal mass ejections toward Earth.
By comparison, Tesla cars and EVs, in general, pale in comparison to other sources of EMF. If we’re that vulnerable to EMF, we should start phasing out smartphones and 4G services.
To date, no human has ever died of cancer because of EMF. However, we do have to be concerned about ionizing radiation because it can damage DNA directly.
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Why You Should Stick to Mainstream Scientific Advice
The deeper you dive into this rabbit hole, the quirkier the theories about EMF get.
Instead, it is recommended to refer to what scientists and industry leaders have to say. And the overwhelming consensus on low-level EMF radiation is that it is not harmful. However, most skeptics dismiss these studies by claiming that they are funded by the industry.
They often use buzzwords like ‘lobbyists’ and ‘pacs’ to support their allegations.
However, it is linguistically impossible to coordinate a global conspiracy. You would have to get every major stakeholder involved into the conspiracy. This makes no sense when you realize that every group has its own interests. It is not possible to falsify peer reviewed studies.
How Safe are Electric Cars?
Does this mean electric cars are completely safe?
Electric cars and gasoline-powered cars are both dangerous. But not in the way you think. There are health risks associated with electric cars. These can be avoided for the most part by taking adequate care.
Staying safe required a basic understanding of how electric cars are different from gasoline-powered cars. As long as you appreciate these differences, you will be fine.
Let’s take a look at actual cases of danger associated with electric cars.
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The Risk of Electrocution
Electric cars have operating voltages of 200 to 800 volts. This creates a serious risk of electrocution.
The risk becomes more concerning if the EV requires servicing after a crash. This is why only trained professionals should work on electric car repairs. Mechanics should know how to work with damaged lithium-ion batteries.
The good news is that car makers are developing safety systems to prevent electrocution. Volkswagen’s ENYAQ iV with advanced safety tools comes to mind. The car comes with circuit breakers and sensors that improve its safety profile.
The electronic components are protected to prevent the risk of shock. This is true even in the case of floods, rain, and car washes.
Charging only occurs if the system has detected a safe connection with the charging station. In case of any fault, the flow of electricity is instantly shut down.
Electric Car Battery Can Catch Fire
Electric car batteries are powerhouses capable of 30 kWh and more. High-end EVs like the GMC Hummer EV pickup are roughly 200 kWh. That is a lot of power concentrated in one spot.
Although rare, electric car battery fires are a force to be reckoned with.
A conventional car that catches fire can be put out with extinguishers. This is not the case with electric car battery fires. This fire is more difficult to deal with because of the exotherm of the electrolyte.
These batteries are prone to overheating and flammability. Personnel needs to learn how to deal with electric car battery fires. These batteries can produce fireball explosions at extreme temperatures in the span of milliseconds. These explosions can be impossible to survive.
A Tesla car crash in Houston demonstrates the difficulty associated with electric vehicle fires. The deadly lithium-ion battery fire requires 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire. Moreover, it took firefighters over four hours to deal with the blaze.
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Not Following Traffic Rules
This is an obvious problem. Most accidents with electric vehicles are cases of driver negligence. Drivers should treat their electric cars just like any other gasoline-powered car.
A major concern with electric cars is that they are too silent. And while silence is a good thing, it can be deadly to pedestrians and motorists.
This is why regulators require EVs to be detectable after reaching certain speeds. A vehicle that is traveling fast enough should make noise to alert pedestrians and motorists.
However, even EVs that emit sounds at slower speeds could be confused with something else. Kids and small animals, in particular, may run out into the street onto incoming EVs.
A Word on Sustainability
Climate advocates are in favor of EVs because they release fewer GHG emissions. Or so it was thought. The truth is, the manufacturing process used to make EV components are questionable at best. They harvest raw materials, burn coal for power, and release tons of GHG emissions.
The damage from the manufacturing process can also impact grain crop and timber yields. Much of the impact from EVs is not reflected in market prices for energy. The impact is usually reflected indirectly. For example, by polluting water and air.
In other words, electric cars are not as ‘green’ as claimed. EVs produce less or no emissions, they usually run on power from fossil fuels. Moreover, batteries and motors require a lot of energy.
However, the long-term impact of EVs is good for the climate. They provide motorists with a big opportunity to reduce GHG emissions.
Over their lifetime, EVs emit fewer GHG emissions than gasoline-powered cars. This factors in the mining of raw materials and battery production.
In fact, EVs make up for this by reducing their emissions within two years.
Not to mention the fact that EVs are getting cleaner every day. The emissions will continue to go down as our electric grid switches to clean energy. However, this would require cities to not build new fossil fuel infrastructure.
EV and battery manufacturers are pivoting to renewable energy. One study published by ICCT found that EVs emit 80% fewer GHGs than gasoline cars.
Autonomous Driving is Not Completely Safe – Yet
Most electric vehicles also feature a driverless component. Some EVs are fully autonomous. It should be noted that self-driving and autopilot need further development. These features require more regulations and safety features by carmakers.
To date, Tesla’s Autopilot has been involved in nearly 273 crashes. This isn’t to say that the technology isn’t impressive. It needs a bit more time and experimentation to fully mature. In fact, Tesla Autopilot tops the list of most car crashes caused by driver-assist features.
Until the technology fully matures, we recommend manual driving for now.
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Best Practices for EV Batteries
You can avoid fire hazards associated with EV batteries by incorporating a few safety practices.
Let’s discuss safety features that all EV drivers should follow.
How to Charge the EV Battery
Knowing how to maintain your lithium-ion battery is important. There are a few things you can do to keep your battery safe.
The first step is to avoid fast charging. Although as convenient as it may be, it wanes the battery faster. Fast charging passes so much current into the battery that it leads to degradation. This may also increase your risk of fire.
Instead, it is better to use standard charging. Doing so will help you get 10% more battery life compared to fast charging.
Control the State of Charge (for Longer Storage of EVs)
Storing EVs with a full charge or an empty charge can degrade the battery. Don’t plan on using your electric car very frequently? Get a timed charger and use it to charge the battery instead.
You should also avoid charging your battery to 100%. This is because lithium-ion batteries can degrade if they are charged to higher voltages.
A good strategy is to keep the charge level between 30 percent and 80 percent.
Use a Shutdown Separator
A shutdown separator allows you to separate the volatile parts of the battery. At the same time, you can charge your battery. Most electric vehicles have factory-installed separators with safety mechanisms in place.
However, they are not completely safe because there is still a risk of fire.
This brings us to the next piece of advice.
Get a Non-Flammable Battery
This may not be possible for most electric car owners. This is because the technology is still at a nascent stage. Non-flammable batteries for electric cars often use graphene-based electrodes. They produce a high-performing system that is non-flammable.
The technology uses graphene, which is much stronger than steel.
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Workers Should be Trained in all things Electric Vehicle
Workers should be trained to deal with electric car fires. This is because the process of putting out a blaze in EVs is very different. Firefighters should undergo further training to advance their skills in this field.
They should undergo training courses and learn how to deal with damaged electric vehicles. A good strategy is to use thermal imaging cameras to examine the condition of EVs.
Long-Term Benefits of Electric Vehicles
To fully appreciate the health benefits of EVs, we should understand the impact of gasoline vehicles.
Regular cars significantly contribute to air pollution. This is because gasoline releases harmful gases like carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Together, they can contribute to all manners of respiratory diseases. It is not uncommon for people to die prematurely because of air pollution.
One study by MIT found that transportation emissions cause nearly 53,000 deaths per year. This means that gasoline powered cars are the largest contributor of deaths due to pollution.
Reducing emissions produced from gasoline powered cars is important for our long-term health. Replacing gasoline powered cars with EVs will produce fewer emissions. And once our electric grid switches to renewable energy, EVs will become more ‘green’.
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Time to Clean up the Planet with Electric Cars
To wrap up, electric cars are not bad for your health. They do come with safety concerns, but they can be addressed by taking precautions.
The long term benefits of electric cars are undeniable. They release zero tailpipe emissions, lower air pollution, and decrease GHG emissions. And as our electric grid becomes ‘cleaner’, so too will the EVs.
Switching to EVs is good for the planet and will protect the environment for years. Our future generations will thank us for embracing EVs. We hope this article answers your concerns about electric cars and their impact on health. Feel free to share your feedback with us in the comments.
You may like the following electric car articles:
- Why Are Electric Cars so Expensive?
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- Why are Tesla Electric Cars Good for the Environment?
- Electric Car Emissions
- Why You Need Electric Car Roadside Assistance for Your EV
My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.