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Tesla Model S, “Safest Car in America,” Goes Up In Flames?

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Tesla Model S on Fire Causes Overreactions Nationwide
Tesla Model S on Fire Causes Overreactions Nationwide

Stock prices and public perception are fickle things and, after a recent Tesla Model S fire, Tesla Motors stock dropped some 6%.

Thanks to the internet, everyone in the world can get a glimpse of your worst mistake, and it will live forever in the ether. Yesterday, on Twitter, someone pointed out to me a video of a Tesla Model S on fire in Washington, near Seattle. It was a friendly competition [I think] but, because electric-vehicle opponents are so sensitive, they’ll look for practically any excuse to dump on Tesla Motors, or any other electric vehicle, for that matter.

Recall what happened when a Chevy Volt caught fire, the news storm it started? Funny how people failed to mention it was three weeks after being put through crash testing. Needless to say, the crash test dummies were able to escape the vehicle unscathed. Don’t forget those sixteen Fisker Karma that caught fire in New Jersey, after being submerged for a week in salt-water after Hurricane Sandy.

Electric vehicle opponents were quick to point out “Tesla Model S on Fire!” but left out the fact that the car struck an object in the road that damaged part of the front end and underneath the car, where the battery is. It’s not like the car spontaneously combusted, as seems to be the case in a picture of a melted Ferrari that I found. According to the driver, firefighters on the scene, and Tesla Motors spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Chean, “This was not a spontaneous event. Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”

Still, it’s not like lithium-ion batteries are a zero-risk option, and electric vehicle manufacturers that make use of lithium-ion battery technology are especially sensitive to the safety concerns raised by these fires. Lithium-ion battery fires have been noted across the board, including electric motorcycles, extended-range electric vehicles, electric vehicles, and even the lithium-ion backup on airplanes.

This does not mean that we should abandon lithium-ion battery technology such as found in the Tesla Model S. Houses burn down, and yet we still build with wood. Gasoline burns, yet we drive hundreds of millions of dinosaur-fueled vehicles. On the other hand, smoking causes cancer, and damned if we can’t stop people from using the stuff!

Image © KTVU

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2 COMMENTS

  1. kirklazarus19 Yeah, both are flammable, but there are a couple of major differences. First, the lithium-ion electrolyte isn’t in a single “tank” but in i think sixteen separate modules. An accident might rupture one or two, but any ensuring fire won’t propagate. A gas tank, if ruptured, would simply let the whole tank loose. Second, lithium-ion electrolyte is far more viscous than gasoline, not like the electrolyte in a lead-acid battery. Gasoline would just flow all over the place in case of a rupture.

    You might never get a second chance to try that trick in a gasoline-powered vehicle.

  2. Lithium batteries burn intensely hot but they are no were near as dangerous as a standard unleaded fuel tank on fire. You’ll have time to stop and get out of the vehicle with lithium batteries. If you would like to test that just crawl under your vehicles full unleaded fuel tank while smoking a cigarette and use a hammer and ice pick to puncture the tank, then do the same thing under a Tesla battery. You won’t get the chance to try that on the Tesla.

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