Several hundred Americans die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning and far more are made sick. A number of these annual deaths occur in gas-powered vehicles where carbon monoxide can build up without the occupants knowing. This gas is both colorless and odorless so victims may not even be aware it is present. Carbon monoxide is generated when fuel is burned in vehicles, and equipment like furnaces, grills, and lanterns. Because we can’t smell or see it, CO can build up in vehicles, living spaces, and garages without our knowledge.
Fortunately, there are CO detectors that can be placed in homes to detect accumulation of this potentially deadly gas. Apparently, they might also be useful in gas-powered vehicles, “Believe it or not, many of the carbon monoxide alarms you use in the home are just as useful in the car. Most carbon monoxide alarms sold today are small enough to fit in your vehicle and are sensitive enough to recognize the gas and alert you to its presence. The alarm might be a little loud in your car, of course, but it’s always good to know when you’re at risk.”
The Centers for Disease Control has some more CO poisoning prevention tips on its website.
Here are some activities to never do:
- Patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else.
- Use a gas range or oven for heating.
- Burn charcoal indoors.
- Use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
- Use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage without adequate ventilation.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics website has some more tips specifically related to vehicles.
- Even small vehicle accidents can cause leaks in exhaust systems which can allow CO to build up inside of vehicles.
- Blocked exhaust pipes can cause CO buildup within vehicles as well.
Another point, which some people might be aware of, is that when a vehicle is stuck in snow, running the engine could cause CO to enter the vehicle and kill the passengers. This scenario can occur if the tailpipe is blocked by snow, “In the wake of these deaths, WABC visited the Maplewood Fire Department in New Jersey to conduct an informal experiment showing just how quickly the passenger compartment of a car buried in snow could fill up with carbon monoxide gas. It took only 1 minute and 24 seconds for levels to spike to dangerous levels inside the running vehicle.”
A WebMD article recommended having a vehicle’s exhaust system checked annually.
So what does all this have to do with electric vehicles? They don’t burn any gas so they can’t produce CO emissions. No EV drivers or passengers will ever die from this type of poisoning. Nor will they suffer long-term brain damage from CO exposure.
What prompted the writing of this article was a conversation with my neighbor. She remarked that electric cars catch on fire too much. This statement is very far from true. There are far more fires in gas-powered vehicles. It didn’t seem appropriate to argue with her and doing so might have made no difference. Having that talk with her did spark some interest in me to write about this ‘extra’ EV benefit, the very decided lack of CO poisonings.
EVs not only get very wrongly smeared, few people appear to be aware of how beneficial they can be.