The Trouble With Teslas

| November 27, 2021


Tesla Ablaze

Tesla made its name by building electric cars with the most powerful battery packs ever devised, composed of cells made with lithium oxides. This compound makes for the most efficient rechargeable batteries, but is highly volatile.

If damaged, cells in lithium batteries can ignite in a chain reaction called a thermal runaway, fed by the oxygen in the metal oxides known as a Class D fire. These are famously difficult to extinguish.

Since their introduction in the early 1990s, lithium cells in consumer electronics have been involved in string of conflagrations, most notably in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 in 2016, a fiasco that destroyed the rollout of this smartphone at the cost of billions of dollars.

The disaster potential is even greater in large lithium battery packs for electric cars, which contain far more reactive material than consumer electronics cells.

Tesla in Pennsylvania catches fire, flames spread to home

No one was hurt in the incident

By Maria Lencki

Firefighters believe that the back end of the vehicle caught fire, which then leapt onto the attached garage of a Montgomery County home Tuesday night.

The fire was contained in less than a half hour. No one was injured.

Investigators have not yet revealed the cause of the fire, and the amount of damage done to the residence is still unclear.

FOX Business reached out to Tesla, which did not respond before publication.

A rare event, nothing to see here. Oh, wait.

I stopped wearing Nomex after my last military flight, and have no desire to don it again when driving my grocery-getter.

Fox News

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26Limabeans

DiLithium doesn’t do that.

Hondo

Of course it doesn’t. It’s great stuff.

Unfortunately, it also only exists on TV.

Anonymous

Concur.

MarineDad61

26Limabeans,
Does that mean the Flux Capacitor would be safe,
or would it explode like a bomblet?

NHSparky

Knowing what I do about Teslas, and how there have been a number of quality issues, I think I could make a fairly educated guess how it started.

Doesn’t take much.

Hondo

I’ll say this much for Tesla: they make a really hot car!

26Limabeans

Drop a 426 Hemi in one and I’ll agree.

Hondo

I wasn’t exactly referring to the auto’s performance. (smile) Though they do reputedly accelerate like the proverbial bat out of hell.

A Proud Infidel®™

Sapper3307

The flames look to real!

Jeff LPH 3, 63-66

Lots of problems with those 3rd party lithium (not tesla)batteries that people buy because they are cheap. I get my IPN texts from cities that I have on my phone notifing me of fires, shootings Etc and I see that their are a lot of these batteries on electric bikes and scooters that seem to light up while being charged in peoples homes. Ok, I went off on another tangent so back to the teslas. Fire Engineering magazine had articles on dealing with electric cars and showed a diagram of the large battery pack underneath the vehicle which since it is under the vehicle, it makes it difficult for members to extinguish the fire. You would think that tesla would have some kind of built in system to knock down the fire. Also you have a high electric voltsge problem where members have to use care and keep alert while operating at these type of vehicle fires.

Graybeard

I know that a friend of mine had to take specialized training on doing extractions from different types of EV – including where NOT to cut to peel the roof back.

Uh… thanks, but no thanks.

E4 Mafia '83-'87

Remember that Pete Butt-gig said that if you can’t afford the high price of gas, just buy an electric car. Doesn’t everyone have $40k lying around?

Hate_me

When I die and go to hell, my eternity will be spent stuck behind a Prius doing 5mph under the limit.

Hate_me

I fully support Elon Musk (especially in his sparring sessions with Brandon Poopy-Pants), and I hope he can correct this issue. Full disclosure, I own stock in Tesla.

Every technology has issues. A runaway gun situation on the M2 is a terrifying prospect (I’ve only ever experienced it on a smaller weapon, when I could rip the belt – انشاء الله); but ol’ Ma Deuce will always be invited on any foreign trip for which I’m authorized to take her.

Hondo

The only real problems I have with Teslas – or any pure EV, for that matter – are the following:

(1) Federal subsidies out the wazoo – manufacturing, tax breaks, free recharge stations, etc . . . . I resent being forced to pay, even in part, for someone else’s automobile trips.

(2) They’re being sold as a “drop in” replacement for hydrocarbon powered vehicles. Really? Just try and make it cross-country in 3 or 4 days using one. Having to stop every 350 or so for a multi-hour recharge – assuming you can find a charging station, that is – doesn’t exactly make that particularly easy.

EV’s are potentially a good choice for those who never travel very far, never have to pull a large load very far, and who live in an area where there are plenty of recharge stations. For everyone else, not so much. In practice, a hybrid – or a plain old gas or diesel vehicle – is a far more useful choice for most.

Hate_me

I agree with you, on every point. That will likely change with time, as technology improves – but it will be people like Musk who make that happen as long as they’re not handcuffed.

Whether it’s the bodkin arrowhead, gunpowder, the internal combustion engine, the Internet, smartphones, or whatever, disruptive technology disrupts the status quo. Electric vehicles aren’t the answer to global energy concerns or climate change, but gasoline is in her twilight years. I’d rather have Elon driving the future of EVs than letting Brandon take the wheel.

Hondo

A better solution would be for vehicles to use modified ICEs powered by hydrogen, with said hydrogen generated by nuclear power – or perhaps powered by fuel cells running on same. We have much of the infrastructure to support that in-place today. (We’d need a significant R&D effort regarding avoiding hydrogen embrittlement to use modified ICEs, though.)

Unfortunately, we fornicated Fido (AKA “screwed the pooch”) and missed that opportunity during the Peanut Years (AKA the Carter Administration) due to that administrations mismanagement and the environmental lobby. Even if we started today and could overcome the latter, IMO it would take us a good 40 years to make that happen now.

But the Peanut Years ended more than 40 years ago.

rgr769

As a pilot, I can forsee all sorts of mid-air collisions. The only reason our air traffic control system works, and is relatively safe, is because there are few aircraft buzzing around our skies. Imagine what our skies would look like over major cities if every Tom, Dick and Harry had a flying car. We can’t keep people from running into each other in two dimensions. How are we going to do it in three dimensions?

rgr769

I flew those. But my fave “flying car” was a Mooney M20J. However, the Trinidad TB20 actually has gull-wing doors; had a not properly latched one blow open on take-off–pretty exciting.

Hate_me

Flying cars are very doable. Landing cars, not so much.

Anonymous

1.21 Gigawatts, Marty! (Especially with the hover conversion and Mr. Fusion, but… )

11B-Mailclerk

With enough ANFO, any car can fly.

Once, anyway.

Hate_me

I will agree that nuclear is the only feasible alternative to fossil fuels that we can access on the necessary scale, today.

Shit like Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, unfortunately, grant legitimate pause to the layman voter.

Slow Joe

What happened in 3-mile island?

Nobody died there, as far as I can tell.

Hate_me

The impact was considerably less than alarmists expected, but the incident alone was enough to support activist concerns.

Hack Stone

And gave rise to MUSE, Musicians United for Safe Energy, led by Granola Boy Jackson Browne, who, when he is not beating the shit out of Daryl Hannah, is busy saving the world from the evils of Nuclear Energy.

Had a High School friend who went all in that shit because Jackson Browne told him it was bad for the environment. Of course, this was the same guy who would drive around aimlessly in the Camaro his father bought for him. Irony was not in his vocabulary.

Hate_me

I love his music but, like most musicians, he should stick to music.

If he has something to add to the political landscape, run for office or find some other way to get into the political realm. Nothing about being a celebrity grants any special insight into anything beyond whatever one’s celebrated for.

Anonymous

Like LeBron should stick to playing ball (which includes grabbin’ his crotch and cussin’ on TV, gettin’ fined/suspended, etc. Lately).

Roh-Dog

If no one had showed up to work that day, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

Also, benzene from gasoline is a worse carcinogen (both in terms of frequency and amount) than anything produced by TMI that day.

You can count on your fingers how many have died from nuclear power plant radiological mishaps in the US of A.

Anonymous

Hey, if we could get the Back to the Future DeLorean powered by Mr. Fusion that’d be ideal.

Odie

I wonder who will be held responsible should charging stations become available to drive cross country, somebody decides to go to Yosemite or Yellowstone for example, and their car catches fire and burns a couple hundred, thousand or million acres.

Will All-State cover that? Inquiring minds and all that.

A Proud Infidel®™

NOT just that, but say someone in an electric car gets stuck in a wintertime traffic jam, not only does cold weather sap the batteries, but can said Driver go get a jug or two of electricity to pour in the batteries to get home? Methinks not.

26Limabeans

Someday the interstate will have a third rail.
I’ll be dead.

Hack Stone

Just have The Biden Administration install chicken wire over highway, attach the a pole to the rear of your car, and cruise down the Interstate as if you were operating a bumper car.

A Proud Infidel®™

Killer flame job on that Tesla! AS TO electric cars, I still remember when the pimping of them started in the early 70’s when I was a young skull full of mush in Elementary School, but back then we had environmental issues that were MUCH worse. So if they’re the environmental panacea that libnutz say they are, then WHY are there diesel-powered recharge stations in a number of places where one can plug their pwecious E-car in and the diesel generator will recharge their ride using a mere 9 GALLONS of fuel and let’s not forget the wear and tear on the generator as well! I have seen one recharge station that charges customers for a juice-up and it makes me wonder if it’ll cost more than a tank of good old petrochemicals?

A Proud Infidel®™

I’ll just stick with my V8-powered 4WD Pickup for now!

rgr769

The above home being damaged by an electric car fire is not the first. Several years ago a Fisker luxury sedan caught fire in Arizona; it not only severely damaged the owner’s home, the garage fire also incinerated his $250K Ferrari that was parked next to the Fisker.

Anonymous

But the virtue signaling is soooo cool!

USAFRetired

One of the surest ways to buy a major writeup during inspections in the 80s was to not properly annotate where the lithium batteries were packed when palletizing equipment for airlift.

11B-Mailclerk

Cue The Doors “Light my fire”

KoB

Candle in the wind?

HMCS(FMF) ret

5JC

Let’s see.

According to the NFPA in 2018 An estimated 212,500 vehicle fires caused 560 civilian deaths and 1,500 civilian injuries; and $1.9 billion in direct property damage in the US during 2018.

There is about one fire for every 200 Million miles traveled, which is a fraction of the number of fires that gasoline powered vehicles are involved in.

Gasoline powered vehicles burn at a rate of a about a dozen times more often then Teslas and even more often when all EV’s are included.

You see gasoline powered vehicle are powered by gasoline which is a highly volatile compound that has a low ignition point and is very explosive, especially when vaporized. This makes them very dangerous when the tank becomes compromised. The fire burn spreads more quickly and consumes oxygen mush faster than a lithium battery fire.

https://insideevs.com/news/528123/tesla-fire-versus-gas-car/

https://www.barrons.com/articles/tesla-elon-musk-ev-battery-fires-51632238510

https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/US-Fire-Problem/osvehiclefires.pdf

SFC D

Now tell me how many gasoline powered cars suddenly burst into flame for no apparent reason while parked in the garage. I’ll bet you dollars to dogturds your numbers drop exponentially. And I’m also willing to bet you the firefighters of TAH would rather fight a gas fire than an inaccessible self-oxidizing battery fire.

Roh-Dog

uh.

“This makes [gasoline-powered vehicles] very dangerous [if] the tank becomes compromised.”

If we want to compare apples-to-apples here, can you tell when/if a cell is damaged and/or in a volatile state while in a battery assembly without major destructive testing? How does this compare to the ‘compromised’ fuel tank?

I don’t have a dog in this fight save I’m tired of subsidizing these unicorn fart projects, and yeah, I’ll throw fracking under that bus also.

Roh-Dog

Also from the same NFPA as provided; “Electric vehicle fires While hybrid and electric vehicles have become more common, existing data collection systems have not yet adequately captured the frequency of fires involving these specific vehicles. In a recently published Fire Technology invited paper, Sun, Bisschop, Niu, and Huang provided a comprehensive overview of battery fires in electric vehicles.20 Most fire incidents involving battery electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles began in the battery power system. The battery system could, in terms of propulsion, be compared to gasoline capacity in internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). Electric vehicle (EV) fire risk increases with more batteries and with batteries containing more energy. In addition to trauma from impact, batteries can be stressed by temperature extremes and fluctuations, heavy rain, overcharging, or charging too quickly. Manufacturing and design issues can also play a role. As manufacturers increase the range of EVs by adding more lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), the potential heat that could be released in a fire grows. NFPA Research • pg. 10 EV fires can occur: 1. When a vehicle is stationary. Extreme temperatures, high humidity, internal cell failure, and abuse of a LIB at some prior time can all cause such fires. 2. When the EV is charging due to overcharging or problems with the charging stations or cables. 3. After a traffic crash or other abuse does sufficient damage to cause ignition during or immediately after the crash. 4. When an LIB reignites after an initial fire has been… Read more »

5JC

Right.

Different fuel system, different problem set.

My point is that if the complaint is vehicle fires than vehicle fires occur much less often in Teslas than in ICE vehicles. Vehicle fires are a fact of life unless the vehicle is a bicycle.

Roh-Dog

I don’t understand your statement: “Different fuel system”. Care to explain.

The statement “My point is that if the complaint is vehicle fires than vehicle fires occur much less often in Teslas than in ICE vehicles” is contradicted by the article YOU PROVIDED: “While hybrid and electric vehicles have become more common, existing data collection systems have not yet adequately captured the frequency of fires involving these specific vehicles.”… unless you’re walking around with a different definition of ‘much less’.
Now if you’d like to make another assertion, I’m all ears. Given the vast amount of anecdotal evidence and my personal finance, I’ll stick to ICEVs. The lack of self-oxidizing fire and spontaneous ‘splodey failure will be a huge plus.

5JC

It would help if you read everything.

That portion of that article in the March 2020 Vehicle Fire addresses ALL types of hybrid and EV’s. Tesla doesn’t make hybrids and doesn’t address the safety of other manufacturers. In that context, that statement makes sense.

I don’t know what the numbers are for Chevy Volts for example but they had a manufacturing defect that resulted in a recall due to a lot of fires. So did the Ford Pinto and the GM full size pickups from 73-87.

The link to the 2020 Impact Report inside the Insidev article covers Tesla’s only. That is where the analysis for “much less often” comes in.

ICE vehicle are fueled by gasoline and diesel. Electric vehicles use electricity as fuel. Not sue how or why that is a question.

Roh-Dog

So you’re extrapolating post-crash fire hazards and conflating it with safety?
Got it.

I’m not going to address your fuel comment, but I see you. If you want to drive one of those spontaneous road flares, that’s on you bud. There is no indication that these vehicles provide any additional safety over ICEVs.

Again, I don’t care if you want to drive one of these things. I am absolutely tired of paying tax dollars to subsidize toys for the upper-middle class with zero ROI. The tech is plateauing and you can’t beat physics…

This Thanksgiving I couldn’t get my mother to understand a Tesla with a solar panel installation in the backyard would be a detriment in every category she thought was a selling point.

The PsyOp is reeeeeaaaaallllll

5JC

All higher end vehicles are about PsyOps.

You don’t think people really buy a Corvette because they are practical or they want to go almost as fast as a Tesla?

BTW – I never said they were safer. If you drew that conclusion you are on your own. I’ll repeat what I said earlier that vehicle fires are much more rare in a Tesla than in an ICE vehicle.

There is a lot more to safety than that. Most of it goes to driver behavior. Unfortunately the Tesla gives the driver a lot of power in terms of acceleration and top end speed that only a tiny subset of passenger cars can even come close to and none in it’s price range. Human nature being what it is, this can encourage bad behavior.

Hack Stone

If you want an environmentally friendly automobile, may Hack Stone suggest an 1980’s vintage Jaguar? The Vice President of the proud but humble woman owned business that sells software to the federal government formerly located in Bethesda Maryland drives one, and you can actually see it biodegrade right before your eyes. And the carbon footprint is nearly zero, as most of the time it is inoperable.