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Summary
  • EVs can handle shallow bodies of water just like gasoline and diesel vehicles.
  • Electric cars have features like a robust electrical system and safety features that let them safely drive through shallow water.
  • Avoid driving your EV through deep water that exceeds its wading depth.

Electricity and water don’t mix. Thus, it’s understandable to worry about the safety of electric vehicles (EVs) in wet conditions. While you usually won’t steer your car into the nearest body of water, you might encounter potholes, puddles, and the occasional minor flood. Should you risk your safety and drive your electric vehicle through? Or should you accept that you’ll be late? Can you drive an electric car through shallow water without getting shocked or damaging something important?

Can Electric Cars Drive Through Water?

Fortunately, you can put your mind at ease. In general, EVs can handle shallow bodies of water like their internal combustion engine counterparts. As a rule of thumb, if you’re comfortable driving a gasoline or diesel vehicle through water, you can do the same with your EV.

Why Can You Safely Drive An Electric Car Through Water?

Here are the reasons why water doesn’t bother an electric car as much as you might have imagined:

Robust Electrical System and Parts

The electrical system of an EV runs on the same principle as its counterpart in an internal combustion engine vehicle. Both draw power from a car battery and transport electrical current to various parts. They mainly differ in battery type, voltage, and role in the vehicle’s propulsion.

The EV electrical system uses larger nickel-metal hydride batteries, supports much higher voltages, and directly powers motors that drive the wheels of the electric car. In comparison, the internal combustion engine (ICE) electrical system features a smaller lead-acid battery, has low-voltage currents, and doesn’t power the powertrain.

Both types of electrical systems are robust overall. They can handle some exposure to moisture. If they get wet, they usually don’t immediately short out or electrocute their occupants. In most cases, their exposed metal parts corrode, but they don’t suffer a catastrophe.

Safety Features

Car manufacturers developed various safety features for their EV models. When an electric or hybrid car collides with an object or has a short circuit, it automatically cuts the power flow from the battery. The EV also isolates its battery pack, reducing the risk of an accident.

Circuit breakers are an important safety feature of a car’s electrical system. If water enters the vehicle and reaches the electrical system, it trips the circuit breakers, cutting the current flow.

Shutting down the EV also cuts the current flow from the battery pack to the electric motors. If you shut down your electric car, the high-voltage cables that connect the batteries and motors become relatively safe for handling. As an additional safety feature, the power cables are bright orange, making them easier to spot, identify, and avoid.

EV Battery Location

In many EVs, the battery pack is located somewhere water can’t easily reach. Take the Tesla Roadster, for example. Its battery pack is at the back, keeping it clear of moisture from outside the vehicle. 

Sealed Hybrid Battery Packs

However, other EVs like the Tesla Model 3 place their batteries along the floor pan. That’s near the bottom of any vehicle. What keeps them from getting wet when you drive over a puddle?

If the EV is a hybrid built in the US, its battery pack features a shell that houses the energy storage part. This shell is electrically isolated to protect people from electric shocks when they touch the hybrid battery. The shell is also made from a metal that’s treated for corrosion and sealed against the elements, keeping water away from the batteries enclosed within the shell.

Wading Depth

Wading depth is the maximum depth of a body of water that you can drive the vehicle through without a problem. The measurement varies between vehicle types and models. For example, a truck usually has a greater wading depth than a sedan.

Check your owner’s handbook for your vehicle’s wading depth. Also, keep in mind that this measurement only applies when the vehicle wades through water. If your car or truck doesn’t move while in water, the safe wading depth will be lower than the measurement set by the manufacturer.

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When Is It Unsafe to Drive Electric Cars Through Water?

While electric cars can handle getting wet, they can only withstand so much water before their safety features are overwhelmed. Here are some things that you must avoid when driving your electric car through water:

Exceeding Wading Depth

Avoid driving your EV through a body of water that exceeds the manufacturer-recommended wading depth. The deeper the water, the more likely it can overwhelm the safety features that protect the battery pack and electrical system.

Don’t park or idle your electric car in the middle of a body of water, either. The safe depth is much shallower if the vehicle isn’t moving.

Punctured EV Battery Pack

Severe damage to the EV battery pack might lead to ruptures in the sealed metal shell and the cells inside the pack. When water and nickel-metal hydride touch, they trigger a chemical reaction, forming hydrogen.

If you breathe in too much hydrogen, you can feel dizzy and disoriented. Hydrogen is also flammable. In large amounts, it can catch fire and even explode.

However, rupturing the metal shell and cells of an EV battery pack requires considerable force. If you’ve somehow ended up in a car accident that punctures the battery, hydrogen isn’t the most immediate of your concerns. Leaving your vehicle immediately is.

In short, you can safely drive your electric car through shallow water without problems. As long as you avoid pushing your EV past its safe limits, you’ll be fine.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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