Another Tesla has crashed – and burned.
Two Florida teens lost their lives on May 9 when the Model S they were traveling in erupted into flames after striking a concrete barrier. As in previous incidents – at least three others – a large portion of the car was quickly and almost completely consumed before the fire was put out.
It was the lithium-ion battery pack that caught fire.
This happens when the physical structure of the battery pack is compromised and the materials within come into uncontrolled contact. Just the same as exposing gasoline to an ignition source. It can happen as the result of a design defect, or an impact such as an accident.
What’s not the same is the way electric car battery packs are shaped – and where they’re installed in the car.
Which is everywhere.
Like most electric cars, the Tesla’s battery pack runs the length and width of the floorpan. This is necessary because electric car battery packs are very big – and very heavy. Spreading them out flat and wide puts all that weight lower to the ground and leaves room inside the car for passengers and cargo.
But the downside is that you’ve got a car that’s vulnerable to an impact-caused battery fire no matter where it’s hit. The infamously exploding Pintos of the ’70s caught fire when hit from behind. Because that’s where the gas tank – the weak point – was.
In an electric car like the Tesla, the “gas tank” is everywhere.
The danger can be reduced by designing the car to withstand impact forces which could damage the physical structure of the battery pack and trigger thermal runaway – the term for a lithium-ion battery fire. But it’s trickier, because a battery fire can be triggered by lesser things, including vibration/jostling as well as extremely minor defects imparted during the manufacturing process.
Denting a gas tank has no effect on the gasoline within.
In this respect, gas tanks are inherently safer than electric car battery packs.
Also, they are safer in the sense that a gas tank is more compact and physically located in one area of the car – generally, in the rear of the car – while an EV’s battery pack is located everywhere. It’s therefore just as vulnerable to fire if hit from the front as behind – or from the side.
Passengers are more vulnerable as well because no matter where they are in the car, they are always close to the battery pack.
Once the fire starts, it will quickly spread the length of the car because the battery is everywhere there is car.
Or the other saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety threat, which exists even when an electric is parked.
As when “fast” charging.
This imparts heat, which isn’t safe because it can lead to a fire – which is why “fast” charging is never full charging. Read the proverbial fine print. Most – if not all – lithium-ion EVs can only be “fast” charged to 80 percent capacity. Put another way, you have to give up 20 percent of the EV battery’s potential charge – and thus, the car’s range – to saaaaaaaaaafely use of the “fast” charger.
Imagine the keening, funereal wail that would erupt if a car company sold a vehicle which could only accept 80 percent of a full tank unless you added the fuel very slowly, over the course of several hours… else risk a fire.
Nickel-cadmium batteries can be fully “fast” charged but they don’t deliver the performance/range that lithium-ion batteries do.
Another catch is that lithium-ion batteries can’t be recharged at all in sub-freezing temperatures. It needs to be at least 32 degrees F for the chemistry to work.
Read here for more.
It’s interesting that this fact also isn’t being discussed much by the acolytes of the electric car given that roughly two-thirds of the country experiences winter. There is a reason why electric cars tend to be found in parts of the country that stay warm all year long, such as California and Florida.
Meanwhile, two more bodies at the morgue.
There will be more, if these lithium-ion-powered EVs are ever produced in the numbers desired by the Fanbois and egged-on by a complaisant press indifferent to the saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety problems which afflict these things – and which in any other circumstance would trigger 60 Minutes-style investigatory jihads.
Remember what they did to Ford over the fire-prone Pinto? And Audi – over cars that did not “unintentionally accelerate”? (The company was nearly bankrupted over false accusations made by incompetent drivers who mistook the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal.)
Several VW executives and engineers are being criminally prosecuted for harming no one, but “cheating” on government tests. The bastards!
Meanwhile, Teslas are killing people.
Not because of a design defect.
But because of the way they’re designed.
. . .
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