In the world of personal travel, we are all aware society has entered the early stages of a cultural shift toward the primary use of more energy-efficient and eco-friendly automobiles in our day-to-day lives. While traditional gas fueled cars remain the preferred vehicle of today and even tomorrow, auto industry experts predict the world will see 100 million electric cars on our roads and highways by the start of the next decade, compared to just 7 million right now. As with any new technology adopted by the masses, it begs asking the question of whether the risks outweigh the rewards regarding our safety.
Undoubtedly, we all share an investment in this planet as fellow humans of earth, and for the sake of those coming after us, we should all strive to preserve the environment as best we can in our time. Alternative energy forms or “renewable energy” such as solar or battery-power empirically causes less of a negative impact on the earth than most of our current industrial standards, however, with new and emerging tech comes a brand new set of known (and unknown) risks that could jeopardize all of our safety while in transit.
Despite the fact that these new eco-friendly cars are pricey and still considered a luxury item today, demand remains high and manufacturers are under intense scrutiny to deliver this transition toward the wave of the future. This has created a potentially dangerous situation where products have been rushed to market following short periods of development testing. Making matters worse, modern processes still in their own infancy like 3D printing can cause unforeseen quality control issues down the line.
The lightweight construction of these vehicles, which also boast the use of more “green” materials in addition to a renewable energy source for power, can pose more of a risk to passengers in the event of a collision due to their streamlined approach. Another troubling trend is the potential for overheated batteries, which like your cellphone can short circuit and shut down entirely or even combust. A design flaw caught by Tesla during their early testing of the Model S in 2013 found that the vehicle’s lower suspension was an issue when hitting potholes or road debris – because the fragility of its lithium-ion battery was causing fires. Changes of course were made, and Tesla continues to be a technological leader in the electric vehicle space, but early adopters should beware of potentially deadly growing pains with new tech.
Further confusing the issue is the question of how we should handle insurance claims and liability involving eco-friendly automobiles. We are blazing a path on a new frontier, all while trying to figure out how this new technology fits in our current world and legal landscape. For example, ponder for a moment the problem of how electric cars are more lethal to pedestrians because they do not sound as alarming as a gas-powered car speeding down the road. Next try thinking about this in terms of product liability insurance. Imagine the headache of assessing damage if your parked electric car combusts and sets fire to several other vehicles or even a private residence?
In a sense it is our duty to be forward-thinking, although at what cost? The time of electric cars may be upon us, but who is to say how long until this technology has proven itself reliable and without risk to the point where we all feel comfortable. Consider these potential outcomes if you do decide to buy electric in the near future. And as always, if you or any of your loved ones needs legal assistance with respect to eco-friendly vehicles or any new technology, the knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys of Stampone O’Brien Dilsheimer Law are here to help you feel safe and secure.
Joseph P. Stampone, Esq.