After three Tesla Model S fires last year, some have been wondering if electric vehicles truly have a place in our transportation future. Tesla Motors says yes!
Of course, the three fires in question were highly unusual, one involving a Class III three-ball towing hitch that had fallen off a truck, and another involving a 110 mph drunken crash into a wall. A third involved a metal truck part. In all three of these cases, whatever foreign object had impaled the lithium-ion battery pack, causing a short-circuit, which then overheated and ignited the flammable lithium-ion battery electrolyte. Tesla Motors was quick to point out that none of the cars in question had “burst into flame,” drivers and passengers had plenty of time to escape their vehicles, and that the fire never actually entered any of the passenger compartments.
Still, three fires in a Tesla Model S seemed to be a bad trend, which piqued the interest of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), who still hasn’t come to any determination on the matter. Consumer Reports, NHTSA crash testing, and the German KBA, however, say everything is fine with the car. Tesla Motors isn’t planning on sitting on its haunches, waiting for some Toyota Motor Sales lawsuit to blow up in their faces, and is adding protective equipment to prevent future problems, in spite of the fact that the battery pack is already swathed in 0.25” plating.
Tesla Motors has tested a number of materials and designs and came up with a three-phase system, designed to destroy or deflect foreign road objects before they can impact the battery or other sensitive underbody areas. First, a hollow rounded aluminum bar impacts the object well-forward of the battery, deflecting it or at least forcing hard objects to vault into the cargo area instead of the battery. Second, a titanium plate protects underbody parts from debris. Finally, an extruded shallow-angle solid aluminum bar is in place to absorb impact forces and force the car over any debris without damaging the battery pack.
You can see Tesla Motors protection in action here…
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