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Tesla fires
jordaj   11/12/2013 11:09:05 AM
Sounds a bit like the ill fated Concord when a piece of junk on the runway brought down the plane.

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Re: Statistics
naperlou   11/12/2013 10:56:51 AM
Just publishing the numbers is not sufficient.  Many car fires are the result of poor maintenance or other non-design related issues.  They are also not nearly as intense.  Like with many statistical studies you need to control for other factors.  Comparing a new Tesla S with a 10 year old car is not valid, for example. 

The following is an illustration of what I am talking about. Many years ago my sister had a car burn.  It was a minor thing, a fuel hose leaking onto the manifold.  The placement of the components was standard for the industry at the time.  The problem was that the secondary latch on the hood had broken and my father had rigged something up.  My sister forgot about it and could not tell the fire fighters how to open the hood.  Thus a minor fire that should have been put out by the driver ended up causing major damage.  Two things are important to note here.  One is that even if she could have opened the hood, this would have been counted as a fire and compared to the Tesla S fires (just looking at fires per x miles).  Second, the whole situation took a while to unfold.  The aftermath did not result in pavement melting. 

Also, if you are going to talk miles driven, I submit that any mass market vehicle in the US has many times the miles driven in a Tesla.  Musk uses the number to make the whole thing seem miniscule.  Compare that to the number of unintended acceleration with the Toyota cars, or the earlier Audi situation.  This is a large number (3) for such a catastrphic situation in a motor vehicle. 

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listener   11/12/2013 10:40:07 AM
Tesla's response is really very similar to the way Detroit used to respond to problems, refuse to believe there is a problem and get positive publicity out.

May not be enough vehicles out there yet to create DOT type statistics but there have been enough failures to show that something different is going on and it needs to be fixed. By all acounts Tesla has some excellent characteristics but how they respond will determine whether they remain a viable force.

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Re: trend starting, but careful with conclusions
LetoAtreidesII   11/12/2013 9:57:20 AM
Yes but also lets not forget that statics say that younger drivers and older cars are far more likely to be in an accident the older drivers or higher price vechicles.  Common sense tells us this as well.

The 2 of these often go hand in hand.  I see very few teens or 24 and below driving a tesla, they just do not have the money yet.

As for age of a car.  as a cars ages their chances of a failure increase as well.  I had a truck a couple of years ago that the brake line rusted and I lost most of my braking power.  when you compare ICE vechile accidents and fire including old vechiles you greatly inflate the fire #'s

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Model S = DC-10?
NiteOwl_OvO   11/12/2013 9:56:45 AM
Didn't the DC-10 have a tendency to suck up anything not securely bolted down on the tarmac? Maybe in addition to a beefed up battery box and/or skid plate they could increase the ground clearance a bit. It doesn't really need to be able to drive over a sleeping policeman, but I would hope it would clear a trailer hitch laying on the road. I'm sure Tesla will come up with an effective solution. They have too much to lose if they don't.

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Stats area funny thing
LetoAtreidesII   11/12/2013 9:50:32 AM
First with any new design the safety standards and requirements always are lacking and often are driven by were failures occur when the rubber meets the road.

Ex. Jeep rollovers, Engines in the rear and front crash hazards, many many others.

This said the question is is :

1.with the existing Tesla design is the damage caused by road debris like this equivelent

2. Is their a way to mitigate the risk

on count #1 yes a stard ICE vechile going over the same pieces of metal would be far less damaged on average.  It would not be pretty and the car would be damaged but it would not meltdown.

on Count #2 yes, a stronger better protected battery would help reduce not eliminate these type of failures.

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Re: Uncommon Trend?
GTOlover   11/12/2013 9:45:25 AM
Allen, do you mean something like the cow catcher on old steam locomotives? Not sure if that fits with the Tesla design, but it would be cool to see people move when you come up behind them!

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Re: Road scrap
GTOlover   11/12/2013 9:42:19 AM
Yes Battar, have you ever followed a dump truck or trailer full of scrap metal or construction trash? How about the yokles driving down the road with a matress strapped to the top of the minivan or worse compact car? I have even seen vehicles driving down the turnpike with the muffler dragging!

So to highlight the Tesla as an issue is missing the question of why is there a hitch in the road? And as others have mentioned, isn't the Tesla a great handling car? Could the driver not brake or maneuver around this (perhaps not)?

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Re: Simple fix
fdiaconu   11/12/2013 9:36:38 AM
Tesla designers may also consider a light plastic/fiber shield underneath the metal battery cage to absorb the impact ... something like a Kevlar bullet proof vest for the car.

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trend starting, but careful with conclusions
RogueMoon   11/12/2013 9:34:04 AM
TJ, its an interesting data point about annual automobile fires in the US, but you have to be careful with comparing small population datasets (Tesla S vehicles on the road) to large population datasets (all ICE vehicles in the US).  Trends in small sets tend to look larger than they actually are.  Two events in a month is the start of a trend but hardly worth sounding the alarm that a defective design exists.

The issue is not so much that the occurrence of road debris leading to punctures, but the consequence of this event being so extreme.  Given the low position of the batteries and the nature of high-energy density storage, the consequence is very hard to mitigate.  Best approach is to increase the puncture resistance which is likely what Tesla is doing right now.  Fewer trailer hitch balls in the road is another good plan for mitigating automobile damage.  My truck doesn't appreciate them much either?

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