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High-Performance Electric Cars Have Higher Accident Rates, Finds AXA

Electric cars may offer stunning performance, but all that extra power can get you in trouble in a hurry if you don’t know how to handle it.

AXA, a European insurance company, tells Reuters its claims data suggests high-performance electric cars are involved in 40% more accidents than their conventional cousins. Okay, let’s hear it. “Figures lie and liars figure.” “There are three kinds of lies — lies, damned lies, and statistics.” There. Now that we have lambasted the statisticians, let’s move on to the story, shall we?

Image: Kyle Field |

Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland, says that overall, accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year/risks,” that is, the expected claims experience for 1,000 cars driven for seven years.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes, slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40% more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd says. “We of course have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

In a survey conducted by AXA of electric car drivers this year, half reported they had to adjust their driving to into account the acceleration and braking characteristics of their cars. “Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd says.

Over the past several decades, the typical family vehicle has been able to accelerate to 60 mph in about 10 seconds. Some could do the sprint in 8 seconds. But very, very few ordinary daily drivers could blast their way to 60 in under 5 seconds. However, 5 to 6 seconds is the new normal for electric cars and some — especially performance models from Tesla — can get there in under 3 seconds.

Say what you will about frunks and cars that set new crash test records, the stories about people who buy new Ford GT coupes, or BMW M3 sedans, or Ferraris who launch themselves straight into a tree or lamp post are legion. Any car that has far higher performance than normal can get a driver into trouble faster than you can say, “Elon Musk is a saint!”

Zahnd is quick to point out that the data is sparse so far and may not be statistically relevant due to the small number of electric cars on the road. For instance, she notes that her company’s claims experience in Europe does not match that of American insurers who say electric cars are much more likely to be in accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists

She adds the jury is still out on how crash data will affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles because insurance rates take into account the driver’s history as well as the make and model of the car being insured. “If I look around Switzerland there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she says.

A word to the wise, then. Now matter how fast your zoomy new ElectroMobile may be, if you crash it, you could pay through the nose to insure your next car. “Make haste slowly,” is a pertinent Pennsylvania Dutch expression.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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