The government is to review the potential hazards that electric cars can pose on UK roads. Concerns have been raised over how electric cars can be moved when they breakdown, given that many cannot be towed.
Transport Minister Baroness Vere said that she was ‘astonished’ to learn that electric cars slow to a stop comparatively quickly, rather than coasting to a stop like a normal car. There are also concerns that electric cars are more difficult, and therefore slower, to remove.
The debate in the House of Lords comes amid the current ongoing discussion around smart motorways.
“When an electric vehicle ceases to function, it stops; it does not coast in the way that other vehicles do,” said Barnoness Randerson, Lib Dem transport spokesman, during the debate.
“Smart motorways are supposed to be the future, but the future is electric. Those vehicles stop very suddenly. They also cannot be towed; they have to be put on a low-loader, which is a much more complex and longer process that will put rescue teams in greater danger.
“So can we have special consideration for how these new motorway layouts will operate when there are lots of electric vehicles on the road?”
“When I first heard this, I was absolutely astonished,” Baroness Vere said in response.
“Quite frankly, this is applicable not just to smart motorways but to every single road. We will need to be able to move electric vehicles, wherever they happen to stop or end their days…“
Indeed, during a test of real-world electric car range, Carwow found that some EVs were “difficult to move” when the batteries were run truly flat. Most cars in the test ‘locked up’ once they were out of juice. The tested included everything from the Tesla Model 3 and Audi E-tron, to the Kia e-Niro and Nissan Leaf.
If you imagine trying to move an internal combustion car when it’s off, while still in-gear, or in park in the case of an automatic, and you’re unable to get it out of gear, or park, you won’t be far off. Towing an electric car when it’s off can cause damage to the expensive electric motors, as well as other components.
The AA has also highlighted the issue. It said that the problem with electric car manoeuvrability when they’re either out of battery or malfunctioning is another in a growing list of reasons that emergency refuge areas should be more frequent on smart stretches of motorway.
“You can’t flat tow some electric vehicles more than 800 metres, some you can’t flat tow at all,” said Edmund King, president of the AA.
“So the problem is they will take longer to get off the motorways.”
Baroness Vere concluded, saying that “work is underway to look at short-term measures to make sure we can get electric vehicles off to places of safety as quickly as possible, on whichever road, because that certainly would be a large drawback to the introduction of electric vehicles“.