By now, most followers of the electric car market know that another Tesla Model S caught fire in early February. The blaze happened in a homeowner’s garage in Toronto. After parking the car, the owner left his garage. Moments later, the smoke detector blared, the fire department was called, and the car was ruined. To date, no one knows why.
Within days, though, three predictable things happened: Media outlets reported the story, electric car proponents complained about the coverage, and electric car non-believers cited the fire as one more reason why EVs are doomed.
None of that surprises anyone, of course. The same news-anger-doom cycle has been repeating itself for about two years, every time an electric car catches fire.
Maybe it’s time to get a grip. For some it may be hard to believe, but the decision to cover or not cover an electric car fire isn’t typically an emotional one. It’s a tough choice. EV technology is still new to a degree. An unknown to many, it's costly, current, and under study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Truth be told, EV proponents are just as interested in this subject as the detractors. If you don’t believe that, look at the Tesla Motors online forums. Commenters there, most of whom are true believers, are buzzing about the latest Model S fire. They too want to know what happened.
At some point we’ll all find out. NHTSA might decide that the Model S needs a thicker armor plate, a different cooling system, some other kind of design tweak.
But if there is a change, it will be a tweak. It won’t be a huge fix. Nor will it be a sign that EV batteries are inherently unsafe. Remember, gasoline is far more energetic than lithium-ion chemistry, as is jet fuel. Yet every day, engineers successfully design safe cars that burn gasoline. They design safe planes that burn jet fuel. They design safe machines that burn coal, hydrogen, and even uranium. In all cases, they take a package of energy, figure out how to use it in a productive way, and then build in safeguards.
There’s no reason they can’t do the same with electric car batteries. Maybe the safeguards need to be strengthened. Doing so may add cost, but it can be done, easily.
To be sure, pure electric cars face challenges ahead. Battery energy density is still low and cost is high. Those are real problems. But the miniscule number of battery fires that have occurred to date shouldn’t cause an issue. The news coverage can and should continue, but the anger and doom need to be ratcheted down a few notches.
Engineers will fix this problem. That’s what engineers do.
I think it was poor designs, to locate a large lithium automotive battery so close to the roadway with such light protection. Customers of Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, and Toyotas Rav4EV allegedly haven't had any fires from road debris or vehicle accidents; yet Tesla has recently had three.
I think Tesla poorly designed some of its charge connections. Some of the charge connections seem to be not to be robust enough for the amount of current duration. Also the configuration of adapters puts an undue amount of stress on the wall outlets and connectors which can lead to outlet failures, connector failures and fires. Also the design configuration puts a lot of connections close together which allows the concentration of heat and increases the probability of fire. In my opinion they are poor engineering designs that are fire hazards.
What about the Tesla related garage fire in Toronto? The public should know what the fire department investigation found. I would prefer an independent non-bias investigation. What caused the Tesla related garage fire in Toronto? I'm hoping to hear reports from the fire departments investigation, because I don't trust Tesla's "fire investigations", which seem more like coverups.
Why is Tesla Motors dragging its feet on Tesla charger related fire hazard recall? When is Tesla motors going to comply with the recall? It wasn't until people reported the charger problems to the media and government that Tesla declared a recall. Tesla charging systems have been known to be hazardous for about a year, yet the safety hazards have not been fixed.
Tesla Motors manufactures more excuses & hype, then cars. Tesla Motors still has not delivered on the fire hazard recall. Tesla has been dragging its feet on safety and the recall.
There has been at least five significant Tesla related fires.
The most recent Tesla garage fire to hit the news was in Toronto. The car supposedly wasn't even plugged in, so the charging system isn't likely to be a source in that fire.
There has been at least five Tesla fires. Two Teslas caught on fire after only running over road debris. One Tesla caught on fire and EXPLODED after being in an accident in Mexico. There was a Tesla fire in a California garage, that the Tesla charger connection was ruled as a possible source of the fire by the fire department. Recently there was a Tesla garage fire in Toronto, that so far I haven't heard the fire department give a ruling. Arguably there has been scores, possibly hundreds of minor Tesla fires. There has been a plethora of Tesla charge connectors that have overheated, melted and burned. Though many Tesla shills will argue that they are not fire. Categorically and scientifically they are often classified as fire. Rapid oxidation or rapid decomposition from excessive heat is often classified as fire. Like the metaphor; where there is smoke, there is fire.
A few months ago there was a Tesla related garage fire in California that the fire department ruled that the Tesla charging system was a possible source of the fire. The suspect portion of the Tesla charging system that the fire department in California determined was a possible source of the California garage fire, is also suspected in many other Tesla charger reported cases that Tesla charge connections have overheated, melted and burned. Tesla issued a software "fix", however Tesla charge connectors have continued to overheat, melt and burn despite the so-called "fix".
Some customers allege that the charger related software update that is supposed to reduce current when a fault is detected, in some cases actually increases the current. The so-called "fix" has introduced other problems, one of the alleged problems is a safety hazard. One customer claimed that they experienced a glitch that increases current when a fault is detected before the charger related software update. Either way the alleged condition supposedly can dangerously increase the current above user settings.
The Tesla model S. still has defects that make it a fire hazard. Tesla charger connections are still overheating, melting and burning. Tesla batteries are poorly located and poorly protected.
On 01-09-2014 Elon Musk said that replacement adapters that are part of the recall would be mailed out within two weeks. A month later Tesla customers still have not received the replacement adapters that are part of the Tesla model S. recall.
Several people have been injured by faulty Tesla charge connectors. Tesla is big on making promises and hype, but short on delivery. Tesla needs to start making safety a top priority. Tesla needs to stop playing blame games and games with semantics. Tesla needs to stop lying. Tesla needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Tesla is being a follower of technology, rather than a leader. Tesla is a greedy corporation that has a disregard for safety.
The Tesla model S. charger recall is for the vast majority of Tesla model Ss. There is nearly 30,000 Teslas that are part of the recall, that have a potential fire hazard. So far it seems not any customers have been mailed warnings about these fire hazards. Allegedly some customers are only finding out about the recall fire hazards after having failures and then searching the Internet.
The media should do a better job. The vast majority of news coverage on Tesla has been creampuff articles that seem more like advertising then news articles. The media should not give favorable treatment to greedy corporations that skimp on safety. The media should scrutinize Tesla more, instead of shilling for them and treating them with kid gloves.
The news media has done a horrible job covering the Tesla fires and fire hazards. The news media makes it sound like there isn't any Tesla fire hazards. The news media makes it sound like there isn't any problems with Tesla chargers. The news media makes it sound like all of the Tesla charger problems is the fault of wall outlets and house wiring. The news media makes it sound like, Tesla owners have already received replacement adapters under the recall.
The news media should do investigative reporting, instead of shilling for greedy corporations. The news media shouldn't tell lies to inflate stock prices. The media shouldn't be in bed with Tesla. The news media shouldn't be veiled advertising. The news media should be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. The news media should not be sweeping safety hazards under the carpet.
Is faulty Tesla designs going to have to cause deaths before Tesla, Tesla fan boys, and the news media start taking safety seriously? Even then I suspect some of them will try to play blame games.
If Tesla was proactive and a leader of technology, their products would have been better designed.
The Tesla charge connections have been known to be a fire hazard for about a year. That should have been time for Tesla Motors to recognize the problems and come up with engineering solutions. Instead Tesla has been playing blame games, games of semantics and making token efforts.
Tesla and Tesla fan boys should not be censoring, harassing, threatening, slandering and bullying safety advocates, customers with unsafe defective products, critics, and skeptics. Tesla has a culture that has a disregard for safety.
Allegedly nearly 3% (nearly 900) Tesla charger adapters have been returned and or reported defective.
Is a Tesla in an attached garage going to have to catch fire and burn down a house and result in a death of a family before people wake up and smell the coffee?
In my opinion a thermal fuse may reduce the fire hazard, but still does not fix the underlying condition. Tesla charge connectors that are insufficient for the amount of current and duration.
It is inevitable that electric vehicles will become more popular. That's why these designs need to be improved. As these vehicles become more popular and age, the risk increases.
I agree with a lot of what you say here, Jim5437532 (admittedly, I didn't make it through all your links). More will come out about this fire and about the fires being examined by NHTSA, and we will be there to cover it.
I agree with your comments 100%. Although electric vehicles are not new to society, some of it's components are using advanced materials and processes which have no lifecycle data history. Therefore, the product is still maturing in those new technological areas. Unfortunately, there exists a group of individuals who fear change and will do everything to discredit new ideas they may not understand. Engineers have the knowledge and creativity to solve problems be it simple or complex. The Tesla fires are not problems but opportunities for them to stretch their imaginations and create solutions they may bridge into other product categories. Also, non-engineers can participate in the prblem solving search for by scouring the internet for clues to assist in correcting the Tesla's fire concerns. Who knows what new industries and technologies can be created if everyone jumps into the pool of opportunity: the water is fine. Very good article Charles!
My comment, "Also, non-engineers can participate in the prblem solving search for by scouring the internet for clues to assist in correcting the Tesla's fire concerns", I just saw the massive list of postings on EV topics covered by Design News. Again, their is wealth of information available for the enterpreneurial minded inventor to participate in solving the Tesla fires.
When it comes to TESLA and TSLA, nothing really makes sense!
The TSLA share price in $200 range has no president for a company that has demonstrated a loss per every vehicle it ever made (that includes those for TOYOTA and DAIMLER).
As for the fires it is true that they are less frequent than ICE vehicles purely on statistical basis, but it is also true that TESLA fire is BIG news, while just another Porsche fire, gets barely noticed.
EV practicality is in use such as in large cit for local driving or delivery routes like mail and package.
Long distance (200 miles +) high speed (140 MPH ??) 4+2 passenger car is definitely outlier, and not likely to become mass market succes or be ever profitable even at the $100,000+ typical selling price where high priced options ar as much as $30,000 or more.
Yet what TESLA did with the Freemont factory is nothing short of amazing, if they's only popped in Chevy V8, they would have had a real "super car" with no equal.
I agree the Tesla stock value has been crazy, tekochip. Prior to the fourth quarter of 2013, Tesla was using zero-emission vehicle credits to keep its business afloat. In the first quarter of 2013, the company admitted to taking in $67.9 million on ZEV credits. In the fourth quarter, that changed, though. It made a profit by selling cars. So I guess we'll all have to stay tuned to see where this is going.
Tesla's have a much better savety record then ICE cars. 5 years worth of cars in use and 0 fatalaties or serious injurys. Is there any other car manufacture that can claim that?
Compare the recent crash of a Porsche that claimed Paul Walker. Flat level straight road in perfect weather at mid day, no traffic, experienced race car driver in the drivers seat, car went out of control at 80-90 mph and hit a light pole and a tree, car burst into flames and killed both occupants despite multiple fire extinguishers trained on the car which had no effect of the gasoline fire.
In the Tesla Model S fine in Mexico the accident happed at 3AM in the dark at a speed of "more then 100 mph", the road dead ended in a round about and the car smashed through the concrete block wall, went through a chain link fence and then went head on into a tree. The driver jumped out unhurt and got a ride home. Sometime after he left there was a small fire which was put out with a handheld fire extinguisher with no damage to the passenger compartment.
I don't know about you but I would much rather be in the Tesla.
As for the two garage fires, the first one was a fire of the garage wiring which was of inadaquate size for current rating of the outlet and the wiring was not in conduit. There was no fire in the car. As for the fire in Canada what is know is that the fire did not involve the battery.
300 deaths have been attributed to the GM ignition switch alone and you are concerned about the fact that in high speed sccidents that would not have been survivable in another car that there was a small fire afterward?
You have to consider that in the two US accidents that the battery underneath probably either saved the driver and passengers life or saved them from severe injury by keeping the steel beam and the tow hitch from penentrating into the passenger compartment.
Maybe what we need is a requirement that ICE cars be similarly armored on the underside?
skk "Sometime after he left there was a small fire which was put out with a handheld fire extinguisher with no damage to the passenger compartment."
1: The Tesla that crashed burned and exploded in Mexico, the fire was not put out with a handheld fire extinguisher. The video of the Tesla fire and explosion in Mexico, shows a fireman putting out the fire with a heavy-duty firehose. The fire seems to first intensify as it was first hit by water, before cooling down and slowing down the reaction and putting out the fire.
2: Your assertions that there was no damage to the passenger compartment is also false. The video shows that some of the fire reached to the passenger compartment. The photos of the aftermath also show that the passenger compartment had some fire damage.
3: The fire was not small. The Tesla fire was a huge inferno. At times the fire appeared to be about 30 to 40 feet high.
If you're willing to settle for a Tesla, that's your choice. My standards are much higher.
If Tesla really was such a great vehicle, you wouldn't resort to fabrications to try to bolster its reputation.
Beyond the issue of volatility - what i have always found disturbing about EVs is their relatively small size. A "Smart Car" does not seem very smart to me - it would have no chance in an accident against the larger vehicles swarming the highways - it wouldn't matter if it blew up if the occupants were smushed. I am glad to see that it looks like some companies are designing larger vehicles.
I think it is kind of hard to say what exactly happened in Toronto as we don't have much information. Though we do know that the battery pack in the Tesla is unharmed. Looking at the damage to the garage, it seems a bit too extreme considering that it did not originate from the battery. Which more then likely means that the cause of the fire was external.
My personal guess is that the lexus near by(in the same garage) may have been leaking and the electrical equipment in the Tesla which just came ignited the gas vapors. Otherwise it is hard to imagine what could have fueled that much damage. But we would probably have to wait for the fire department report.
Though one thing to say about this:
"But if there is a change, it will be a tweak. It won't be a huge fix. Nor will it be a sign that EV batteries are inherently unsafe. Remember, gasoline is far more energetic than lithium-ion chemistry, as is jet fuel. Yet every day, engineers successfully design safe cars that burn gasoline. They design safe planes that burn jet fuel. They design safe machines that burn coal, hydrogen, and even uranium. In all cases, they take a package of energy, figure out how to use it in a productive way, and then build in safeguards."
To this day we have not designed a "safe" engine of any kind, to this day hundreds of thounds of gasoline cars catch on fire every year. We just made it statistically "safe enough". But safety is relative. So far, even with the fires, the Tesla statistically is safer than a gasoline car. As long as they remain such, I don't think there is much issue. Of course things can change at any time and modifications might have to be done even if not out of necessity but simply because it is possible to do so, they probably will. But I don't think it will ever be possible to have a vehicle that is 100% safe. Simply because if you store energy, there is always potential for that energy to be released. But as technology improves, things do get safer and safer.
Allegedly the fire department indicated that the fire seems to have started at the front of the Tesla. Around the frunk "engine area".
The Lexus seems to have little or no damage. Firefighters were able to push out the Lexus. If the Lexus was leaking a flammable liquid, it should have had more damage to the Lexus.
The damage seems to suggest that the origin of the fire was the Tesla or the garage near the front of the Tesla. I suspect something failed in the 12 V or HV systems of the Tesla. Perhaps the 12 V battery, wiring, AC or accessories. It looks like the vehicle has some aftermarket modifications, so it is possible that an aftermarket add-on may be the source of the fire. So there is a remote possibility that the fire started within the Tesla, but it might not be the fault of Tesla motors.
I think it's important to determine if this fire is because of a design or manufacturing fault, which could be a big deal, and could be a big threat to other Tesla owners. Or if the fault would be an aftermarket add-on, then most likely it shouldn't reflect badly on Tesla.
If the fire is from a Tesla design or manufacturing fault, that could mean there are tens of thousands of Tesla vehicles with another fire hazard. If it is the fault of a poorly installed aftermarket add-on, then that would be very isolated and likely reflect on the installer, not Tesla.
I'm interested in and hoping to hear what the fire department report says. I don't trust Tesla's "fire investigations". Tesla already has a history of trying to pin the rap on house wiring and outlets, when poorly faulty Tesla charge connectors have been at fault.
Tesla allegedly sent seven of its own employees to investigate the fire in Toronto. If they thought they could pin the blame on the Lexus or the garage, they would be on their soap boxes.
@Jim - The fire deparment said that the when they got there, the fire was in the frunk area. But there was no mention of where the fire started.
We have no photos or any indications on the condition of the Lexus. And I never mentioned a leak involving a liquid spill. What burns is not the gasoline itself but the vapors. A possibility could be that the electrical system ignited the vapor leak. This is actually the #2 most common reason for gasoline cars fire, a electrical short ignites the leaking gas vapors.
As far as pinning it on the Lexus or anything is a bit complex because to have a case you need proof and standing. Which requires an investigation. On top of that your kind of tied down to the owner's time. In the case of the CA fire, it was easy to tell by the fact that the wall was damaged but the car and the charging cable was not on what the cause was. The fact that the outlet was installed illegaly also contributes to it. But in this case there are too many variables to account for. Due to all the media attention they have been getting, I doubt they want to put things in the limelight until they are 100% positive.
Allegedly the Toronto fire service determined that the origin of the fire was the Tesla (not the Lexus), though at the time there was no determination what specifically in the Tesla started the fire or how.
Your Lexus gasoline vapor leak as origin hypothesis doesn't have evidence supporting it. Quite the contrary. If there was a vapor leak from the Lexus that was the source, then there should have been an explosion. If there was a gasoline vapor leaking from the Lexus, the owner would have likely noticed it. The timeline by the witness would suggest that there wasn't time for Lexus gasoline vapors to be the source of the Tesla fire.
What happens when accumulated gasoline vapors ignite in an enclosed area? A fire or an explosion?
The publicized photographic evidence suggests that there was no explosion and that the origin was at or near the Tesla, not the Lexus.
So far the investigation findings seem to indicate that the fire originated in the Tesla. The question is what part of the Tesla was the source of a fire? How? Why? Was it a design or manufacturing fault? Was it the fault of after market installation or an aftermarket device? Was it operator error? Was it arson?
I think the most likely cause, is something electrical in the Tesla.
Tesla is trying to sweep the fire under the carpet, not put it in the limelight. Tesla will likely continue to try to keep it as quiet as possible unless, they can figure out some way that they think they can pin the blame someplace else or otherwise spin it to their benefit.
As far as the garage fire in California. The fire department ruled that the Tesla charge system was a possible source of the fire. The Tesla charge system was burned from the UMC module to the wall outlet. This is the same part of the Tesla charger connection that is known to overheat, melt and burn. The Tesla charge connections allegedly have almost a 3% failure rate. Nearly all of the Tesla model Ss have been recalled for these faulty connectors. Allegedly nearly 900 of these connectors have failed. Tesla charge connectors have overheated, melted and burned when there was no sign of overheating at the wall outlet or in the house wiring.
House wiring also is a possible cause in the California fire. There was no permit, but that doesn't mean that the fault was the wiring or wall outlet.
@Jim, to be more accurate, the fire department said the origin of the fire was engine area but the source remains unkown.(at the time). So whether the source was the Tesla or an external factor remains unkown for now.
I am not exactly saying the Lexus is the cause, there are far few details at this point. But considering the Tesla battery is unharmed, the damage is too severe. Where did all that energy come from? That is why I offered one hypothesis about the vapors from the Lexus as gasoline vapors do carry a good amount of energy. As for there being an explosion, we don't exactly know the surroundings or how sealed the area is. But it would not cause an explosion. (Though in the pictures it is impossible to know if there was or wasn't an explosion anyways).
As far as the owner noticing is not a very reliable indicator. Thousands of gasoline cars ignite every year from leaking gasoline vapors being ignited. If they would have noticed they probably wouldn't be driving those cars. We don't even know if the owner even drove the Lexus anymore though ever since getting his Tesla as from my understanding the Tesla was rather new.
Again, I am not trying to say it was the Lexus. Just pointing out that the damage to the garage is too severe for it to have come from the Tesla considering the battery was unharmed. This points to a high possibility of an external source with one probability being the Lexus gasoline vapors were ignited by the Tesla electrical system. But until we get a report with more details it is hard to say one way or the other, so I am just pointing out my observations with what limited information we have.
In the case of the california incident. The fire department only claimed that the cause of the fire was either the UMC or the outlet but they also noted that the UMC was not damaged in the report. Now of course just because the UMC was not damage does not mean that it was not a possible cause, but it does mean that it is not related to the melting issue. On the other hand, considering that the outlet did not have a permit for being installed (which was not known at the time of the fire investigations). The most probable cause is improper wiring of the outlet. And unfotrunately since there was too much damage to the wall, the fire department did not investigate if the wiring was done right or not.
Your post is much less accurate. This is an engineering venue; not fiction or magic.
Tesla suspected of Toronto garage fire.
Your magic vapor hypothesis doesn't seem to hold up to logic or facts. Seems to be a less than honest attempt to divert scrutiny away from Tesla. Your magic vapor hypothesis, seems a lot like moon landing conspiracies hypothesis, twin tower controlled demolition/missile hypothesis, etc.
Maybe Elvis started the Tesla fire (sarcasm). The point being is that extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence.
I think Elvis being a Tesla arsonist is about as likely and as well supported as your magic vapor hypothesis.
"Where did all that energy come from?"
As I previously pointed out, the energy could have come from the 12 V accessory battery or the high-voltage traction battery. As I've pointed out before the 12 V battery, many accessories and wiring is surrounding the Tesla Frunk and could be sources of the fire. Allegedly the fire department indicated that the fire was from the Frunk area.
"But it would not cause an explosion."
Igniting accumulated gasoline fumes in a confined area would likely result in an explosion.
"in the pictures it is impossible to know if there was or wasn't an explosion anyways"
"the damage to the garage is too severe for it to have come from the Tesla"
"the damage to the garage is too severe for it to have come from the Tesla considering the battery was unharmed"
There's more than one battery. Electrical fires can start without harming the battery.
I suspect that the news release by Tesla meant that the traction battery was unharmed. There is a possibility that the 12 V accessory battery was harmed.
I think the most likely scenario is, an electrical fire may have started in the Tesla, and the fire may have spread to the garage.
Tesla suspected in garage fire in orange county California.
"noted that the UMC was not damaged in the report"
Wrong. That is a lie that has been chronically spammed by Tesla shills. They are deliberately taking the report out of context and or they are ignorant of Tesla designs
The report indicates that the UMC was not burned between the car and the module. The UMC does not stop at the module. The Tesla UMC was burned from the module to the wall plug/adapter. So that means that the UMC adapter that is recalled for a fire hazard, may have been the source, part of the source or a contributing factor to the garage fire in California.
You Tesla shills have cherry picked the fire investigation report to take it out of context. It would take someone ignorant of Tesla design to believe such misrepresentation.
Here are some larger excerpts from the orange county fire investigation that are in context.
"The cord was not damaged between the plug at the vehicle end and the control box. The control box was melted on one end from external heat. All the insulation between the control box and the wall plug was consumed during the fire"
"The most probable cause of this fire is a high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connectorfrom the Tesla charging system plugged into the 240v wall socket."
In other words the Tesla UMC was burned from the module ("control box") to the wall outlet. That's why the Tesla UMC is listed as a possible source of the garage fire in California.
The Tesla UMC adapter that is part of the recall, is part of the suspected source of the Tesla fire in California. The connectors between the adapter and the module are known to be a fire hazard.
Although there are no records available from NHTSA on the safety of automobiles in the beginning, I'm sure that if we compared the safety of gasoline powered cars in the beginning to the safety of EVs at their beginning, we'd find EVs much safer.
The industry is growing and changing. I agree that fixes will be tweaks instead of majour changes. I can't wait for the hype and hyperbole to quiet down.
I am with you, NadineJ. I don't have the facts at the moment to back me up, either, but there is a reason the first automobiles were dubbed "unsafe at any speed." There is always some trial and error that goes with new models of any complex invention, and while these fires in EVs are troubling, they aren't particularly surprising, nor are they something that we can expect will be a permanent problem. As Chuck points out, these problems will be fixed eventually.
"Unsafe at Any Speed" was the title of Ralph Nader's 1965 book about the auto industry, which pretty much ended the Corvair as a model. Your observations are true, however. Tesla is the focus of so much media hype and blog criticism for at least two reasons unrelated to safety:
1) the stock price is so high and volatile that investors and brokers can play the ups and downs of the share price; any crumb of news or information invites speculation (in both the information and stock uses of the term). The thread here seems to be feeding that fire.
2) Elon Musk shares some of the Steve Jobs' brilliant-yet-arrogant traits that drive a lot of people crazy. Porsche has just recalled all their 911 GT3s because two of them caught fire, but nobody cares or even knows who runs Porsche. Go figure.
Hi, Zippy, yes, I knew it was a Ralph Nader reference, but wasn't he referring to issues concerning safety features of automobiles? But it seems you get my point--any new machines (cars historically) have problems initially with safety, perhaps not merely fire, but other issues. So the kinks need to be worked out, and engineers eventually fix the problems. Your points about Tesla are interesting and well taken. I admit the company does have a bit of an inflated image in the media.
You're right, Liz. There's nothing particularly surprising about this problem. When we interviewed experts in 2007, they warned this might happen. Here's what one said:
"The question is: What kind of thermal management will the automakers have in place? What kind of shutdown procedures will they have so that a car barreling down a highway doesn't turn into a flaming chariot?"
Here's a link to the article, published in Sept, 2007:
Thanks for that clarification and your link, Chuck. So it's really interesting when these problems arise to be able to go back in time and track their history, and see that they are not surprising or unforeseen. Perhaps the thermal-management system might have been devised better initially?
Many of us warned long before Tesla had any battery fires, that lithium batteries are dangerous, flammable and explosive. Tesla fan boys assured us we were wrong, that the Tesla and it's batteries were safe.
Tesla fan boys don't realize that there are dangers in nearly everything. Generally the more energy and the more energy density involved, the greater the potential danger.
As you probably know:
In some ways lithium batteries are more dangerous than gasoline. If you shoot (or otherwise puncture) a lithium battery, it's quite likely that you're going to have a fire and or explosion. If you shoot (or otherwise puncture) a gasoline tank, it is unlikely to catch fire or explode.
Years ago many of us have warned that as a lithium batteries age they are likely to become more prone to failure because they are likely to short from wear & tear and insulation deterioration. Mark my words, as lithium batteries age they are likely to become more prone to catastrophic failure. All it takes is one little short, that can cause a major thermal runaway.
Jim, the bee in your bonnet is making you almost rabbidly irrational.
1. Tesla fires have been statistically less than ICE fires. Surely you should putting more anlyasis into ICE fires, since A. There are a lot more of them B. They are more likely to catch fire.
2. The danger of a lithium based cells depends on chemistry. Cobalt based cells (used in laptops, cell phones) are very volatile. Iron Phosphate batteries, which almost all electric cars use are relatively safe. I've seen crush tests and nail embedment tests where the cell temperature doesn't get over 120oC. Tesla also space out their cells to help prevent themal runaway.
Tesla uses lithium batteries that are more likely to catch fire and explode after being punctured than gasoline tanks. This is the real world, not Hollywood.
"Tesla fires have been statistically less than ICE fires. Surely you should putting more anlyasis into ICE fires, since A. There are a lot more of them B. They are more likely to catch fire."
Other reasons that you omitted for gasoline vehicles having more fires. It's some of the reasons that it is unfair and irrational the way you Tesla fan boys compare apples to oranges.
C: Gasoline cars generally have a lot more miles on them.
D: Gasoline cars generally are much older.
Compare apples to apples:
Tesla are more likely to have traction battery fires and explosions then other electric automobiles.
"The danger of a lithium based cells depends on chemistry. Cobalt based cells (used in laptops, cell phones) are very volatile. Iron Phosphate batteries, which almost all electric cars use are relatively safe. I've seen crush tests and nail embedment tests where the cell temperature doesn't get over 120oC. Tesla also space out their cells to help prevent themal runaway."
It seems as if you might be trying to deny that Tesla uses cobalt and it's lithium batteries. If you're trying to deny that Tesla uses cobalt in its lithium batteries, please source your information with CREDIBLE sources.
Allegedly according to Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel Tesla batteries use cobalt and other toxic substances in their lithium batteries. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/02/09/will-battery-recycling-help-tesla-motors-massive-s/
"Iron Phosphate batteries, which almost all electric cars use are relatively safe."
It seems as if you might be trying to imply Tesla uses iron phosphate.
Tesla uses a type of lithium battery. LiNiCoAlO2 (aka NCA)
"Tesla also space out their cells to help prevent themal runaway."
Didn't work, did it? Three caught fire. At least one exploded.
You are repeating Tesla's talking points spammed all over the Internet. Before Tesla even had battery fires, I warned that their battery designs were dangerous. Tesla was wrong, I was right. Some of their precautions may have reduced some of the threats, but there battery chemistry and designs are still dangerous. It was reckless of them to locate a battery that is so poorly protected. so close to the ground.
At least three Teslas have had thermal runaways after an accident and only running over road debris. How many other electric automobiles have been made? How many of of their traction batteries caught fire and exploded in real world use after running over road debris or having an accident? Statistically Tesla batteries are more likely to catch fire and explode after running over road debris or having an accident; then other electric automobiles.
Tesla claims that gasoline cars have a vastly greater probability of catching fire than their cars. They claim that one Model S in ~6333 has caught fire: 19000 (actually more than that now) Model S cars sold and 3 fires. That compared to one fire for every ~1350 gasoline cars. That 1350 statistic, I gather, they base upon http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/Fact%20sheets/FireLossFacts.pdf, and known numbers of gasoline cars on the road. I personally haven't done the math myself.
When Tesla and EV proponents compare Tesla fires to gasoline car fire stats they're failing (intentionally or not, although I suspect Elon Musk does know basic statistics!) to consider an important aspect: Since Tesla Model S were only introduced to the public since June 2012, a truly valid comparison should only include gasoline car fires where the cars were newer than June 2012 too, and not include the numerous older, high mileage and possibly poorly maintained gasoline cars on the road. I suspect the stats would be much less in Tesla's favor.
And please note, I'm not against EVs at all - just keeping an open, unbiased mind.
I can certainly relate to the press' looking for exciting copy.
I tune in the radio after work, and I can't even guess how many times I've heard a lead story of the nature of: "the Dow plummeted 200 points today. Alert! Alert! Danger! Panic! Panic!" They then interview three or four analysts to explain this catastrophic financial event.
And 200 points is ... what? A little over 1%? If I were in the news editor's shoes, I'm not sure I'd even bother to report that, much less make it the lead story.
"The epidemic of Tesla Model S fires continues unabated!" Sounds a little different when you report that as "nearly 0.016% of Tesla Model S vehicles have caught fire!"
If FIAT, or GM, or any real carmaker made a car that 32 out of 200000 units were consumed by fire after less than two years they would be done. The NTSB would intervene and stop deliveries. The fact this company has not been shut down is proof it benefits from the pc winds.
" "The epidemic of Tesla Model S fires continues unabated!" "
I googled your quote, and found no such headlines or news content. Your post was the only thing Google found. Seems like you're being sensationalistic yourself. You seem to be debating things you have fabricated.
Tesla's are a fire hazard. There has been a recall due to faulty Tesla charge connectors that are a fire hazard. Tesla (Elon Musk) promised that upgraded replacement charger adapters with thermal fuses would be mailed out within two weeks, yet over a month later customers have not received the adapters and had not notified of the fire hazard via mail.
There seemingly is about 30,000 Teslas that have a fire hazard that has been known for about a year or more. Yet Tesla seems to still be dragging its feet, playing blame games, and playing semantics.
Tesla has raised the ride height, which has reduced the threat to the traction batteries, however it is arguable whether that's is sufficient. Many including myself, think the battery should be better shielded.
If anything I think the media has been giving Tesla favorable treatment and treating them with kid gloves. I think the media isn't doing what it is supposed to be doing. I think the media should do more investigation, be more skeptical and be more critical of Tesla. Most of the media reports about Tesla, seem more advertising & shilling for Tesla. I don't know of a single news story that I would consider good reporting about Tesla's fire hazards. I haven't seen a single news report about Tesla failing to fulfill the recall on the Tesla faulty Tesla charge connections.
Will Tesla's faulty designs have to kill someone before people wake up and smell the coffee?
Oh, I certainly don't disagree that Tesla needs to address these concerns, and I'm glad we're hearing reports of these incidents.
But three incidents do not constitute an epidemic, just as the Dow losing 200 points doesn't constitute a "plunge." The probability of even any given Tesla owner being injured from this, let alone the public at large, is negligible (based upon current stats at least).
What bothers me is that I recently took a test drive in a Model S, and it was an absolutely stunning machine - a quite exceptional work of technology! However, when I've mentioned it to some of my coworkers, their immediate association was: Tesla = fires. That's really unwarranted (again, based upon current stats at least).
Boeing responded quickly, volunteering to cooperate and submit information.
Tesla (Elon Musk) resisted investigators and has dragged its feet. Tesla is still dragging their feet on the Tesla model S. recall of the charge adapters. In regards to the battery fires, Elon Musk defiantly through a temper tantrum saying there would be "no recall".
In regards to the battery fires, Tesla had to be issued a request for information.
Boeing seems eager to try to find and fix safety issues. Tesla seems eager to deny, redirect blame and cover-up safety issues. I think the attitude for safety at Boeing is healthy. I think the attitude for safety at Tesla is very sick.
Engineers will certainly fix this problem but why are they unable to find the cause of fire so far? With improvised modern technology at our disposal, it is hard to believe that cause of fire couldn't be found quick enough. This is one question that even the staunchest of proponents of EVs will be wondering about as is mentioned in the article.
Why have they not found the root causes yet? Well, these are very rare occurrences! It's only happened three times ever for the Tesla Model S, and in at least one of those times, the reason was pretty obvious (debris on the road). In the other two cases, well, a garage is a complex environment.
What is absent in all this EV speak, is a systems level analysis, not to mention good engineering.
1. Lithium is FLAMABLE, period. Crack the battery and expose to O2 and you have an instant problem. Put in a little water and you have a fire. See Wikipedia for detail. All Alkali metals do this. High School Chemistry covers this, folks.
2. Gasoline/diesel does not do that. Gasoline has a narrow burn range. You can have a fire burn out of control, over a LARGE gasoline tank, burried in the ground and no explosion. Careful balance of gasoline/O2 is needed to get it to explode. This is why H2 is dangerous as a fuel. H2 will burn form 5% to 95% mix (with O2), having a very large burn range. An oxy-hydrogen torch can be quite cool, to increadebly hot, because of this burn range issue.
Putting the Li battery in a position (near front of car bottom) is stupid. As has been pointed out, road debris can crack battery and you have an immediate, NOT NEEDED problem. Most probably this is a mass distribution issue. Well they knew that when they designed it. Bum automotive enginnering. But who needs good engineeering when the goal is to sell STOCK?? product is secondary. Oh yes, they could use another subsidy to help fix it. Maybe $100M tax dollars?
That said, the A123 cells are not flammable. They did not have lithium metal in them, it was in a compound. You could drive a nail through them, of drill through them and they would smoke, but not catch fire.
Tesla uses flamable Panasonic cells, but now is planning to make their own. http://www.freep.com/article/20140224/BUSINESS0104/302240112/Tesla-electric-car-batteries
Seems like a huge mistake, unless they plan to make A123 type non flammable cells. There are also new Sulfur lithium cells coming it with much greater capacity and cheaper. Tesla has always tried to do too much.
The A123 Fiskar battery pack recall was because of problems with the control electronics, not the batteries.
All the cited examples of "safe" uses of other energy sources .. are not as safe as the pubic believes (feels?). Nor are they as safe as you have implied. They are reasonably safe and the Tesla products are reasonably safe. To expect the public to analyse beyond this, is nearly pointless.
Your response is similar to mine: people! turn it down the emotional content!
The point: to expect 100.000% safe in nearly anything we do, is unrealistic. People need to accept this.
This isn't about technology or Tesla or EVs ... it is about society's expectations.
To date no one has died in a "Tesla" fire. But there are plenty of deaths by fire in other cars during same period, but we emotionally act like it NEVER happens!
20 children die in a bus accident... a horrible, tragic event worthy of national news on front page!
1,000 children dying of starvation per day in a refugee camp.. a un-forunate statistic. We become numb to it. Like standard cars burning.... so we start to believe they are so much safer than Teslas.
Tesla hasn't manufactured very many vehicles and hasn't been manufacturing very long. How many Ford Pinto gas tanks caught on fire after running over road debris or being in accidents with only 30,000 were made? Were there any deaths at that point? Tesla has only made about 30,000 vehicles, yet three of them have caught on fire.
How come the bar is set much lower by and for Tesla?
Tesla has a defect that has resulted in three battery fires out of about 30,000 vehicles; yet there has been no recall for those battery fires.
The GM defect in question results in about 1 chance of 46,250 of fire.
The Tesla defects in question results in about 1 chance 10,000 chance of a fire.
Despite the GM defect being a lesser threat, GM issues a recall. Despite Tesla having a greater threat, Tesla hasn't issued a recall. Tesla CEO Ellen Musk through a temper tantrum and declared there would be "no recall" even though the NHTSA hadn't and still hasn't completed an investigation.
In my opinion this indicates that GM currently takes public safety and liability more seriously than Tesla. Tesla and Ellen Musk have a disregard for safety & liability and seem to be defiant and disrespectful of authority like NHTSA.
Statistically Tesla is more likely than other EVs, to catch fire after being in an accident or running over road debris.
Mark my words. Someday there will be Tesla related deaths whether it be driving accidents, battery fires, charging fires, etc. As the Tesla model S. batteries become older, they are more likely to catch fire and explode.
"we emotionally act like it NEVER happens!"
Speak for yourself. Part of the reason I am so passionate about safety is because I have investigated fires and been to burn wards.
Opponents are always going to play with such vulnerabilities to their benefit. Proponents should be careful, on the other hand, in criticizing media for reporting the news. Fire incidents are always reported everywhere irrespective of the cause. There is no point in becoming cynical about the motives of the media. The better course would be for proponents to increase pressure on the manufacturers to improve the technology and prevent such accidents from happening.
I just thought I'd throw in a curve ball here, this morning about 20km from where I live there was an accident with an ICE car and a family of 4 died because it burst into flames before they could get out. I don't know enough of the details to shed light on the validity in reference to any Tesla fires, but just thought I would flag this.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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