The Model S has a flat battery in the undercarriage of the vehicle, which acts almost like a structural member. It keeps the center of gravity low, makes the car handle well, and provides a huge trunk in the front and rear. (Source: Design News)
Two years later.. "NHTSA concluded there was "no discernible defect trend" in the Volt, adding that GM's plan to reinforce the area around the battery pack with an extra piece of steel would reduce the potential for battery intrusion in the event of a severe side impact."
First thought: Two years later and now they are putting in extra steel to protect the battery?.. Where was all that great GM testing before they released the product to the market? (everyone panic!)
Second thought: .. "no discernible defect trend" to begin with. (eh, no big deal)
"It received a five-star rating for front, side impact, rollover and pole penetration".
I believe the second article's ending statements put things in a reasonable perspective:
"All vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. GM has said all along that it's important with any crashed vehicle, not just the Volt, that the battery be disconnected and drained of all energy.
NHSTA said it was developing safety guidelines for electric vehicles that it would share with consumers, emergency responders, tow truck operators and storage facilities."
It will take a long time to educate all first responders (and the general public) to the proper handling of electric car fires.
Excellent post Charles--very informative. If I may, do you know the ground clearance for the Tesla model involved? I suspect, for aerodynamic reasons, it's quite small. I'm sure the engineers considered road debris when designing the overall body but just curious to know what that dimension is. Some years ago, while traveling to Louisville, I hit a "gator"--a tire section thrown from a semi wheel. It was at night and I did not see the section lying on the road. Wiped out the left headlight and removed some of the cowling from the underside of the car. I was in a rented Ford Taurus. It created quite a sensation for me and my passengers. The car was drivable but definitely needed repairs before returning home.
Tesla need only add a FOD catcher to the front of the vehicle to prevent this problem in the future, right? Something akin to the sloped wedge on the front of steam locomotives, aka cow-catcher? No, I'm not serious about it.
The Concorde was mothballed because of a FOD incident. I do hope Tesla weathers this event.
Thanks for bringing up this point, markr. It is a valid one. I think in some cases people like to point to the fires in EVs to shed a negative light on these type of vehicles. I still think the battery fires are a bit troublesome exactly for that reason--if promoters and manufacturers of these vehicles want to make the mainstream, they need to be without these type of problems and in some ways beyond rapproach.
I did not intend to provoke, only to provide a perspective on the nature of risks - as related to this car as compared other cars.
If I offended , please except my appolgies.
I do listen and hear. I didn't say there were no risks. I just indicated the real risks were no more than what the public currently is comfortable with when driving other cars (People regularly die in GM cars on fire .. a sad fact)
Every car being produced today has many, many engineers involved before it is produced - it is a team effort- even at the smaller car company. And this car's shape (beauty?) had little (nothing?) to do with being penetrated on the bottom. Obviously you do not hold Mr Franz in high regard, but please don't condemn the car because of his reported level of involvement.
All production cars are subject to safety testing by the government - including side impact testing. Regardless of those involved in the design of the car.
I see no relationship between "beauty" and "safety" (terror). There are plenty of ugly, less safe cars out there.
"beauty" is a subjective term... I am sure there are some that don't like the looks of this design.
The term "safe" is nearly as subjective as "beauty".
I am sure that any object capable of putting a 3 inch diam. hole through 1/4" plate will put a hole through the frame work protecting the battery of a GM Volt. Over 25,000 lbs of pressure on a sharp, steel projectile will do significant damage to any car. Glad it wasn't put through the driver or passenger.
I don't see any company (including GM) producing cars any safer that this one.
My comment: "I don't see it happening".. indicates my hope that the public DOES realize there are limits to the level of protection a car can provide and still meet all of it's other requirements.
Old pilots' observation:
What is a airplane? Ans: a bunch of compromises, flying in close formation.
@Nancy: I agree about the perception issue, but that is not a new phenomena. I remember how Ralph Nader was able to successfully kill the Chevy Corvair because he claimed they were a rollover hazzard. Both my brother and I drove Corvairs without a hint of problem and were surprised by Nader's tirade in front of Congress about the Corvair's propensity to turn over. I did not believe it then and I do not believe it now, but public perception was that the cars were accidents waiting to happen. Adios Corvair
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.