What Happens if an Electric Car Gets Wet?

Do you remember that infamous scene from the movie “Goldfinger” where James Bond electrocutes a goon by throwing an electric heater into a bathtub? If yes, then you already know that mixing electricity and water can be a very bad idea.

This fact has been drilled into our heads since early childhood. Therefore, it is fair for one to look at the modern vehicles running on the roads and wonder what happens if an electric car gets wet.

If you are apprehensive about driving your brand new Tesla through a puddle of water or getting it spick and span at a carwash, please know that you have got nothing to worry about. Your sleek electric car will not electrocute its occupants at the slightest contact with water.

However, you may ask what happens if an electric vehicle or EV is submerged in water during flooding? Moreover, can an electric car drive through a flood zone without causing electric shocks?

The latest EV technology is rapidly taking over the automobile industry, with top manufacturers shifting their focus to creating futuristic electric cars that promise excellent performance without emitting harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Although these vehicles are friendlier to the environment than their traditional combustion-engine alternatives, many are still reluctant to transition to these cars owning to certain myths.

This guide will dispel some common misconceptions by answering your most pressing questions about EV maintenance and how these ultramodern cars fare under wet conditions.

What Happens if an Electric Car Gets Wet?

What happens if an electric car gets wet
Photo of a car driving through a puddle of water

Generally, putting a plugged-in electronic appliance on a wet surface can be a recipe for disaster.

However, electric cars are designed to endure all environmental conditions. So, rest assured, it is fairly safe for one to drive their EV through large puddles during heavy rainfall.

In addition, an electric car will not electrocute anyone even when it is partially submerged in water or stuck on a flooded street.

The reason behind it is that almost all electrical components of modern electric vehicles are tightly sealed and well-insulated.

The battery pack and electric motor are likely to remain safe from moisture even when driving your EV through several inches of standing water.

You may also be glad to know that most high-end electric cars are submerged in water as part of their initial testing.

While it is certainly not recommended to drive your car into a pond or lake, please note that even if you run your vehicle into a body of water, the excessive moisture will instantly trip the circuit breaker instead of posing an electrical hazard.

Although most EVs can handle water far better than gas-powered cars, their advanced system shutdown feature would effectively eliminate any risk of unforeseen shocks.

It is also worth mentioning that the battery packs of electric cars are typically situated on the underside of the vehicle and are thus relatively close to the ground.

However, since they are heavily insulated, an EV can conveniently drive through water without shutting off or becoming a conductor of electricity.

Another great thing about driving an EV is that it automatically carries out a range of safety checks before discharging high voltage electric current from the battery pack to different electronic systems.

So, if moisture were to somehow seep into any component, your vehicle would instantly detect it, and the battery would stop functioning as a precautionary measure.

Therefore, driving an electric car in the rain is pretty safe.

Read Are Electric Cars Better for Environment

Why Traditional Vehicles Stop Working When They Get Wet

If you have driven a petrol-powered car your entire life, then you would know that those vehicles tend to stop running once they get submerged in water.

This happens because an engine block in a regular car works like a large air pump. It utilizes controlled fossil-fuel combustion to power the pistons in air-tight cylinders, which open and close with valves. Thus, the engine relies on the compression of air to function.

However, if the pump is filled with water instead of air, the system would not work as liquids cannot be compressed like gases.

What happens when electric cars get flooded
Photo of a red car with its hood popped open

To put simply, if you were to drive your conventional car through a deep puddle, you can expect one (or more) of these things to happen:

  • Water gets into the engine through an air intake pipe at the bottom of the vehicle, thus causing it not to work properly.
  • Water enters the transmission mechanism through a vent, thus causing it to pack up and stop functioning.
  • Water seeped into the brake fluid and engine oil of the car, affecting multiple systems at once.

Interestingly, while internal combustion engines in traditional cars rely on a series of valves and pipes to operate, the electric motors in EVs deliver a greater performance without any of these additional components.

In addition, the motors in electric cars do not rely on air compressions to function. Since these eco-friendly vehicles do not have an engine, their internal systems are not nearly as complex.

They also involve fewer fluids and oils, which mitigates most of the risks of driving your car after it gets wet.

But what happens if an electric car gets flooded?

If that happens, you must make sure to remove all water from the vehicle and allow it to dry completely.

Moreover, it would help to remove the seat covers and carpet mats placed inside the car to prevent the growth of mildew, which may cause several respiratory issues.

Most importantly, please make sure to contact a trained technician at the service department of your car’s dealer for timely EV maintenance.

Read How to Make Your Battery Last a Long Time

Does Moisture Affect the Battery Pack of an Electric Car?

While driving an electric car in the rain is perfectly safe, drivers need to understand the risks associated with modern battery packs and follow proper safety precautions to avoid any unpleasant incidents.

Most of the latest electric vehicles contain a lithium-ion battery pack, which is not much different from the batteries in your smartphone and laptop.

However, since cars are exponentially heavier than these devices and require more power to propel forward, the batteries placed in EVs are bigger and generate higher voltages.

While all the power cables in these vehicles are properly insulated, touching them can cause an electrical hazard.

Similarly, if a short circuit somehow diverts the current to another component, it can cause extensive damage to the car’s internal system.

That being said, please note that electric cars are in no way more dangerous than their combustion-engine counterparts.

Just like a ruptured gasoline tank can result in an explosion, a punctured battery pack also poses a significant amount of risk to auto mechanics and rescue workers alike – particularly in the aftermath of an accident due to wet roads or heavy flooding.

As discussed above, the meticulously engineered safety systems inside the latest EVs can isolate the battery pack by shutting off the power in case of a short circuit or collision.

The circuit breakers, which are typically located under the car’, can automatically trip and discontinue the flow of current.

If you are driving an electric car in the rain and can’t help by worry about moisture seeping into its electrical components, please note that simply turning off the ignition will be sufficient to interrupt the voltage flowing from the battery pack to the motor.

Meanwhile, if your electric car is equipped with a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, you must take extra precautions while driving during heavy rainfall or during a flood.

Unfortunately, if moisture seeps into the battery cells, their chemical components can react with water and release hydrogen.

While a small amount of this gas is not likely to cause any problems, a large volume of hydrogen can cause the driver and occupants of the car to feel dizzy or disoriented, which may result in an accident.

In the worst-case scenario, the hydrogen build-up could result in an explosion.

However, experienced EV maintenance technicians are qualified to handle such issues and know exactly how to remove and dispose of ruptured battery packs without any accidents.

Driving an electric car in the rain
Photo of a electric car driving in the rain

Read How Long Does It Take To Charge An Electric Car

Systems That Make EVs Safe to Drive-In Wet Weather

As we have already established, simply driving through a puddle or getting wet in the rain won’t cause your EV to give electric shocks to anyone who touches it.

We also know what happens if an electric car gets wet: it either continues to work perfectly fine, or the circuit breakers begin to trip in order to keep everyone safe.

However, if you are still anxious about water getting inside your electric car, please consider the fact that every car has an extensive system of electrical components – and that includes all combustible-engine vehicles.

Although regular engines require a low voltage of current to operate, they are still connected to a battery that is responsible for sending electricity to different systems.

Typically, when water seeps inside the hood and moistens the battery terminals, the most that happen is corrosion. There is no immediate threat of a short circuit.

In comparison, electric cars have larger battery packs comprising multiple cells. While lithium-ion technology has become more prevalent over the past couple of years, you can still find EVs that contain nickel-metal hydride and lead-acid batteries.

However, regardless of their type, all battery cells are sealed in an insulated pack that keeps them safe from moisture.

Read What to Do When Your Electric Car Runs Out of Charge?

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common queries people have about electric cars and water.

Is it safe to wash an electric car with water?

Yes, it is completely safe to wash an electric car with water.

If you are planning to clean your vehicle manually at home, you can either wash it the old way – with buckets of water and carwash mitts – or hose it down with a jet washer. However, before you begin, please make sure the car is not plugged in or charging, all the windows and doors are completely closed, and the ignition has been turned off.

Can you take your electric car through a carwash?

Yes, you can take your electric car through a carwash without a single worry.

However, before getting your electric car thoroughly washed, please remember to close all the doors and windows, fold the side mirrors, and disable all the automatic functions. Furthermore, experts recommend keeping the ignition on and brakes disabled when taking your EV through a car wash tunnel.

It is also advised to keep the vehicle in a neutral position.

Is it safe to drive an electric car in the rain?

A common misconception is that driving an electric car in the rain can lead to short circuits. However, that is not true at all. An EV can be driven in the rain just like a gas-powered car, as both have built-in safety features to keep the rainwater from entering the electrical components.

The battery packs and high-voltage cables inside electric cars are typically well-insulated. Moreover, these vehicles also go through a soak test to work perfectly fine under extreme weather conditions.

Can you charge your electric vehicle in the rain?

Of course, there is no harm in charging your electric car even while it is pouring outside. Although, if possible, try to park your EV in a shaded spot near a charging station. Moreover, please ensure the end of the charger that plugs into your charging port is completely dry to avoid any problems down the road.

What happens if an electric car gets flooded?

Whether you drive an electric car or a traditional one, drying out a  flooded vehicle can be a headache.

Fortunately, most EVs feature a safety system that automatically shuts down power if any electrical components come in direct contact with water. For instance, if an electric car gets submerged in water, the circuit breakers will immediately trip to avoid any dangerous outcomes.

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To Summarize

Everyone knows that electricity and water do not mix well. However, electric cars can withstand different conditions and function perfectly fine in wet conditions. The battery pack and other components are properly insulated to prevent short circuits.

Even if moisture seeps into the electrical systems, the circuit breakers will trip and effectively shut down the entire system to keep you safe and secure.

We hope our comprehensive guide has answered some of your top questions about EV maintenance and what happens if an electric car gets wet.