Latest Reader Question: Where Are the Prius Fires? (May 17, 2018)

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Here is the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Laurie asks: So .. . . I drive a Prius hybrid . . . where are the Prius fires?

My reply: Hi Laurie! Well, your Prius isn’t an electric car – even the plug-in version. It is a hybrid. It has a much smaller battery pack than a Tesla or similar electric car. The pack is not spread out over the entire floorpan of your Prius, as it is in the Tesla. It is mounted under the rear seat/cargo area. This means it’s less inherently less vulnerable to physical damage just by dint of its location. I also suspect that its design is a factor. The Tesla’s battery is relatively thin and flat – visualize a layer of cheese on a ham sandwich. If the car strikes a concrete barrier, say, and the front end crumples – so will the battery pack. This probably has something to do with the fires.

Your Prius’ battery, in contrast, is more like a cargo box. And (like a gas tank) it is better protected by dint of where it is mounted/installed. If you run into a concrete barrier, the battery will not be damaged – or is less likely to be damaged – because the front end of the car absorbs the brunt of the impact and the battery isn’t there, so the direct forces of the impact don’t directly threaten it.

Your hybrid does, however, have high-voltage cables which are a safety issue for EMTs!

. . .

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  1. Which, again brings up 2 interesting points. 1: Is it the battery technology, or the method of application, that makes a Tesla inherently lethal? 2: The fact that the Tesla is legally exempt from any and all safety mandates that the Prius must comply with, lead me to believe that the Tesla’s design is innately flawed, and not necessarily the technology it utilizes.


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