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Tesla Model S, Still one of America’s Safest Cars

Tesla Model S Displays its Shiny Battery Underbelly, Protected by 1/4" Armor
Tesla Model S Displays its Shiny Battery Underbelly, Protected by 1/4″ Armor

After the news of a Tesla Model S fire swept the internet like a wildfire, it piqued the interest of electric-vehicle opponents and flat-earthers everywhere, even causing Tesla Motors stock prices to drop.

Does this single occurrence mean that the Tesla Model S is not one of America’s safest cars? Actually, do any of recent Tesla Motors headlines mean that the Tesla Model S isn’t to be trusted? In emphatic response, “No.” I have a quote that I leave on internet postings, one that can pretty much sum up the interaction between man and machine – “There is no such thing as a fool-proof system [machine]. Someone will make a better fool, tomorrow.”

In other words, no matter how well-designed the system, or machine, in this case, the Tesla Model S, someone will always find a way to break it, whether on purpose, by ignorance, or by accident, in the case of a recent fire resulting from a Tesla Model S impact with a truck part in the middle of the highway. Now, is someone trying to tell me that the Model S should have been designed with this in mind? I believe this definitely falls under the fool-proof system scenario.

Now, of course vehicles are designed to withstand a certain amount of road debris, employing plastic deflectors and undercarriage shielding to keep things like rocks, small animals, and spare parts from wrecking delicate systems. Still, there is the occasional reckless roadkill that won’t hesitate to put a hole in your radiator hose at 65mph, but what about the battery pack on the Tesla Model S?

Tesla Motors already knows that lithium-ion electrolyte is flammable, so they’ve gone to great lengths to protect vehicle and passengers in case of an accident. First of all, the battery pack isn’t simply a mass of Panasonic 18650 Lithium-ion cells stacked loosely in a box. Many cells are placed together in individual boxes, with firewalls between each one. In case one of these sixteen modules is punctured or catches fire, the chances that it will propagate to other modules is very slim. On top of all this or, in the case of the Tesla Model S battery pack, underneath it all, there is quarter-inch thick plate to prevent the aforementioned road debris from interacting with the battery itself.

So, what happened? In perhaps what could be called a moonshot, a curved piece of metal, which has previously fallen off a truck, of the right shape, size, and strength, was sitting in exactly the right spot on the highway for Tesla Model S driver Robert Carlson to impact. The metal piece impacted the front section of the battery pack, punching a three-inch hole into the armor plate protecting the battery pack. The driver had plenty of time to pull over and get out of his Tesla Model S before the fire started. The fire was contained to the front section of the battery and vehicle and never entered the passenger cabin.

Robert Carlson is a Tesla Model S owner, electric vehicle supporter, and Tesla Motors investor, and looks to get back behind the wheel of a replacement Tesla Model S, soon, saying, “I was thinking this was bound to happen, just not to me. But now it is out there and probably gets a sigh of relief as a test and risk issue-this “doomsday” event has now been tested, and the design and engineering works.”

Image © patrick_h Foter CC BY-NC-SA

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