Latest Reader Question: A Fireproof EV?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Nick asks:I saw you article about the Tesla in Florida that was reduced to scrap after a crash caused a runaway combustion in the lithium battery. Is there a way to “fireproof” these cars using some kind of onboard extinguishing system?

My reply: Almost certainly; anything – just about – is technically possible. But at what cost? This is the question that seems to always get shoved under the rug with regard to electric cars – with regard to everything about electric cars. The cars themselves; the infrastructure necessary to support them; the cost in lost time and increased hassle; the cost in lives – etc.

These questions are almost never answered, let alone asked. Which is an odd thing when you stop to think about it. EVs have become a kind of religious totem – the fetish object of a cult. One does not question the totem. One has faith. And those who do ask questions are unbelievers.

Cults are dangerous for precisely these reasons. And for one more reason.

Cults invariably have leaders. People who obtain control – power – over others by using the tools of orthodoxy and obedience.

They also get rich.

Elon Musk has much in common with Benny Hinn and Joel Osten – only instead of fleecing old ladies of their Social Security dole, he fleeces pretty much everyone, including people not even members of his cult – via the wealth transfer schemes which prop up EVs.

Back to your question: An EV could be fitted with its own fire-suppression system; or battery packs could be redesigned in such a way as to be jettisonable in the event of a fire. Or maybe the passenger compartment could be designed to separate from the rest of the car – like the saucer section of the Starship Enterprise.

But it won’t be easy – and it’s not going to be cheap.

. . .

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

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  1. Remember some years ago when the 787 was launched – to reduce weight the backup batteries for all systems (including evacuation lights) are lithium based. One of the initial issues the plane had was smoke from some of the batteries that were damaged (or just overheated in normal course). The FAA then required amongst other things they have some sort of fire suppression system focused on wherever those batteries are.

    but again in the course of a jetliner costing 9 figures a couple extra fire extinguishers (or whatever they put on) probably arent material cost….. for a family sedan however……

    • It is illegal to transport lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold of any US passenger aircraft. They have to be in a carry on. In addition, most airlines have limits for number, type and capacity of LiPo batteries can be in a carry on. While I doubt a flight attendant would kick you off the plane if you had too many batteries, better to not take the chance.

    • Yeah, I remember! I developed the test software for the power control module, but the requirements for the PCM itself (and the connected batteries) were outside my scope of participation.

      Also, spare batteries in carry-on luggage can get the wrong way and get very hot – just sayin’ …..

  2. I don’t see electric cars ever becoming practical enough for general use with batteries as the power source.

    There are just so many issues that would have to be overcome just to be competitive with gasoline. Weight, cost, safety, range & fueling time just to name a few.

    It’s time to think differently when it comes to the power source for electric cars.

    There is a reason why gasoline has been king for the last hundred years, and that really hasn’t changed, no matter what the government thinks.

  3. I wonder what Formula E does with its race cars to prevent fires? They have some serious impacts during the races, but I haven’t seen any fires yet.

  4. It surely sounds that the real problem lies in the lithium-ion battery technology itself.

    Wonder if that logic has struck someone else with the capability to innovate a better battery that isn’t quite so vulnerable.

    In the meantime, the US should sunset subsidies from EV manufacturers. NTSB plus the NHTSA should be investigating Tesla and Musk’s business practices. I just read that both are investigating a Tesla crash in Delray Beach that came about from the autopilot, which may work but is routinely misused.

    Meanwhile I have read elsewhere that China wants to go all EV. Which means that 1) they will be spewing more pollutants from soft coal powered factories into the already polluted air (sure, they’ll put in scrubbers in their ‘show’ plants), 2) average Chinese can go only as far as the next charging station which is surely intended (control), and 3) we are going to start running out of lithium, I’d bet.

  5. Lithium is pretty energetic stuff. It has a valance electron, meaning it easily binds with lots of other stuff. When it bonds it gives up energy. Lots of energy. It really likes to bond with Nitrogen, which is more prevalent than even the dreaded CO2 in our atmosphere. Once it gets going there’s not much can be done to stop it aside from cooling it down and removing air. It is typically stored in mineral oil to prevent it reacting with air, but I imagine using mineral oil to stop a burning battery would probably just cause the oil to burn too.


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