Electric Cars Are Hot . . . Literally

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When even The Washington Post begins to cover the electric car’s Fire Problem, you know the problem is becoming too big not to cover.

It has always been a problem – but an under-reported problem – in part because of the corporate media’s being very much a kind of marketing division for the electric car and the subsidies and mandates upon which their existence depends and – more so  – on the “climate change” narrative, without which there would be little if any justification for the subsidies and mandates. Since the corporate media is very much on board with the “climate change” narrative, it is natural it would be favorably inclined toward the electric car and this has been reflected in its coverage – or rather, the lack thereof.

Especially as regards the electric car’s deficits, including the built-in tendency of all electric cars – not just Teslas – to spontaneously combust. As when not being driven. As when parked in the garage – which has led in a number of cases to the garage (and the house attached) burning to the ground.

EVs have two unique problems that make them fire-prone when at rest – in addition to being more likely to burn when hit.

The first is a function of their high-voltage battery packs, which are a lattice-like maze of individual interconnected cells.  A defect in materials or workmanship in any one of these cells can result in a short circuit and what’s known as thermal runaway – which can very quickly lead to a very high-temperature chemical fire that is extremely difficult to stop once it starts and which can re-start, even if all the flames are extinguished – for the same thermal runaway reasons.

An electric car battery fire is fundamentally different from a gasoline fire, which is sparked – literally – and which cannot happen without a spark. A leaking gas tank merely leaks – unless there is a spark. This is why it is less likely that a fire will happen when a gasoline-powered car is involved in an accident. It is even less likely, because the tank must first leak – and that, too, is less likely.

Two things have to happen for a gasoline-powered car to catch fire. First, the gas tank’s physical integrity must be compromised. It is not enough to just damage it. It can be bent, it can be smashed. But for a fire to happen, it must be made to leak gas, as by hitting it hard enough to crack a seam or puncture it.

This is actually pretty hard to do as well as unlikely to happen. First, because the gas tank is  located in one part of the car, usually behind the rear axle – which serves as a physical bulwark protecting the gas tank if the vehicle is rear-ended. If the car runs into something or is hit from the side, there is almost no chance the gas tank will be hit and so it is not likely to be damaged sufficiently to result in a leak.

Even if it is hit hard enough to result in a leak, there must then be a spark – to ignite any leaking gas/fumes. If there is no spark, there will be no fire. Gasoline does not spontaneously combust and for that reason is inherently safer.

This is why even the defective Ford Pinto very rarely caught fire. More than 3 million were made; only a few ever caught fire. Statistically, the fire risk was near-nil.

100 percent nil, if the Pinto was parked.

With electric cars, a fire can happen if there is just a leak – in between the individual cells, as a result of a material defect during manufacture or assembly of the battery pack. Or caused by damage to the structure of the battery pack itself during a wreck. Such damage is more likely to happen because there is much more battery than tank. An electric car’s battery pack usually runs the entire length of the car’s floorpan. It is installed, sandwich-style, like a layer of cheese in between the meat (the “meat” being the car’s floorpans).

This arrangement being necessary to spread out what would otherwise be a hugely bulky battery that would take up an enormous amount of vertical space, which would eat up cargo or passenger space and render the car very impractical for carrying people or cargo.

By laying the battery pack out flat and wide and long, the battery pack takes up less vertical space and so doesn’t intrude upon the car’s interior passenger/cargo space.

But now you have the problem of greater fire risk arising from greater risk of the battery pack’s structural integrity being compromised in the event of any accident. A hit from any angle can damage the battery pack, resulting in a short circuit, thermal runaway – and a runaway fire. A very fast and very hot fire, much more so than a gas fire – which can engulf the entire car in flames – and extremely toxic fumes – so quickly that there is no time to get the people out in time.

There is also a third way electric cars can catch fire.

Thermal runaway risk increases during charging – in particular, what is styled “fast” charging (which takes many times as long as it takes to refuel a non-electric car). Anyone familiar with electric devices knows that high heat attends high voltages, particularly when instilled from source to battery. The “faster” you try to charge up a battery, the more likely the thermal runaway. It is why electric cars have elaborate electronics to modulate the rate at which they are charged  and why they cannot be fully “fast” charged.

At least, not safely.

It is necessary – for safety – to partially charge them, to avoid a thermal runaway – and also because it is harmful to the battery pack’s longevity to “fast” charge it to 100 percent of its capacity. The usual top-off limit is 80 percent of capacity. Which means, of course, that you are 20 percent shy of capacity – and lose 20 percent of whatever the electric car’s advertised maximum range is.

But that is another deficit for another time.

The point is that electric are inherently fire-prone. Three times as prone to fires as non-electric cars. They are more likely to catch fire from a defect during manufacture/assembly; if the battery pack is damaged in an accident  – and while “fueling.”

They are much more likely to burn your house down when parked – and perhaps you along with it.

And the likelihood goes up as more and more electric cars are forced onto the “market” – which is no longer allowed to discipline the manufacture of cars that are inherently more dangerous as well as more expensive and more restrictive.

This has happened, to a great extent, because the mainstream corporate press has declined to enlighten the public about the dangers and deficits of the electric car, having committed itself to the “climate change” narrative that justifies the electric car.

It is of a piece with strange indifference to the harm being caused by the “vaccines,” which are also killing people and putting more at risk of being killed. In both cases, it doesn’t seem to matter – because it’s not saving lives (or the environment) that matters.

I leave it up to you to ponder what does matter, as regards both.

. . .

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Be very afraid:

    ‘In this case first place is the worst place to be’ | July 2021 hottest month on record
    https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/nation-world/july-2021-sets-record-hottest-month-noaa-says/507-c427eb6f-a162-4124-bfb5-98d3e5d28f92

    Hottest by how much? A whopping 0.02 degrees.

    Cue Chicken Littles:
    “This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe.”
    “This is climate change. It is an exclamation mark on a summer of unprecedented heat, drought, wildfires and flooding.”

    But waaay down in the story:
    While the world set a record in July, the United States only tied for its 13th hottest July on record. Even though California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington had their hottest Julys, slightly cooler than normal months in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire kept the nation from approaching record heat levels.

    I remember strings of 100-plus days when I was a kid working in the hayfield, and a few as an adult. The last time it happened, it hovered around 110F for almost a week. That was 20 years ago.

    But anecdotes only count if your paycheck comes from the government – or its lapdog press.

    This stuff is complete bullshit.

    • The previous record holder for tortured data was the last few years of NMSL to show that it was being complied with. Yes, every year of the NMSL official data analysis was that it was complied with. 55mph of course was a zero percentile speed. Statistically nobody drove that slow in free flowing traffic. But government made increasingly complex calculation methods to show compliance.

      For climate data it is far far far worse now. In reality there is cooling and this is clear from things like snow coverage data, first snow of the year, last snow of the year, number of days over temperature X, and so on. The average data is tortured to the point of fiction to keep showing hottest months ever. Wide areas of the planet with no data are assigned record hot temperatures, places with data are adjusted upwards. urban heat island night time temps are used, etc and so on. anything to keep the narrative alive and money flowing. So to get that warmest month ever a lot of work was done.

      • Hi Brent,
        I have no formal training in statistics, but it seems to me that on any given day there will be a “hottest” record set somewhere.
        Every time I read one of these screech-fests, I want to tell them “Welcome to Planet Earth.”

  2. I have not seen this put forward anywhere. So here goes.
    These battery packs are stored between 2 layers of metal and I presume no open vents to circulate air. Batteries generate heat when in use. In a petrol car, the battery sits at the front of the car and is cooled by air flow as the car moves forward. It appears to me that the heat generated by the ev batteries has nowhere to go and can cause the wiring insulation to melt and allow all kinds of other activity to take place. Like sparks from rubbing bare wires coming into contact with metal. The batteries overheat and combust. Thanks to the oxidising chemicals used in the batteries.
    If the batteries are being charged at home, heat gets generated with no where to go, builds up in the battery cavity, starts melting materials, and presto, a fire is started.

  3. I would think that UL or the likes would’ve written an electric car standard that would deal with this problem, given this type of problem is their specialty. But so far, no. I myself would only store these arc-flashes-in-a-can in a detached garage made entirely of asbestos. I wonder if they have some sort of vaccine-style liability immunity that destroys the incentive to make such consensus standards. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

    P.S- EVs are not too different from the Hindenburg. Both are involved with huge amounts of hydrogen gas and both have burned suddenly and violently, killing lots of innocent people.

  4. Elon needs to work for food. Cold dog soup for the beverage of choice.

    How can the charade continue?

    A clear and present danger.

    It will take 400 flights to airlift Americans and refugees out of Afghanistan.

    Biden’s darkest hours have arrived, he’s in the dark in another one of America’s darkest hours once again.

    Dark winter, dark spring, dark summer, dark autumn.are we there yet?

    • ‘Biden’s darkest hours have arrived.’ — drumphish

      “Here and now I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, l’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness,” Biden said.

      “Make no mistake, united we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.” — August 2020

      Fade to black …

  5. There’s a city in GA that shows how practical electric cars can be. It’s too bad those cars aren’t Teslas. They are golf carts. You can do about anything you want locally with a cart and they are more affordable than the other electric options. No need for an expensive Tesla in the garage when one’s power bill can be much lower charging a much smaller, not big tech, battery bank.

    If the climate is the really really big deal they say it is, then such places as this would greatly reduce ICE use to pretty much nothing until the owner of the ICE/golf cart(s) actually needed range.

    https://www.peachtree-city.org/216/Paths-Golf-Carts

  6. I wonder if you have enough time to get out of the car when a dead short occurs due to a manufacturing flaw or damage from an accident. Or even will the door controls work and allow you to escape when a battery failure occurs. Anon

  7. Teslas are overpriced garbage. My sister actually worked at the battery/inverter plant in northern NV in quality control. She kept turning down batteries that didn’t meet spec and had her superiors on multiple occasions over ride her and push them through due to being behind on volume quotas.

    Tesla is a “woke” converged hell hole of a place to work from what she was telling me. Their hiring is based on intersectionality victim Olympics BS, pay is fairly low for auto/manufacturing. She actually quit after a less than a year and said she wouldn’t take a Tesla for half of what they cost. Go figure why they burst into flames while performing an simple overnight “fill up” eh?

    They’re novelty virtue signal cars for when a Subi wagon or Prius doesn’t quite get it.

    • Any engineer worth a damn who’s been putting products out in the market can see what Tesla Motors is from afar. There are things that hit the field from TM that should never see the light of day the way they are and wouldn’t at a real manufacturer. They say Ford, GM, Toyota, etc are “behind”. No they aren’t behind they simply know better to throw crap like that out into the marketplace. Their internal systems built up over decades prevent it. Not that there isn’t the occasional flub from an executive override because that can happen but the big issues like having ‘self driving’ that isn’t and worse is blind to stationary objects when moving at highway speed don’t.

    • Fast charging is higher current. All battery charging is done at the full charge voltage of the battery pack or a little higher. This is usually slightly higher than the rated voltage of the battery. This is for example why when your gasoline powered car is running there’s 14V at the battery instead of 12V. 12V being the rated battery voltage, 14 being what is needed to charge it. And when it’s fully charged it will be close to 13V.

      Now on the charger input and these newer higher voltage packs is where things can get complicated. I don’t know what the pack voltages are these days but a home charger has to go from 220/240V AC at probably no more than 30-40 Amps to whatever the pack voltage in DC is at whatever current is then available.

      Anyway faster charging is bad for batteries. Any batteries. Slow charging is much better for them. Less heat, less chance of fire, longer battery life (as in how long before you replace it the charge it will hold will be the same if the cycle is run to completion rather than to just where further fast charging becomes impossible)

      • Brent,

        When using Level 1 or 2 charging (120 or 240), the electricity goes through the car’s onboard charger. This is because the batteries use DC, so the car’s charger changes the incoming AC to DC. With Supercharging, the onboard charger is bypassed, and the electricity is sent directly to the batteries. This sends up to 120 kW directly to the battery pack.

        • The details of the BMS and charger logic are going to vary from application to application. Unless someone has finally created a standard for all battery EVs.

          What I was wondering if there are now pack voltages of say, 300V. This way the AC from a 240 outlet not only has to be converted to DC but stepped up to 300+V. Or maybe the BMS logic does it by battery sections at lower voltages. There are many ways to skin this cat.

          • Brent,

            Depending on the scheme (i.e. whether the power used for recharging is AC or DC), a transformer would step up AC; a voltage doubler could be used for DC.

  8. There is a bright side to this. The masses won’t be able to afford these vehicles, nor can any conceivable ramp-up of the electrical grid suffice to provide the necessary charging capabilities. Who will drive these self-incinerating mobile crematoria?
    Our betters, of course – the virtuous elite and our dear leaders. Burn baby, burn!

  9. The reality is that chemical batteries just don’t really work in cars for the mainstream market. They just don’t. They are too expensive, too heavy, too complex, too bulky, take too long to refuel and are too dangerous. “Full” electric cars really won’t progress much more unless they radically reconsider how they are fueled. To be honest, a hybrid is probably the closest it can be.

    And of course the main question…. Why electric for vehicles?

    We really don’t need electric cars to begin with. The pollution problem in gas and diesel vehicles was for the most part solved, over 20 years ago.

    There is a reason why the market has and will continue to reject electric cars. Because they really aren’t needed and certainly aren’t wanted.

  10. I’ve been building my own lithium battery packs for RC helicopters since the LiPo chemistry that’s currently used in electric cars was new, and I’ve also made my own chargers to charge these batteries properly, so I’m pretty familiar with how they work, and their presence in a car scares me, because they are a highly volatile battery chemistry.

    They are extremely sensitive to how they are charged, compared to old stuff like lead acids. In a lead acid battery, you just throw around 14V at it, and it’ll charge up. If you overcharge, some of the electrolyte is evaporated, but that doesn’t make the battery dangerous. If you drain a lead acid really low, then sulfur salts deposit in the electrode, making it lose current delivery, which is why a dead car battery never fully recovers, but it doesn’t become dangerous. Compare this to LiPo (Lithium Ion Polymer) which is found in most electric cars. Each cell is nominally 3.65V. When charging the pack, if you ever go above 4.2V, the cell becomes damaged. When using the pack, if you ever drain it below 3.0V, the cell is damaged. What this means is that the polymer starts to break down, and next time you charge, there can be a short. I’ve seen many of these battery packs self ignite without taking any physical damage, and the fire is HOT. I charge them in a cement bowl, it’s got holes melted in it from battery fires, and my batteries only weigh 3 lb.

    Today’s chargers won’t overcharge a battery, which is good, but discharging them too deeply is inevitable. All cells leak current internally, and slowly self discharge at some rate. If you drive your car down to “empty” and let it sit, the voltage will drop very slowly. Now, as I said, those cells are 3.7V each, so if you have a 370V battery pack, you need 100 of them in series. Cells are never uniform voltage, so if you measure pack voltage at any time, you don’t know if there’s a bad cell. Cells have to be monitored individually to spot an outlier that’s getting dangerous. So, Tesla’s battery, as an example, has over 7,000 cells. Do you think they’ve got 7,000 thermistors and voltimiters in there? Not a chance, they monitor cells in big batches, and those can mask problems. They’ve got the safest pack, which will burn out some fuses to disconnect a bad batch of cells, and it’s liquid cooled to prevent hot spots.

    • Tesla battery packs are a terrifying rube goldberg dumpster fire. Thousands of laptop battery cells glued together and packed in the vulnerable underbelly of an overweight zoom and splat gimmick. Without active balancing on every cell it’s only a matter of time before one drops too low or charges too high. The fact that the doors (at least on the S) are electronically operated on a rolling incendiary device demonstrates how meaningful safety considerations were dumped in favor of a gadget reacharound used to lure buyers. I’d commit to daily driving a yugo before a tesla.

    • Tesla has switched to LiFePo battery packs, which are safer but not inherently safe. The issues you point out are still there but odds of an issue are reduced. Many of the LiPO designs allow for dendrites to form across the electrolyte. When they touch the anode they create a path for the electrons that’s shorter than the wires so they can quickly discharge. This is also why they have a limited lifespan. LiFePo designs reduce the likelihood of dendrite formation. Still, a dead short across the terminals or cell puncture will cause thermal runaway as will improper charging.

      • Ahh, yes, you are correct. They are switching some cars to LFP, but not all. It looks like it’s for their lower end models, but their high HP cars and trucks will continue on the LiPo batteries.

        • The trade-off is energy density and max discharge current. LiFePo won’t do ludicrous speed or the “300” mile range. But they are considered safe enough to be used for backup on medical equipment carts. I have a -48V string on my network rack from medical pulls that are designed to be a one for one swap with lead acid. I know a few RVers who are pretty handy who have installed Battle Borne batteries to replace their AGM house batteries and are getting incredible run times and discharge rates to the point they can run their 3-way fridges on solar/inverter indefinitely, saving the propane for heat.

  11. There was also a recent news item about Uncle starting an investigation into Tesla’s so-called autopilot; seems a few of them ran into AGWmobiles that were stopped on the side of the road. Didn’t bother the authorities when mere mundanes were being killed but how dare you harm Uncle’s minions 😆

    • ‘NHTSA says it has identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which TSLA cars on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control have hit vehicles with flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.

      ‘The investigation covers TSLA’s entire current model lineup, the Models Y, X, S and 3 from the 2014 through 2021 model years.’ –ZH

      Tesla has gotten away with murder (not a mere figure of speech) for years. Is Big Gov really gonna pull the plug on Full Self Driving and make Tesla issue a refund to every customer who bought it?

      Doubtful. More likely, Elon will be obliged to rename it as Limited Self Driving (LSD). I’m seein’ trails, bro …

      • Elon is crafty. “Full Self Driving” is a marketing name. Where it comes to regulatory paperwork, they claim no such thing, and classify the system as ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist). ADAS systems result in all accident liability being on the driver of the car.

        The legal precedents around self driving liability are going to play out in courts soon. It seems that L4 and L5 systems, those that are actually fully autonomous, will put the system operators on the hook for accidents, just like your taxi driver is at fault if the taxi crashes, not you, the passenger.

        Elon is trying to have it both ways; full self driving for the masses, but no liability for Tesla. This results in a system where a person has to pay attention to… nothing. Humans don’t work that way. We can’t focus on waiting for a problem to happen, our minds wander.

        I work on real self driving tech. It’s nowhere near close to ready for consumer cars. Sure, trucks, buses, stuff on fixed routes and with limited duty cycles is already here, and getting really good, but the problem for a consumer vehicle is too damn hard to have a system that’s even close to an uber driver anytime soon. I don’t think it’ll happen in the next 10 years.

  12. Just another in a long line of deadly products promoted by the Sociopaths In Charge. Like certain varieties of air bags that we aren’t allowed to disable. Any time they promote a certain product, rest assured, that promotion is NOT in your best interest.

  13. Reading this article makes me think of another virtue of diesel-powered vehicles. Diesel is even less likely to cause a fire than gasoline, considering that it doesn’t vaporize at anywhere close the rate that gasoline does. Also, considering that the risk of a gasoline fire is close to nil, the risk of a diesel fire is a small fraction of “close to nil”.

    • .As the US military quickly discovered in WWII, when the gasoline powered Shermans were nicknamed Ronsons (very good fluid and flint/steel cigarette lighters) because they always lit on the first try. Meanwhile the German tanks were diesel, and were extremely HARD to light

    • Not only that, diesel, kerosene, and jet fuel all have a much higher flash point than gasoline does. The flash point of a substance is the temperature at which combustion will occur when introduced to a spark or other ignition source. You have to have 100 deg F before jet fuel will catch. I worked as an airline fueler years ago, and we were doing fire extinguisher training. The instructors were PUTTING OUT torches in the fuel! It was almost 100 out that day. Gasoline, OTOH, has a flash point around 20-25 deg F…

    • … while the Afghans wonder how they’re going to get food, as the angry, whipped yankee losers retaliate the only way they can:

      The Biden administration froze Afghan government reserves held in US bank accounts, blocking the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars held in US institutions, according to the WaPo.

      Uhhh … poke the Taliban in the eye with a sharp stick, while several thousand US troops remain completely surrounded at Kabul airport?

      ‘Biden’ is so fvcking stupid, it makes you want to cry.

  14. OT: in my part of Dixie it’s not uncommon to see would be Darwin award winners smoking a cigarette while pumping gas. If I see one, I stop what I’m doing & leave immediately. Frankly it’s a testament to the engineers that more people haven’t blown themselves up while pumping gas.

  15. I’m sure a solution to the fire problem is just a few years away-like these wonder batteries I’ve been hearing about all my life.

    • They are like solar panels. “Just around the corner” and they will be mainstream. I’m 47 and they have been saying that for longer than 47 years.

      • I put panels on the house this summer as a tax dodge. I also got some pretty decent incentives from the electricity co-op. My inverter is ready for a battery back up but because there’s an extremely strong demand, probably from California (where they actually need battery backup due to epic/intentional levels of incompetence), I’m looking at next year for that. But I feel a little selfish doing it, people who don’t have the up-front money for panels are subsidizing my installation. Still waiting for the final sign-off and commissioning before it goes into production (hopefully early September at this point), so probably won’t get much benefit this year.

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