All Fired Up . . . Again

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Another Tesla has crashed – and burned.

And, killed.

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.

Since Teslas are electric cars and don’t burn gas, this one wasn’t burned to a cinder by gasoline.

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.

An IC car’s gas tank, in contrast, is a much simpler and more rugged thing. It is generally safe unless physically punctured and the fuel leaks out and comes into contact with an ignition source.

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.

It’s interesting that this very real and uniquely EV saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety threat isn’t of great “concern” to the government.

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.

Catch-22.

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.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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192 COMMENTS

  1. The local hose heroes have been getting extra training for what to do with a crashed or on fire electric car. They are far more prone to getting shocked or electrocuted since it’s not a simple disconnect the battery like a gas car.

  2. As George pointed out gasoline-fueled vehicles catch on fire with surprising frequency.

    A high-speed crash like the one in the article likely would have also caused a fire in a gasoline-fueled vehicle.

    Note the driver had been previously cited for going over 110 mph:

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-tesla-crash-friday-20180511-story.html

    And gas tanks on vehicles aren’t tough at all – one of the most popular ways to steal gasoline is to put a bucket under the tank and punch through it with a screwdriver.

    • Hi Bill,

      ” . . .one of the most popular ways to steal gasoline is to put a bucket under the tank and punch through it with a screwdriver.”

      Sure – and note that it doesn’t start a fire!

      • @MontanaSkeptic1

        “People say it’s okay to criticize $TSLA, but important to honor the genius of @elonmusk. I disagree. He is a charlatan & a liar. His willingness to make misleading claims about Tesla safety is despicable.”

  3. Eric wrote:

    “Gasoline is safer. You can shake a gas can (or tank) and the risk of a fire doesn’t increase. You can dent/damage the tank and it doesn’t affect the gasoline inside the tank. Even if the gas leaks, it’s just a mess. No fire, unless there’s an ignition source. And the tank is confined to just one area of the car. A frontal impact presents no risk to the usually rear-mounted gas tank. But in an EV, the battery pack runs the length of the car, so it can be damaged by an impact anywhere – the fire risk is therefore greater.”

    And let’s not forget, a gasoline fire can be extinguished with common and readily available extinguishing agents, or just plain water in a spray or fog.

    A high voltage lithium-ion Tesla battery fire cannot, it requires specialized techniques, equipment, a 48 hour “reflash watch” and specialized PPE due to the smoke and discharge being highly toxic.

    https://jalopnik.com/watch-volunteer-firefighters-in-austria-extinguish-a-fi-1819665352

    • AF said:
      “A high voltage lithium-ion Tesla battery fire cannot, it requires specialized techniques, equipment, a 48 hour “reflash watch” and specialized PPE due to the smoke and discharge being highly toxic.”

      Yeah, but apparently, that’s much more tolerable than that evil, deadly carbon dioxide that makes the plants grow! 😉

      • Oh, those “zero emission” cars give off plenty of CO2.

        Just not at the car itself…so, like little children covering their eyes, the eco-weenies figure there are no emissions, because they see no emissions.

        But we all know there are plenty, at the power plant, at the strip mine for exotic metals to make the batteries and so on.

  4. LOL – Nothing brings out the Musk-ovites faster than pointing out how bad a car a Tesla is, when one takes an honest look at cost-benefit to owning one.

    • Nothing indicates the basic quality of anything better than how long the included warranty is, and how much it covers.

      • The very first Kias sold in the US had a 10/100,000 mile warranty.

        The cars were, in fact, rubbish.

        But the warranty is what kept them selling until the build quality could improve.

          • I knew a guy who used to own a chain muffler shop. He said the “Lifetime” muffler was actually their cheapest (Lowest cost to them- highest profit- most poorly made) muffler. “Lifetime” warranty rarely got used, ’cause people would lose the receipt, or sell the car; and in the rare case where someone came back for another or even 2, they were still making plenty of profit slapping another $10 muffler on, that the customer paid $300 for.

            Often the best warranted stuff, is the crappiest.

            My Hitachi weedeaters (Whippersnippers, for you Aussies) are warranted for 7 years. Yeah, like I’m going to pay to ship them to a service center, or drive 100 miles round-trip two times every time one needs something. I’ll just fix the damned things myself when something goes wrong- cheaper and faster. Luckily, they’ve been great, trouble-free units.

            My neighbor’s ex bought a Kia back in the 10/100 days. She now goes around warning everyone “Don’t buy a Kia! They’re garbage!”. Some warranties suck, some are good. Nothing is as good as something that doesn’t break. Kia may’ve greatly improved…but they lost a lot of good will back when they made crap.

      • Wrong again Bill,
        THE defining attribute of quality is how long something endures and does it’s job, IN SPITE OF any written piece of paper, paper which has no influence of an kind on the durability of said artifact. You would actually have any of us believe that a “promise” is what makes or breaks a piece of machinery? I’ll give you a recent example of “superior Quality Construction here at my shop, yesterday even. A 2009 Honda Odyssey van:
        I changed the timing belt and water pump at the customer’s request at 217,500 miles.
        It was the original Timing Belt, Water Pump, and Serpentine Belt, showing little sign of wear, not even the first wiggle or dribble from the pump Bearings and Seal, and NO dry rot cracks of any size on either belt. The factory warranty was 36K, 36 months. The WARRANTY is of little or NO CONSEQUENCE, especially when the construction quality is outstanding, as nearly every Honda Automobile and Motorcycle are. The warranty is academic, the durability of the machine is FACT.

  5. My first car was a hand me down, drove it for a year. Then Dad bought me a rusted out Study, and gave the previous car to my sister. The study lasted 2 years, I then bought the next, and all cars since, with my own money. The other 4 sibs had to buy their first cars.

  6. Still, nobody is asking why these teen’s drove off the side of the road. Would that be more or less likely in a self driving car, which this website rails against all the time.

    Were these teens speeding? Were they distracted, as teen boys in a car often tend to be. Were they playing chicken? We haven’t heard the reason for the accident. How likely would this accident have been if their car was a google self driving car. I pick google because they seem to have the best record among the self driving cars.

    As a previous owner of both a “unsafe at any speed” corvair, and also the exploding pinto (which survived an accident with a large truck) one or two data points is never going to prove anything, otherwise my anecdotal experience would be significant.

    And of course, what about the roads? Public roads are quite dangerous. The Uber that ran over that bicyclist couldn’t see ahead because the lighting was terrible.

    For a site that lauds driving over the speed limit, for fun, not transportation, safety would seem to be the last thing on the mind of Mr. Peters.

    • Teen boys in a car during graduation week?? Nearly are all reckless, so were we. Most of of lived through that stage relatively unharmed, some did not, and still do not. Death happens in many ways. This society is getting more ridiculous regarding our own mortality,and it that is just a big of a problem as the stupid crap done in the name of “safety”. You can bet some alarmist neighbor, and the greiving parents are looking for someone to blame this very minute. And if you believe yourself to be a mind reader of Mr. Peters, perhaps you should try reading mine. This site emphasized FREEDOM of CHOICE, and RESPONSIBILITY for ACTIONS; we call that LIBERTY. What do you call it? I call your alarmist remarks insecure fearmongering. Those are hallmarks of sheeple, and people easily subdued by tyrants; standard fare from most people of my generation.
      And it’s only gotten worse with each one since.

    • And no one is asking why these battery cars keep hitting CONCRETE creations. Is the concrete playing havoc with the sensors that determine the position of the car? Li ion batteries are far more hazardous than any other class of batteries, hence airlines ban them from the cargo holds because Li batteries started several fires in airline cargo holds. Maybe the batteries in the previous 2 fatalities with concrete were caused by the batteries being compromised, and maybe the batteries overheating?

      • Boeing doesn’t seem to have any trouble using lithium batteries in their 787, now that they are buying them from a higher quality maker.

        • Devices with lithium batteries are not allowed in cargo holds on airplanes, because they can self combust. And the fire take place where it cannot be fought. That’s why if you take Li batteries on a plane, you have to take them in the passenger area, where fire fighting equipment can be employed to take down a fire.

        • Bill May 11, 2018 at 3:34 pm
          Several Boeing 787s have been brought down by smoldering lithium batteries.

          Brought Down? Have I overlooked a recent rash of Boeing/Li-ion battery crashes recently, or do mean “emergency landings”? I know I live under a rock, but this is a pretty astounding revelation, isn’t it?

          Make up your mind Bill, is there a 787 crash epidemic, or not? What did you say earlier? Oh Yeah…..something about “all these experts who can come up with a solution”? Got a cure for gravity yet, cause I’m sure the rest of us would love to hear it.

            • Hi Bill,

              Graves is a longtime friend and local amigo of mine. I wish this petty sniping would stop. It adds nothing to the usually intelligent and civil discussion here.

              • Hi Eric,
                As always, I am at your disposal, and greatly appreciate the open forum you have allowed to exist here. I shall refrain from engaging in any more abusive “chatroom” behavior, as it is unbecoming of our mutual professionalism. This, of course, may not include my occasional emotional rants regarding politics, or my perverse sense of humor. I shall keep all of it, however, in the best of spirits, true to your intent of this quality editorial. Cheers!

                  • Hi Moose!

                    If I had the budget, I’d buy a Tesla and drag it out into the field, see how many rounds of 7.62 it would take to light one up… 🙂

                    • No doubt it would be a more comprehensive safety study than anything the manufacturer’s done!

                    • Maybe one of those guys on youtube salvaging TM cars could sell you a defective/damaged module that still has charge in it for target practice.

      • to5:
        Concrete barriers are no more a “problem” that the Semi-trailer that decapitated the first Tesla fatality. What most of the public fails to comprehend is that the sensors are NOT failing, it is a matter of driving priorities that are part of the “auto-drive” programming. Most everyone is assuming that all the system in the car are active, and that the program simulates how WE would prioritize and interpret the driving environment. There is a vid on YouTube somewhere, I watched as a Tesla owner tried to actually figure out the “programmer’s” driving priorities. Turns out that “by the program priorities”, the car uses optical sensors to follow the lane markings, and does not utilize the “available” on-board radar, until line visibility is lost. At which point it will use radar to follow the path of a vehicle ahead of it, of a cliff, if need be. Further, since the “driver” cannot know what the program is “interpreting at any given moment, how can anyone “know” when they are beyond the point of no return before”taking control” from the auto-drive system. This would be tant amount to putting your inexperienced teenager, in the driver seat and taking a nap. Worse yet, this “teeneager” can’t be watched for signs of confusion, indecision, or lack of situational awareness, the last of which is what is killing the owners of these cars! You and I (should we choose to actually pay attention to traffic) have a situational awareness and an endless amount of scenarios which play through our minds as we decide, and un-decide, where, when, how and WHY we act and react in regards to controlling the automobile. The “why” is something no computer program can ever accomplish, simply because it lacks FREE WILL, which, btw, is the determining factor of “autonomy”, and more importantly, our human rights and liberties. No program knows fear, joy, reward, or consequence. We make millions of decisions a day and thousand whilst driving, many of which greatly affect our driving performance, if not the outcome of our own fate. Want to try to9 write a program that can even attempt that? Anything a machine or computer progam does MUST be preconceived, and that’s a pretty tall order when dealing in an indecisive human environment such as driving. Total environmental control would be necessary for automated driving to be successful, and don’t think the PTB are not already aware of this, because, frankly, that is ultimately what they wish to have over you and me! So people need to wake up to what they are ASKING for, because I am convinced they don’t actually understand that they will get it, and not in the form they were expecting!

    • Slow and extra low speed limits kill more people than the higher limits. Bores people to sleep and focuses attention on the speedo, when attention should be on the road. Also air bags, seat belts, and abs brakes most likely kill more than save. Ask any nurse or doctor who works in an emergency ward and they will tell you the truth.

      • Doctors and nurses usually have little more than anecdotal information about anything, and they really don’t need to know the cause of a trauma to fix it. Traffic investigators would be far more likely to know the cause of a accident, let alone care about it.

    • I owned a 1974 Pinto. By the time that model came out, the original flimsy rear bumper was replaced with a virtual I-beam. I was whacked hard in the rear several times with only minor damage. I wish my current car had a bumper like that.

    • The reason for the accident doesn’t matter. The fact that the car was unsafe to drive is all that matters. The owners were not aware of the dangers of such a vehicle being involved in any type of accident is the tipping point.

      Me, if I were a parent of the child involved, would be suing the shit out of Tesla. Might not get shit but hell the bad pub would be worth the effort!

      • My 40+ clean driving record tells me that the sentient part of the vehicle/driver combination deserves all of the responsibility for the safety of the pair.
        You appear to have a defective version of the libertarian ethic running on a failing hard drive.

  7. Electric cars will never be practical for general use, for all the reasons we have said many times.

    And most of those problems are due to the batteries. As long as that is the favored fuel source, things won’t change. There hasn’t been a major break-through at all, and likely never will be. It just doesn’t work. They will be too expensive, too heavy, too unsafe, too short a range, too long a recharge, and not very green.

    Until they come up with something to replace what we think of as a battery, electric cars will continue to be expensive toys for the rich and connected.

    • What else besides batteries could be the favored fuel (sic) source for electric vehicles?
      What else do you think of as a battery besides a battery?
      We should never have given up on trolleys.
      Hybrids are the best solution for every problem that electric cars have.

      • That’s the problem with electric cars, there isn’t a practical technology out there to power it. I don’t see any chemical battery ever being practical enough. They just won’t work. They need to move on to something else.

        In that case hybrids are the best solution at the moment. But they are far from a great solution. They are expensive, complex, heavy just to name a few. If economy was the goal, they are generally a huge failure. They are too expensive to buy. They don’t save enough money to justify the extra cost. They will never be the same cost as a gas car, due to the complexity of basically two power systems. Gas and electric power the wheels so you get all that weight.

        If you are looking for economy you could take a couple hundred pounds of weight off a IC car for the same result for far less money and ditching the complexity of the hybrid.

        What I don’t get is why they don’t build a hybrid car like a train loco. That’s a hybrid that’s been around almost 80 years now. The wheels are powered 100% by the electric motors. They are never driven directly by the diesel engine. So there isn’t a big heavy transmission. There also isn’t a big bank of batteries to supply the electric motors. The diesel provides 100% of the electric generation. A train loco is still huge, but imagine how much bigger it would be with a transmission and batterie banks. That is basically what a hybrid car is, its taking all this extra crap along.

        Have a gas (or diesel) engine that only is an electric generator. No transmission would be needed since it wouldn’t be hooked up to the wheels at all. Electric motors to propel the car, using the power generated by the gas. No battery banks at all.

        Why does the gas engine have to be connected to the drive wheels, and why does the electric motors need batteries? Make it more simple, ditch those two things and it would shave some weight.

        All this really is a pointless exercise. We really don’t need to make a switch at all. The majority of the problems of gas and diesel engines are already solved.

        • Dear Rich,

          Yup. EVs would be great if the power source issue could be solved by substituting something else for batteries.

          The low efficiency of batteries is the fly in the EV ointment. Otherwise EVs would be the essence of simplicity. They would be scaled up slot cars. They would be the ne plus ultra of the KISS principle.

          Until some radical alternative to batteries can be found, EVs will remain glorified golf carts.

          As it is, diesel seems to make the most sense of all. But lo and behold, look what Big Brother does to VW and others who provide them. Sheer madness.

        • I remember electric buses in Vancouver Canada during the 50s.

          No batteries. Instead they had overhead power lines and a pole extending from the bus up to them. Problem solved.

          Of course that’s only for buses with fixed routes, or street cars,

            • “Bill”

              Your frantic attempts to “pwn” everyone in sight with snarky one liners merely make you look like someone who desperately needs to prove his own worth.

              Word to the wise. Why not adopt a constructive attitude instead?

              Also, your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired, My point about the electric buses and electric streetcars I rode on as a child in Vancouver was not their size, but the fact that mass transit has fixed routes.

              If you weren’t in such a hurry to “pwn” everyone in sight, like a mass shooter, you might have gotten that.

              • Morning, Bevin!

                I apologize on behalf of Bill – whom I hope will take your reply (and mine) in the spirit intended. Pecking at people who are on our side – which needs all the people it can get – isn’t productive.

                Let’s train our fire on the common enemy – and attack their authoritarianism and collectivism, not petty and ultimately irrelevant things.

                • Dear Eric,

                  No apology needed. I assumed that “Bill” was a troll from the other side, out to sabotage the forum.

                  I hope I’m wrong about that, and that he is merely unintentionally abrasive. I agree of course about the common enemy.

                  Let me take the opportunity to express my deep regret about the personal and professional price you have paid as a result of upholding your principles.

                  It’s gotta be painful as hell. Most of my life I have clung to the belief that virtue will be rewarded in this lifetime. But sad to say far too many life experiences have not borne this out.

                  The grotesque injustices visited upon VW executives in charge of Diesel cars is a clear example as well. Prison terms for being good engineers? Atlas Shrugged was a documentary.

                  When will justice prevail? Will it ever prevail? The zombie apocalypse is not in our future. It has already happened.

                • Eric,
                  I had this same problem while working in the Colorado Libertarian Party office in Denver after the Republicans took over.
                  Anytime that a difference in opinion becomes a justification for the application of an ad hominem argument, no further conversation will be constructive. Since that justification is granted validity here, my presence is of no further value.

                  • Hi Bill,

                    Differences of opinion are more than welcome here. What sometimes grates is petty correction over (as an example) grammar/usage or (another example) some tangential comment. It serves no good purpose. It merely annoys people who are in general agreement about the things which matter.

                    I’ll relate a personal example.

                    I have some friends whose grammar/usage is not quite correct at times. I am also occasionally “guilty” of the same, I hasten to add. In any event, what good purpose would be furthered if I, in the course of conversing with them over an issue of morality, stopped to lecture them about their grammar, even if in fact their usage is incorrect? Does it help me persuade them as regards the moral question at hand? Or have I gratuitously antagonized potential allies in a very important fight over something irrelevant to that fight?

                    • Eric,
                      Would you give any writer more credibility than they give to grammar?
                      I won’t be reading anything further on this site. If grammar is optional, so is reason.

                  • Bill,
                    For one so concerned with proper usage, it is interesting how often you incorrectly characterize an insult or sarcastic comment as an ad hominem argument.

            • Bill, what you’re describing (Street cars that use non-electric cables under the road) are CABLE cars…like in San Fagcisco. A very inefficient system, which requires that the cable be moving all of the time.

        • That’s the economy of size. In many cases, larger is more economical, especially in the cargo transportation industry. This is a very basic engineering principle.

      • A number of years ago, Chrysler engineers developed a fuel-cell car that utilized gasoline as fuel. Although not 100% “clean” it was able to use the existing hydrocarbon-based infrastructure by “cracking gasoline to use its hydrogen component. Of course the bunny-huggers HATE our petroleum-based energy with a passion, so it did not get anywhere.

  8. The Fisker Karma had a bad habit of catching fire even when parked and not plugged into the charger. Where I live there are still gravel roads in rural areas, and a lot of the paved ones are not much better. I worry about damage to the fuel tank or oil pan all the time. At least I’ll never be able to afford a car in which I’ll have to be concerned about the whole battery exploding from a piece of flying gravel.

  9. I own a 1999 Mercedes E320 with the standard 12 V battery under the back seat. Granted it is not a lithium ion but wonder if it ever started leaking would I know it in time to exit, and then what kind of damage could it do ?

    • Hi Tinman,

      It’s lead acid – so the situation’s different. These can emit hydrogen gas (hence cautions about jump starting) but if the case is breached in a wreck (not likely) it’ll just leak; the materials inside won’t combust if they come into contact.

      PS: Old Beetles also had their batteries inside the passenger compartment (under the rear seat).

    • At least 12V batteries don’t explode into a massive fire if they leak or suffer an impact, etc. Worse that happens, is that the wires connected to them get hot, and that’s what starts the fire, and it takes a while (Relatively speaking).

      With the lithiums, they literally explode into massive flames (Watch the vid above- and that’s just a little tiny <5V battery. Imagine a few thousand of those linked together- which is essentially what EV are- and imagine the voltage that can be created when a whole lot of those small batteries that make-up the big pattery pack, short across each other, from being rearranged by the impact and crumpling of an accident!)

      • But a hazmat team has to clean up the hydrochloric acid that is spilled, legally.
        This is similar to the fact that any dentist can install a dental amalgam, but only one equipped to dispose of mercury can remove one, legally.
        It is interesting that so many experts on automotive design are unable to give a single suggestion to improve the safety of an inherently unsafe product.

        • It is not necessary to have a hazmat team clean up an HCl spill. Just dilute the acid with lots of water will take care of the problem. Overreaction here if that is what is going on.

            • Maybe it depends on tghe level on communism where one lives, but thus far, everywhere I’ve been, when it comes to mere gas, oil, battery mess from car and truck accidents….the wannabe cops (a.k.a. fire pisser-outters) just throw some expensive kitty litter (Speedi-dri) on the puddles, and mop it up. (Usually leaving enough oil residue to ensure that a motorcyclist goes down at the same site)

  10. Just have to point out hat a diesel is even safer than a gas powered car. Imagine the chutzpah of trying to claim fuel oil can explode, as for example in a center wing tank …

      • Hi Bill,

        No, they don’t – not modern ones, anyhow. I’ve driven most of them – in single digits – and they all start as immediately as gas engines; no waiting on the glow plugs to warm. Also, refueling in below-freezing weather isn’t an issue unless we’re talking extremely below freezing weather!

          • Sure!

            I live in the country; I have a diesel tractor. But as far as new/recent diesel-powered vehicles: What I said earlier. They all start right up in single digit weather, no issues refueling.

            • How well do they start when it is minus 30 outside and the fuel is gelled? Do Teslas have trouble at single digits?

              • My diesel Jetta started just fine in dougle digit sub zero weather in upstate NH.

                Yes, they do, according to the OP.

                Lithium ion batteries won’t charge when they are below freezing.

                  • In NH all on road diesel and home heating oil is #2 ultra low sulfur fuel.

                    NH is in the United States, so which temperature scale do you think he was using?

  11. “Meanwhile, Teslas are killing people.
    Not because of a design defect.
    But because of the way they’re designed.”Clover

    Ridiculous, you could say this about any car. If a gas car rolls over and leaks gas everywhere and ignites – that’s the way it was designed! If the air bag deploys in a head on accident and blinds the person – that’s the way it was designed!

    But you have an interesting website here and I’m sure I’ll be back, thanks for the read.

    • Clover,

      It never ceases to amaze me how rare the capacity to read and comprehend is out there. I explained exactly why EV battery packs are more dangerous than gas tanks. A gas tank can be punctured and gas leaks out of it – and it’s not particularly dangerous unless there’s an ignition source at hand. Lithium ion batteries contain reactive compounds that will burn if they mix. And the battery pack is more vulnerable to damage because it is more exposed to damage.

      PS: I oppose mandatory air bags for exactly the reason you described.

      • Gee,
        I could say all cars are great utility vehicles “because they are designed that way”, too. But I would be sadly mistaken. It is interesting to see the B.S. that Trolls like Clover employ to sabotage reason and uphold their religious fanaticism. His “argument” sounds to me like the psychobabble of a Tesla-owner-wannabe-fanboi-Musk-worshiper.

  12. Eric, relax a bit on Tesla. Sheesh, they’ve had 2 cars burn in all these years. How many gasoline cars burn every week? No tearjerker articles about that?

    • Hi Synickel,

      The comparison you make is more than slightly disingenuous. There are millions of IC cars in service; only a relative handful of Teslas. And the fundamental point is the inherently greater danger of a fire in an EV, for all the reasons explained in the article.

      Gasoline is safer. You can shake a gas can (or tank) and the risk of a fire doesn’t increase. You can dent/damage the tank and it doesn’t affect the gasoline inside the tank. Even if the gas leaks, it’s just a mess. No fire, unless there’s an ignition source. And the tank is confined to just one area of the car. A frontal impact presents no risk to the usually rear-mounted gas tank. But in an EV, the battery pack runs the length of the car, so it can be damaged by an impact anywhere – the fire risk is therefore greater. A ssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety issue. Yet no bleating. Why?

      There are also the charging issues discussed – which you seem to have forgotten about.

      I’m also planning an article that gets into the creepy way Tesla maintains control over the cars after purchase, via what amounts to an electronic umbilical cord. Were you aware that Tesla can effectively render one of their cars useless to its “owner” at will – by de-coupling it from the Supercharger grid? And via other, similar methods?

      There is almost no news coverage of this, either. Why?

      Imagine the coverage if GM or Ford did the same or similar.

      Musk is crony capitalist – and also a cretin.

      • One time, while working as the manager of a service station, I was pumping gasoline while smoking. When I was ordered by a customer to put the cigarette out, I did so by throwing it into a puddle of gasoline. The customer was not happy to be advised of such.

        • In 1988, a cigarette butt was thrown into a waste container at an ammonium nitrate plant in Henderson Valley, Nevada. 11 million tons of fuel went up in flames, creating a fire that hit the 16 inch gas main under the plant causing an earthquake felt for 1000 miles. 2 lives lost, +80 injuries, and several businesses destroyed.

      • Eric – I completely agree about the umbilical cord, but GM and other manufacturers have the same umbilical cord attached to their cars, gas or electric. Theirs might be longer and more invisible. Think GM onstar and other systems that other manufacturers have made ubiquitous in their cars.

    • “How many gasoline cars burn every week?”

      A complete overview of vehicle fire patterns and trends and the U.S. highway vehicle fire problem. Includes trend tables, type of vehicle, time of day, month of year, day of week, heat source, area of origin, item first ignited and more.

      Report: NFPA’s “U.S. Vehicle Fire Trends and Patterns” Author: Marty Ahrens Issued: June 2010

      https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fire-statistics/Vehicle-fires/Vehicle-fire-trends-and-patterns

      My quick take:
      287,000 vehicle fires per year. Which is like 1 in 1000 US registered vehicles. 441 civilian deaths

      Tesla has 185,000 or so vehicles on the roads in the US, I think. This seems high, about 1 in 1000 vehicles in the US is a Tesla? And 3 fire deaths from Tesla, one last year and 2 this year.

      If you scale up Tesla to the total vehicles in the US by multiplying by 1000 then from the data you are looking at 1000 to 2000 fire deaths in Teslas vs the actual 450 or so from Internal Combustion vehicles.

      Yes I played fast and loose with the numbers and statistics. Feel free to post your own analysis. Teslas are all new, does battery fire risk go up or down with time? IC vehicle fires are often electrical fires that spread. IC vehicles are often older or decrepit. When Tesla type monitoring of automobile systems becomes common in IC cars, the fire risk should go down. I suspect Tesla drivers are more aggressive, so comparing Tesla to more aggressive IC cars might be a better representation.

      • Just looking at “fires” in IC vs. EVs doesn’t really tell the story, ’cause most of the fires in the IC vehicles, are also….electrical in nature, as opposed to being caused by the liquid fuel.

        So ALL modern vehicles are prone to electrical fires…but the thing with the Teslas is, that the batteries present another opportunity for a fire (An opportunity which is not present at all in an IC car), and is far more likely to be triggered [Much like the people who drive Teslas! 😉 ] in an accident; and is FAR more likely to be catastrophic and deadly.

        • I think in IC cars fires can be caused by leaked fuel or oil vapors being ignited by a spark. This probably cannot happen in EVs. The problem with EV batteries is they have the equivalent of fuel and oxigen in close proximity.

          • They can be caused by leaked fuel igniting- but that’s not very common- especially since most vehicles are outfitted with devices that shut down the fuel pump in the event of a strong impact or rollover.

            Most car fires are electrical in nature- more so now, than ever- with all of the electronics modern cars contain. A wire gets hot and starts a fire, which wouldn’t be so big of a deal…until all of the plastic and rubber starts to burn.

            Gas is pretty darn safe, as long as it is stored properly. It’s the gas fumes that are the dangerous things, which when exposed to an ignition source/spark, will EXPLODED- but in cars, that virtually never happens, as gas tanks and fuel systems are properly pressurized.

            I once had an old tow truck, and I smelled gas. I stopped to see what was going on. Gas was spraying onto my intake manifold from where the fuel line went into the carburetor. I drove the truck home a few miles like that…no problemo.

            I never looked at the stats (or even know if they have such data) but I’d be willing to bet that most IC car fires are the result of electrical issues, and happen when the car is sitting or just being normally driven- i.e. not in an accident.

            Having been in the junk business for quite a few years in the past, I’d NEVER once seen a wrecked car that was also burnt. It was always either wrecked…or burnt. Now I know some cars do experience fires from being in crashes- I’ve heard of a few…but from the thousands of cars I’ve personally seen, I’d say it must be very rare.

          • Nunzio is correct, and your idiotic wisecracks toward what Nunz has to contribute, don’t change the facts. I have seen numerous automotive fires started by defective electrical components. And Yes, plastic wire insulation at the correct temperature IS flammable. Would you believe that wooden escalator steps can, under ideal conditions, also be flammable, even to the point of becoming explosive? Electricity is not only an ignition source, but it is also can be very dangerous source of heat. And YES, a pure oxygen atmosphere is extremely flammable, if in doubt, refer to Apollo-1

            • Which college level textbook told you the difference between an oxidizer and a flammable? Fireman know more about it than you will ever understand.

  13. Just waiting for the inevitable safety mandates to start raining down on Tesla and all EV’s in general. Required fire suppression and power supply coolant systems along with their required built in redundancies would really make these already exclusive vehicles super expensive to own.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      That is an excellent point! For saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety, surely such things ought to be mandated. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety can be set aside when it conflicts with an agenda.

    • I’m sure it’s in the pipelines. The first order is to transition as many drivers as possible into EV’s, and once enough people have made that financial commitment our glorious leaders can start to reimpose all kinds of safety mandates, fuel consumption charges, distance restrictions, etc.

  14. In the news story I read it was reported that witnesses said the two were struggling to get out of the car but couldn’t. This implies a door latch design problem to me. A crash not bad enough to incapacitate the occupants should also not be bad enough to jam the doors. Another possibility, one of those stupid electric latch systems with the not so easy to find mechanical override. Those are even in some gasoline powered cars and have killed.

    Why they couldn’t bust a window is another story, but I recently read of a teen boy who got trapped by the hideaway 3rd row seat in a minivan and died from suffocation as a result. Even after it was explained I still don’t quite get that one. Not for a teen boy.

    • On the minivan, the seat back rocked back and pinned him at the lungs against the back hatch and his legs were up. Still though he should have had the ability to push up with his hands and arms and was able to make a phone call. tragic none the less.

  15. Can you say sorry crony bought – off Congress motherfuckers? I want to remind everyone it was that non-illustrious bunch of scum who gave a legislative bye to pure electrics in regards to crumple zones, air bags and other horseshit all other vehicles must have.

    Otherwise you could buy pickups like I once designed with “oilfield front ends that would be made of high strength diamond plate and bumpers you use as pushbars and winch mounts capable of being used to pick up the entire truck using graders, dozers and tractors of various sorts circa a 1954 Mack LS O model.

    Just think when all companies make these death traps up to a quarter million each….at current legislative fatwa. The old song We’re In the Money for auto makers comes to mind while another old song for taxpayers comes to mind, We’re In the Poorhouse Now.

  16. 3.2 million Ford Pintos were produced, with a grand total of 29 fire-related deaths. Tesla has produced one tenth the number of Teslas of all models, about 300,000. I have not been able to find any figures regarding the number of fire deaths in Teslas (funny how that info seems so impossible to find!) but just from news reports I can rember, it’s more than 3, which means any Tesla is more deadly than a Ford Pinto. If it weren’t for Musk and Tesla’s government privileges and the left’s blind ideological worship of their “Real life Iron man” whom they believe is single-handedly ushering in the electric self-driving car utopia to save the Earth, Tesla would be bankrupted and Musk would probably be in prison.

    • Exactly. Tesla Motors gets away with things that would have Ford, GM and practically any other established automaker skewered. Remember what CU did to Suzuki? Drive your Suzuki Samurai like a complete moron and it could roll over. Shocking. But the media attacked none the less. Audi’s “crime” of putting the pedals close together to facilitate heel and toe damn near got them destroyed. Oh and of course the start of the mess, the Corvair being slightly behind the curve of rear engine car suspension design…. But Musk, I just wonder if there is something he can’t get away with.

    • I just did a quick search of Nader and Tesla and found nothing. I’m not going to waste my time on doing the same with Claybrook.

      Some guy named Peters wrote a piece some months ago in The American Spectator entitled “Where’s Ralph”.

      • Thanks Aljer!

        It’s amazing, isn’t it, that so few people notice the Silence of Ralph (and Joan) on this business? It reveals them to be first-magnitude shysters, pushing an agenda…and it’s not saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety!

          • I swear, we have more news here than the Drudge Report. I don’t have to take a great deal of news site e’s, just read ericpetersautos.com

            • Morning, Eight!

              That comment made my day; thank you! And I feel the same about the things I learn here. This site has a group of smart, well-informed and well-spoken people and it makes me proud. Thanks, all of you!

              • Of course we are, Eric! And most of us happen to also work, and don’t have time, or money, to pursue a PHD, just to have a piece of paper “proving” our intellect. My older brother is the only one in our family with a PHD, but refuses to even move his own belongings every time he transfers to a different University. In fact, he won’t even move his own things when he changes residences in the same town! His motto is to never work hard, only work smart, i.e. con friends, parents and other family members to do it for him.

              • Eric, the kind of posters this site attracts are just a reflection of your own intelligence, integrity, and the high quality of your journalism.

          • I have had direct experience with both tires in that article, and it isn’t the fault of the tires. The biggest mistake all these people, researchers included, are making, is that they are scrutinizing the symptoms, and completely overlook the actual causes. Examples?:
            I have used Dunlop 402s on my Hondas before, because they happen to match in size, front and rear. They are very good handling bike tires. People have a bad habit of running underinflated tires on cars and bikes, which makes either vehicle handle badly and overheats the tires to the point of belt failure. Harleys begin by being on the fringe of overweight, to put it mildly, and then you add 2 250 lb. riders plus luggage?…….well, I’ll just leave that one there.
            The RV tire mentioned was on my father’s 2003 E-450 V-10 powered Camper, which my brother now owns. My father kept the tires properly inflated, but at about the 3-year mark on the RV, any tires he put on the rear, even new Firestones, were overheating and breaking belts.
            The problem turned out to be the faulty FORD disc brakes on the front AND rear. The mounting brackets were swelling from rust (yes, at 3 years old) and causing brake siezure, which he discovered after a lengthy experiment with pressure balancing hoses (dual rear wheels) and spot checking with a hand-held infrared temperature gun. The brakes were heating the wheels to around 500 degrees in about 40 minutes or less, and when he would stop for gasoline, the temp. increased as well. The internal belts were breaking when at a standstill from the lack of air movement, and he would then feel the tire bumping as he pulled away from the gas pumps. The solution was to repair the defective brakes properly, all around, and there were no more tire issues!

            • Hi Graves,

              Excellent stuff, as always… gonna have to put you on the payroll one of these days. Well, when I can afford to have a payroll!

              • Experience gives most of us here insight, but the nature of our jobs usually only allows us to help those we are in direct contact with, no the rest of the suffering masses. So we come here and bitch, err… advise others via your generous exposure with your public forum. You allow us to share with others what we generally would otherwise have to keep to ourselves and our “relatively” few clients!

            • Ford had a problem several years ago with tires exploding at high speeds. Firestone copped the blame, but the problem was that on the assembly line of the vehicles, the chains moving the vehicles down the line were rubbing against the inner walls of the tires, weakening the belts. But you will never hear Ford tell you that. One of their engineers told me.

              • Ummm……that is amazing. How do you suppose the belts were damaged without leaving visible marks on the tires? Sounds like another leaky Beetle water pump story to me. Would it surprise you to know that the belts were failing due to heat-fatigue caused by underinflation? Firestone took 1/2 the blame for being the Tire-Brand, Ford took 1/2 for posting low inflation pressures on the doorpost sticker. None of the “victims” bore any responsibility for not having enough sense to keep the tires adequately inflated.

                • Hi Graves,

                  I remember this fiasco as if it happened yesterday. I was at The Times in DC, covering it up close and personal. Inside baseball: Almost all the SUV rollovers at issue occurred in hot places like Texas and after some imbecile drove at sustained high speeds (80-plus, often) on balding/under-inflated tires.

                  In other words, the problem was due almost entirely to driver/owner negligence. It was not “defective design,” of either the tires or the Explorer.

                • No Graves, I know an employee of Ford who worked in the steering division of Ford. She knew the cause because she saw the company docs. That’s when that Aussie Nasser was running Ford into the ground. She also told me about the steering column fiasco in which a Euro engineer tried to use the wrong bearings in Euro Fords. Cost 8 lives and the guy took his own life.
                  The marks on the INside of the tires would be hard to see.

                  • to5;
                    Company docs. aside, there were no marks on the actual tires I changed for those people in question, and I personally did more than 50 sets of them. They were being run underinflated. Having handled the very tires in question, I can promise you they had no chain marks, nor were the sidewall belts damaged from any outside source other than running underinflated. This will happen to the sidewall of any grossly underinflated tire. I have seen this for over 40 years, long before, and long after the Ford/Firestone Fiasco. I can sit and rub chains on tires all day long and the sidewall belts do not fail. If they fail from chains brushing the sidewall then everyone using chains in the snow for hundreds of miles, and for the last 10 decadses, would also be having blowouts. Your story is heresay and 100 years of tire and chain use says that does not happen, regardless of my words. I don’t know what your friend saw, read, or said, but tires do not do this without serious visible damage, unless they are constructed improperly or have been run underinflated for extended lengths of time at highway speeds. A “cover-up” of non-pertinent information does not a conspiracy make.

                • I had a chat with my tire dealer recently. He said he inflated my tires to 38 psi and I came into his shop with tires at 28psi. He said bigger tires need more air pressure. I pointed out my info source as being the tire placard on the vehicle. He told me auto companies determine tire pressure to give the softest ride, and not the best tire life or tire safety net. So now I run my 16 inch tires at 38 psi rather than the 28 recommended by the car maker.

              • A lubrication engineer told me that improper lubrication of the molds at firestone led to wear of the equipment, it got sloppy, and stated to produce tires that had defects.

                In any case I believe it was multivariate problem where various elements came together. But had owners cared for their vehicles properly it would have just been a tire with poor service life.

        • Even though old and decrepit, Ralph’s probably got such a boner from seeing this “green” EV agenda advancing so….

          He seems to hate anything that involves a profit….so naturally, he doesn’t have a beef with E-loon.

  17. Something which shows how flammable these batteries are is, if anyone watches The Grand Tour on Amazon, after Hammod crashed the electric hypercar, apparently the thing kept spontaneously catching on fire for up to a week after the crash!! Imagine if any other car did that how quickly it would be banned!!

  18. Hi Eric, correct me if im wrong but seem to remember back in the 80s, when tiny Japanese mini vans were coming to the US with the engine below the drivers seat, many people (including my dad and one of my uncles who was a mechanic) refused to ride in them….. saying that they were unsafe as the engine was right under you… and as my uncle said if it blew up would blow him straight back to the creator…… Was that really a thing or do I just remember incorrectly (as my dad / uncle didnt like them and preferred the big American vans instead)..

    That in mind – I wonder how many today even think that they are sitting on something so flammable and explosive right under them in these electrics….

    • A lot of buses and military vehicles have you sitting on top of the engine. Likewise, fuel tanks are sometimes right under the seat of the passenger or driver.

      Gasoline and diesel are not nearly as dangerous as these batteries. There was a Mythbusters episode where they tried to get a gas tank to “blow up” similar to the movies. If I recall, in the end they ended up having to use explosives to make the gas tank to blow up.

      • Hi Michael,

        Yup. Even a punctured tank and leaking gas is only a problem if there’s a spark or extreme high heat. Otherwise the gas will just . . . leak. A spill – as such – is no big deal because there’s nothing necessarily reactive to set it off. But when a lithium ion battery is compromised, the stuff inside is now very compromised.

        These fires are also explosive in a way that gas fires aren’t. Gas in the open will just flame, it doesn’t explode. Lithium-ion spits and pops nasty stuff all over.

        • My son ran off the road recently and punctured his plastic fuel tank. We put 10 liters of fuel in it to get the car home for repair which petrol mostly leaked out over the distance of 10 km. No fire took place.

          • Hi to5,

            Yup.

            My old ’98 pick-up developed a pinhole leak in the fuel line that runs from the tank to the frame rail. It was spraying a goodly amount of fuel all over the place, but no fire – because no ignition source.

            One can fill a bathtub with gas and take a dip. It won’t be pleasant; it’ll reek – but there’s no certainty of a fire. Mix the contents of a lithium ion battery and see what happens…

          • I bought a van once, that had come from a Copart auction- and it seems that the forklift tines had put a huge slash in the gas tank right along one of the straps that supports the tank.

            Not knowing this, I go to fill the van’s 40-gallon tank up- and notice (not until I had pumped at least 15 gallons) that the gas was pouring out onto the ground! “My precious gas!!!!!”

            I drove the van home (’bout half a mile) leaving a trail or gas… I lived in an apartment complex at the time. Parked in the hinterlands, away from things, like people walking by with cigarettes. Got some pans and buckets and gas cans, and recaptured some of the gas……

      • NBC “News” got Chevy pickups to explode by using model rocket engines in close proximity to the fuel tanks. The story was about how unsafe they were because the tanks were on the outside of the frame rails, and they needed the rockets to prove it.

    • My dad had a 1965 Dodge van that had the motor right next to you, the driver. Like about 2 feet. I had a 73 Dodge van with the motor right next to the driver and passenger. I’ve driven several large rental vans with the motor right next to you………………………….

  19. Tesla is example #45,678 of a situation that is all too common today, and that situation is this:

    Uncle and The Powers That Be (TPTB) have anointed certain “golden children” whom they favor, or who have curried favor with them, with exceptions to the rules and regulations that apply to everyone else. If you are one such golden child, you can literally get away with murder.

    In the case of Tesla, they’re a “golden child” because TPTB regard their electric cars as environmental saviors against “climate change” and Elon Musk as a Messiah. So, they can get away with end running the saaaaaafety and environmental fatwas that the regulatory ayatollahs impose on the non-favored, and even get away with doing real harm.

    VW executives were sent to pound-me-on-the-daily prison over a tiny misrepresentation in its diesel engines’ emissions, while nobody seems to care about how toxic Teslas’ batteries are to make and dispose of.

    Preston Tucker was shut down when his factory failed to deliver, but Uncle doesn’t care one bit that people put down real money for the Model 3, and the car is still on the drawing board, and may cost a lot more than $35,000.”

    Ford, as mentioned, was raked over the coals over not just the Pinto, but also the Ford Explorer with tire failures, yet the news only devotes a few lines of copy on page 99-Z about people being barbecued in their Tesla.

    And it goes beyond cars: Look at how TPTB savaged Trump over a crude remark about a certain lewd act he may or may not have made 10 years ago, yet looked the other way when their Golden Boys Slick Willie and Ted the Swimmer assaulted and even killed women with whom they were having affairs with.

    That’s what adds insult to injury here!

    • They are building model 3s, but only the expensive versions, not the cheap ones people put the deposits on for the most part.

    • Tucker was shut down when GM made a false accusation about the way Tucker was raising money. Which accusation was never proven, but the money spent by Tucker defending the claim was enough to shut down his factory. GM just didn’t like the competition, and had the power to take Tucker out.

  20. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the surviving passenger – thrown from the car and avoided being burned up with his friends. Gotta remember not to wear my seatbelt if I’m ever in a Tesla.

  21. For some reason, every time I see a photo of E.M., I keep hearing the Tina Turner song from “Thunderdome” in my ears……..”we don’t need another hero”.

      • Lol! The Musk-rat is pretty well-dressed for a Raggedy Man, wouldn’t you say? I’m sure Aunty-Hillary has already hit him up for some campaign bucks, if I know my sleaze-bag politicians.

  22. Well, high school kids have have been killing themselves in cars for decades, why not in a
    Tesla? Of course, kids have no clue what effort it takes most people to earn the kind of money it takes to buy one. Oh, that’s right, we don’t have to buy anything anymore, just walk in, sign loan papers, and drive away happy! Easy come, easy go. With all the Safety Nazis out there demanding immortality, even in the face of a reckless lifestyle, someone is bound to eventually pop out of their pod shrieking, like they did in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Where is “Landrew” when you need him?

      • What planet do you live on, never mind what country? Most beginning drivers do buy “their” first car, used, new, or otherwise. Is the first car they “learn to drive” theirs?
        Probably not, but maybe I am just splitting hairs here. Here’s another one for you.
        Have you taken up residency as the channel cock-blocker? because it really isn’t necessary, except in cases where someone arbitrarily goes around cutting the legs out from under every single other participant on the page, sound familiar? Not that much of your sniping has any relevant content, but you have about a 50% accuracy rate, if that. Why don’t you contribute something interesting, helpful, or just funny? At the risk of being a hypocrite myself, your snotty baiting and your Cliff Clavin “inaccurate factoids” are getting old, give it rest will you?

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