Are hybrid vehicles safe?

Nowadays pretty much every mass-production car model is generally safe, but there are mentionable differences between them. According to a recent study done by IIHS, hybrid vehicles are better at protecting their occupants in an event of a crash when compared to regular gas cars.

The very same study concluded that you are 25% less likely to be injured while driving a hybrid as opposed to a regular gas-powered counterpart. Furthermore, the death rate itself seems to be a lot lower with hybrids as well.

Part of the reason why hybrids tend to fare better in an event of a crash is due to the overall increase in weight because hybrids usually weigh about 10% more than a regular gas-powered model. As such, any extra mass usually benefits you in an event of a crash.

On the other hand, hybrids tend to be quiet which can be a safety hazard by itself. Besides this, hybrids are also equipped with high voltage wiring and dangerous batteries. Moreover, hybrids tend to pose more risk towards pedestrians, especially if only running in electric mode.

Extra weight means extra safety

The logic behind this is rather simple. When a heavier car crashes into a lighter one, the force the larger car exerts is greater, and this tends to push the lighter car away. This results in the lighter car being more prone to structural damaging which commonly results in serious accidents.

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Some cars like the Toyota Highlander for example weigh around 350 pounds less than a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Such differences don’t seem like a big deal on paper, but when you are traveling at higher speeds, even a small weight advantage can make a massive difference.

Some hybrid cars are constructed in a way that increases structural rigidity by placing the batteries flat on the underside of the car. This is done due to safety reasons, but it also means that the car itself is a bit more structurally sound, and all of this can also help you in an event of a crash.

When are hybrids a bad choice?

Hybrids are too quiet when running in EV mode

Even though hybrids tend to be safer from behind the wheel, if you are a pedestrian, however, hybrids are a more serious threat. This is mostly due to hybrids running in EV mode, and as such, they are virtually silent.

According to the IIHS, pedestrians are 20% more likely to get hit by a hybrid because of the silent running mode. Because of this, many agencies and car manufacturers around the world are working on sound generators that ought to make hybrids audible due to pedestrian safety.

Toyota has already come up with ways of alerting nearby pedestrians by emitting high pitch noises to everyone around the car. The goal with such sounds is to find the perfect balance between annoying the pedestrian and alerting him about an oncoming threat.

High voltage batteries and wirings are not safe

Even though pretty much every aspect of a hybrid is close to being completely and utterly safe, the electric high voltage wiring and the batteries themselves are not. These pose a serious threat, especially in an event of a crash because firefighters have to take additional cautionary steps when dealing with a hybrid/EV crash.

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To illustrate a bit further, batteries hold massive amounts of energy, and if a crash damages the batteries, there is quite a bit of chance those batteries will catch fire. When they do, the temperatures can exceed 5000 degrees, and such fires can’t just be extinguished by using regular water and foam hoses.

Even after you’ve successfully extinguished the fire, if you haven’t cooled down the batteries, there is a great chance those batteries will ignite over and over again. Besides fire-related problems, anyone on the crash site can easily be shocked, especially so because water is an electrical conductor.

You also ought to consider all of the high voltage power lines which run throughout the car. Those need to be dealt with accordingly before anyone can cut or drill into the car, but the issue here is that there is no consensus on where those high voltage power lines should be, and every manufacturer does it differently.

FAQ Section

What safety precautions ought to be followed while working on a hybrid car?

Hybrid car circuits systems operate well over 400 volts these days, all the way up to 800. These can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. As such, be sure to always follow every safety precaution while working on hybrid vehicle powertrain components. Be sure to always wait at least 10 minutes after disconnecting the service plug.

Always wear electrical insulating gloves before you work on anything that is damaged, cracked, or ruptured. Furthermore, always follow all of the caution labels attached to any high-voltage part, and make sure to never touch, nor try to replace or repair any high-voltage wires or connectors.

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Can hybrid cars cause massive explosions?

Nowadays, most hybrid cars use batteries made with nickel-metal-hydride cells which are thankfully non-explosive. On the other hand, EVs use lithium-ion batteries which are flammable and can even explode. This is all due to lithium-ion batteries being more energy-dense and capable of providing more energy

Even though such batteries can explode, car manufacturers are going to great lengths to ensure that something like that is extremely unlikely to happen. One way to achieve such levels of safety is to insolate all the other battery cells if one cell is damaged or ruptured. Besides these, short circuits are designed to disconnect the battery when damaged.

Is it worth buying a hybrid car?

More often than not, yes it is. Hybrids truly do save you money if you use them as such. Even though they cost more initially, such costs can theoretically be recuperated through a few years of ownership. Furthermore, hybrids are safe, reliable, and less harmful to the environment.

As such, nowadays is a great time to consider buying a hybrid if you are not already keen on transitioning towards an EV entirely. However, if you don’t plan on completely utilizing the hybrid powertrain, you ought to skip buying a hybrid.

More about hybrid car problems.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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