The Tesla Firebomb Problem
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2018-05-10 08:28 by Karl Denninger
in Technology , 332 references Ignore this thread
The Tesla Firebomb Problem
[Comments enabled]

Tesla isn't alone in this risk, incidentally....it's common to all electrical vehicles.

The risk is fires immediately following a collision -- fires that cannot be put out.

A fuel-fed fire, such as one in a gasoline vehicle, can be mitigated in a number of ways.  There isn't much fuel in the vehicle in other than the fuel tank itself, which is mounted and designed to make it very hard to rupture it. This became important after the Pinto fiasco, where the tank was mounted in a fashion that the differential could easily puncture it in a crash.

The fuel pump is designed to be disabled when a crash is detected (e.g. airbag deployment) or the engine is stopped, minimizing the risk of feeding fuel into the fire.

But with an electric car you have a battery in it which is the store of energy.  Anything that shorts that battery internally or otherwise is an instant disaster, because electrical fires are nearly impossible to extinguish as long as the system is energized.

Unfortunately in a battery-powered car the battery is always, by definition, energized.  If it is shorted internally by a crash then the resulting fire will burn until all the energy in the pack has been consumed; it is nearly impossible to put it out because the heat source (the short circuit) cannot be removed.

There's not much you can do about this because of the size of the pack that's required.  As such protecting it from taking enough damage in a crash to violate its integrity is basically impossible.  

This risk of fires is not unique to Tesla; it exists with any battery-powered vehicle and there is little or nothing you can realistically do about it, since a short in the pack itself will heat the surrounding cells sufficient to cause them to short.  The energy density requirements make it essentially impossible to eliminate this risk.  In a serious accident the occupants of the vehicle are frequently stunned, severely injured or the vehicle is sufficient damaged that they cannot immediately get out under their own power, and the amount of time available before a fire occurs in the event of a serious internal short-circuit may be just a few seconds.

There's no real fix for this, and a wreck that was almost-certainly survivable in Florida is just one example -- a Model X was also recently immolated as a result of essentially the same process.

In short all EVs are essentially Pintos in that if the battery pack integrity is damaged during a collision the risk of fire is quite high and there's little or nothing you can do about it in the vehicle's design -- unlike a gasoline or diesel-powered car.

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User Info The Tesla Firebomb Problem in forum [Market-Ticker]
Redjack
Posts: 54
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Iowa
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Electric vehicles are pretty inefficient. You have to generate the power, transmit to the charging station, charge the battery, then discharge.

Each step loses efficiency. Each step stacks. So if my boiler is running in the 80% ranged fired by natural gas, then I lose 7% for transmission, another 7-10% for charging, and then 5% on discharge.... Well you get the idea.

In industry our training is when an electric forktruck catches fire, pull back and let it go. You can't put it out, and the build up of hydrogen means you will have an explosion.

E vehicles are supposed to have a "dead man's" switch, but in the event of a cell rupture that doesn't matter.
Tickerguy
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Yep the pack disconnects in a crash but if the pack itself is damaged you're ****ed.

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Winding it down.
Bagbalm
Posts: 5438
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Just North of Detroit
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Eventually I can see having the technology to protect the battery pack from intrusions and isolate it from the passenger compartment. But the current batteries are so bulky and heavy that is way beyond our current tech. ability to fit them in a vehicle like that. Maybe in another 30 or 50 years. By then we may have exactly tailored synthetic fuel instead of distillate fractions, cheaper than using batteries anyhow.
Radiosity
Posts: 129
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Sunny UK
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When Richard Hammond crashed during a hill climb in an electric supercar during filming for the second season of Grand Tour, the car was burning continually for FIVE DAYS because of this very issue. Truly ridiculous.
Scottl1023
Posts: 16
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NJ
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First Responders have a huge concern dealing with EV crashes. Using the Jaws of Life on EV crash is a huge risk.

Metal bending in the wrong direction that could create a short causing possible electrocution or a fire is a real danger.

Rhode Island requires special licence plates so First Responders can easily identify an EV.
Bodhi
Posts: 417
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Georgia
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Quote:
Anything that shorts that battery internally or otherwise is an instant disaster, because electrical fires are nearly impossible to extinguish as long as the system is energized.


No kidding. Anyone who's discharged a capacitor from an HVAC system knows how loud the pop can be as soon as you short the leads with a screwdriver. These caps are a minuscule size compared to the battery pack in a Tesla. I'd guess it would be like a bomb exploding, especially at anything close to full charge, if the battery pack in a Tesla were to be shorted.
Radcondive
Posts: 479
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Charleston, SC
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I can easily solve this issue! We just surround the big battery pack with SAND! About the amount in a big dump truck should do it. Now, all the virtue signaling people get to drive vehicles that are big to prove just how "green" they are. The simple fact that they can only get a few feet out of their own driveway makes it even SAFER! (do I really need to put the /sarc tag here?)
Comrader
Posts: 312
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pa
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i actually survived a rear end collision in a pinto. tank ruptured but no fire, don't care to double down on a tesla!
Whitehat
Posts: 438
Incept: 2017-06-27

The People's Republic of New York
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the Tesla battery pack extends very much to the perimeter of the vehicle; side impact protection is impossible which often traps the occupants inside. additionally the underside placement due to size and center of gravity issues makes it vulnerable to bottoming-out issues common to all cars. worse yet is that when a component such as an engine has high weight, the temptation is to make it a stressed member of the vehicle assembly for all sorts of reasons such as weight saving, elimination of reinforcement redundancy and rigidity for performance improvement. this means that the battery is designed to participate in crash force energy, oh oh. there is no way to isolate the cells from this without losing the advantages of the monocoque battery and ultimately vehicle design. yes, it might be an independent part, but these factors are present in it to a degree, make it possible and are planned to reinforce the vehicle. i know the later for a fact.

this makes it impossible for the vehicle to conform to the safety standards for road legal new cars. it is a baked in product safety liability that is overlooked for politico, SJW, reasons. there could also be major lawsuits for death and injury and how would a recall be handled. this will not happen as this product idea is a protected class; the law only applies to some people.

but, we forget, remember, "Battery technology will continue to improve." just keep repeating it, like any good marketing slogan. where have we heard this before, Hershey, global warming, climate change, Stalin anyone with his big lie concept. funny the similarities between communist dictators and corporatism.

it's over, get used to it.

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Wifi
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Elkad
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Obviously Teslas just need ejector seats. Or just very weak seatbelts.

Small crash, seatbelts hold you.
Big crash, you exit the vehicle at speed.

I'll take beating my brains out on the pavement over burning alive, thank you very much.
Tickerguy
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Yeah there really aren't many worse ways to die than being burned alive....

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Wifi
Posts: 647
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Seagrove Beach
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Karl, who is that as your avatar, I hate to ask and waste a post.

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Tickerguy
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That is from The Musical Box (the only Genesis cover band licensed to use their costumes, stage art, etc) during the song of the same title..... It's a group I will literally drive across the country to see as it's pretty close to good sex in terms of the total experience.

They really are that good.

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Peterm99
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While Radcondive's proposal has merit, I propose a solution that is entirely consistent with the "logic" and previous precedent (e.g., 55 mph national speed limit) of gov't decision-makers:

Federally mandate the placement of the batteries inside a fire-resistant structure that is demonstrably able to withstand 10 mph crashes (if they can make bumpers withstand 10 mph collisions, they can surely make a rigid structure that fully encloses the batteries to withstand the same). Then, impose federally mandated national speed limits of 5 mph for ALL vehicles, not just EVs, with draconian penalties for non-compliance. (5 mph limits are required because a. vehicles colliding while traveling in opposite directions at 5 mph is equivalent to a 10 mph crash with a stationary object and b. ICE powered vehicles have to be included because they, too, may collide with EV vehicles).

Voila, problem solved!!!

/sarc

In spite of the /sarc tag, I would not be that surprised if Congress, NTSB, or other gov't agencies actually proposed solutions somewhat along these lines, naturally, as is their wont, without any consideration of the impacts of their mandates on anything else. I can also see this danger inherent with EVs providing further impetus for imposition of requirements for "automated" cars that operate under the control of a centralized traffic control system.

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Redjack
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Iowa
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Wifi.

I love that guy's Youtube. Rebuilding a TESLA as a labor of love.

With Harbor Freight tools.

I knew guys like that. They could work wonders, or finally destroy it.
Mopoco
Posts: 13
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Arizona
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Agreed, EV fires are a problem. Since they've moved from NiMH to lithium, I'm not sure why they don't use Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) chemistry, since it is much more resilient to shorts and even punctures than the Lithium Cobalt (LiCoO2) that most commercial EVs use. I guess the slightly lower energy density makes it less attractive, in spite of longer recharge cycle life. It doesn't solve the problem, but it does mitigate it somewhat, IMHO.
Redjack wrote..
Each step loses efficiency. Each step stacks. So if my boiler is running in the 80% ranged fired by natural gas, then I lose 7% for transmission, another 7-10% for charging, and then 5% on discharge.... Well you get the idea.
I haven't looked too deeply into it, but some of the well-to-wheel (WTW) analyses still put battery electric vehicles as being more efficient than internal combustion engines. Not too surprising, BEVs were only slightly better than diesels in WTW CO2 emissions, assuming a US mix (50% coal-fired) of energy production.


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Wifi
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Karl,

Many thanks!

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Geckogm
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Tesla reignited days after crash.

https://electrek.co/2018/05/10/tesla-bat....

Quote:
After Tesla and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had a fallout over the boards investigation into a deadly crash involving a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot, the NTSB is launching yet another investigation into an accident involving a Tesla vehicle.

This time, they are mainly focused on the emergency response in relation to the electric vehicle battery fire as we find out that batteries from the other crash under investigation reignited days after the accident.[\q]
Okiedale
Posts: 2
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Lake Elsinore, CA
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I would like to see a remake of the movie Bullitt with the chase scene using EV vehicles. ...oh, make sure the green VW is also repeated in those scenes, too!
Flappingeagle
Posts: 2779
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!!NEWS ALERT!!

Firestone 500 radials to be standard equipment on all new Teslas.

Flap

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Crossthread
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Then, there is THIS...
California could ban cars with internal combustion engines, regulator says

California regulators are considering a ban on cars powered by internal combustion engines, echoing similar proposals in China, France and the United Kingdom.
The Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), told Bloomberg that Governor Jerry Brown has raised the subject with her.
Ive gotten messages from the governor asking, Why havent we done something already? Nichols said.
CARB already administers a zero emissions vehicle program that allows automakers to earn credits from electrified car sales, which can be sold or traded on an open marketplace. Several have built electric cars that are only available in California in order to meet their quota, while various state incentives are available to buyers. As a result, California accounts for approximately half of the electric cars sold in the United States, according to Clean Technica.
Estimates on the percentage of new cars sold in order to meet CARBs 2025 air quality goals range from 8 percent to 15 percent, while sales in the state this year are running at about 5 percent, which is about five times the national average.
Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia follow CARB regulations to some degree, with nine involved in the zero emissions program.
Nichols doesnt think the current EPA waivers that CARB operates under would allow it to implement a ban, but is exploring other methods to achieve one, including registration and use restrictions on internal combustion engine cars.
Nichols says a firm timeline for any type of ban is still being explored, but thinks it could happen in the 2030-2040 timeframe being discussed in other countries.
http://www.foxnews.com/auto/2017/09/26/c....

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Bjonsson
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Quote:
I would like to see a remake of the movie Bullitt with the chase scene using EV vehicles

Literally LOL'ed at that one

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Ckaminski
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Mass-Hole!
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Quote:
vehicles colliding while traveling in opposite directions at 5 mph is equivalent to a 10 mph crash with a stationary object


Action == reaction. I don't believe this is true. Both vehicles have energy dissipation of 5mph.

@Wifi:

I knew as soon as I saw how that idiot took the battery out that it was cooked. You don't drop a 2000 lb anything onto something blind and expect it to work.
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