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Electronics & Test

Tesla to NHTSA: Investigate Our Model S Fires

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Charles Murray
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Good reason for coverage
Charles Murray   1/6/2014 6:29:16 PM
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Actually, there are good reasons for coverage of this subject: To much of the public, electric cars are still a curiosity. And the public has become especially curious since the Boeing overheating incidents. Also, comparisons to gasoline-burning cars aren't completely appropriate, according to the MIT Technology Review: "...these figures are really comparing apples to oranges," the Review stated in November. "Only four percent of vehicle fires are caused by collisions -- the rest are largely the result of mechanical and electrical failures, which isn't surprising when you remember that a large fraction of the cars on the road are old and wearing out." These points could be debated on both sides, but the debate needs to be visible, not behind the scenes. Put it another way: If the press sat on the Tesla stories and didn't report them, how would the car-buying public react?

jhankwitz
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Re: really?
jhankwitz   12/13/2013 2:43:17 PM
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naperlou - The reason we don't hear about fires in other cars (by the way, we've had 4 this past week in the SE Wisconsin area) is the same reason we hear about working conditions at the Foxcon factory where iPhones are made.  Readership - readership - readership.  Tesla, like Apple, is at the leading edge of the technology.  Makes no difference that working conditions at Android factories is much worse, it only matters in people's minds what is happening at the hot leading companies.

Charles Murray
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Awaiting NHTSA
Charles Murray   12/5/2013 7:09:50 PM
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We'll be watching to see how this plays out in the NHTSA investigation.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: really?
Charles Murray   11/21/2013 5:15:20 PM
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You're right about Tesla's need for government money and environmental credits, GTOlover. Although it doesn't get a lot of attention, the credits that Tesla gets for selling ZEVs is substantial. The LA Times did an article on this, pointing out that Tesla can get up to $35,000 per car, in addition to the state and federal money they get. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/05/business/la-fi-electric-cars-20130506

Charles Murray
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Re: plenty of fires for all
Charles Murray   11/21/2013 5:06:42 PM
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Yes, RogueMoon, Musk says that NHTSA asked for the investigation. In truth, though, we don't know asked for what first. NHTSA says their investigation is independent of Musk's request.

Tool_maker
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Re: really?
Tool_maker   11/21/2013 12:48:36 PM
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@naperlou: I disagree that Musk talks a good game. I remember from n argumentation and debate class I took a long time ago, that the weakest possible arguements involved a, "Look at the other guy" statement. What difference does it make if ICE vehicles can become involved in fires when the discussion is about a Tesla fire. He should make his arguement solely about the Tesla and how safe it is. We already know about ICE vehicles and hundreds of millions of us have daily experience with them.

btwolfe
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Gold
Re: really?
btwolfe   11/21/2013 11:44:35 AM
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naperlou,


I can't conclude anyting about the speed of lithium fire based on that article. It says "they were incinerated" but that's just an inflamatory (pun unavoidable) term for burn. Given that the accident was from a 180kph collision, they were probably in no shape to exit the vehicle quickly anyway.


My experience with lithium is that it burns hot, but slowly. I used to play with pigs of the stuff as a kid, so I have some empiracle knowlege of it's burning characteristics. BTW, don't ask how I got the material. Anyway, it's the heat of the reaction when lithum is mixed with water and the resulting hydrogen gas that's the real danger. If you don't vent the gas, you're going to have a serious problem.

bpenfold
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Gold
prefer EV fire
bpenfold   11/21/2013 11:30:09 AM
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If I must be involved in an auto fire, based on everything I've seen, I would pick a lithium-ion fire. I would have a few more seconds to walk out.

I'm still amazed how the Mexican Tesla crash victim walked out alive. It reminded me of The Roadrunner or Wile E. Coyote.

-Barry

naperlou
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Blogger
Re: really?
naperlou   11/21/2013 11:23:54 AM
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btwolfe, I am basing my statement on this incident (http://www.thenanfang.com/blog/shenzhen-electric-taxi-may-have-caught-fire-due-to-leaking-battery/) in China. 

I am also concerned that the Tesla batteries require active measures to cool them.  They are made up of large numbers of small cells each of which must be individually monitored and controlled.  This is probably part of the issue with cost and weight as well.  Compared to fuel in an ICE, this is crazy.  So far, electric vehicles have been sold to higher end buyers in small numbers.  Look at the history of autos on the road and should appreciate my concern.  As a vehicle gets older one tends to not fix things or to do it oneself.  Since it is not a classic and is always going to be eclipsed by newer models, this approach itself could be a recipe for disaster.  But I digress.

I am not sure that I have answered your question in general, and I have not found a good source of information.  As Tesla points out, the battery has armor built into it which may account for the ability of passengers to get out.  This is good, since the fires were difficult for firefighters to put out and in the latest case, at least, melted pavement. 

Watashi
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Platinum
Re: really?
Watashi   11/21/2013 11:04:24 AM
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Sorry, I am a Ford and Mopar guy so GM is the natural enemy (but I would take an old GTO, Chevelle, Firebird, or Camaro in a heartbeat).

I agree with you.  Musk knows the game and his ventures depend on government largess.  It is just annoying to see how radical and extreme the party line has become with those people.

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