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Walmart sues Tesla over fires at stores fitted with its solar panels (reuters.com)
248 points by helloer 63 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments



A Journal of Light Construction editor had a fire in his SolarCity panel set-up as well, and had a hard time getting it sorted out.

https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/electrical/solar-panel-fire...

and here's a follow-up: https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/electrical/solar-panel-fire...


Really bad customer service.

And another follow-up.[1] The old panels get removed and the roof gets new shingles. But no new solar panels yet.

[1] https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/electrical/solar-panel-fire...


Didn't Solar City rely on local installation firms?


Solar City could presumably sue the local installer if they're to blame, but it makes no difference to the customer who bought a product from Solar City.


Sounds like they aren’t vetting them enough, training them enough, or the panels are just hard to install properly.


I love the fact they blame an animal nest...

That animal must have been sitting on its eggs, and carelessly smoking a cigar I guess!

No... The cause will have been overheating of the 'optimizer' (MPPT tracker which outputs a fixed voltage) when it failed to a high impedance state, probably due to water incursion. The fire will have happened on a sunny day, because it's the energy from the other panels which starts the fire.

Tesla really should have made more parts of the system non-flammable. Then the story would simply be that this guy's system stopped working (or even 1 panel out of 16 stopped working, so output was slightly reduced)


A friend of mine is a union electrician with 15 years in the trade. He’s helped install dozens of solar farms across Northern California. One thing I found interesting/unnerving was that apparently the spacing tolerances between panels is quite low. He said it’s their biggest concern when it comes to fires.

So, maintenance seems like a must. Especially on rooftops or structures that will naturally “settle” over time. If I had to guess, these tolerances weren’t properly maintained or the buildings/roofs themselves weren’t solid enough to begin with.

If anyone can shed more light on this (pun intended)…


sarcher's example of JLC. It does look like a faulty optimizer, which is a DC electronic for each panel.

As for Walmart, it's a lot to unpack.

> dozens showing hazardous problems such as loose wiring and “hot spots” on panels, according to court papers filed in New York State Supreme Court.

Loose wiring? A lot of setups are mostly plug and go. If they had to splice one wire, it's only a minute process to do and if they used their eyes for a few seconds (I'm describing the literal process of splicing a panel wire. I'm not demeaning the work. It's minutes. 3 max, if you brought the parts on the roof.) As for the other connections a solar installation may need, the time it takes it one minute for all connections on the roof. For the 244 panel setup of Walmart, 30 minutes tops (20.3 minutes to be closer to realistic because there might be 21 j-boxes, each connecting 12 panels to the main array).

Hot Spots? I have no idea about that one. It's too vague.

At a different location, this is what Walmart said: >One of the fires happened months after the system was de-energized, Walmart said.

I don't understand this one at all. Tesla/SolarCity must be using very cheap electronics because this shouldn't happen. Each panel's optimizer should be equipped for the situation when they aren't producing usable power.

Source: I worked in residential solar for about 6 months and as an electrician for two years. I'm not a bona fide source but I'm better than most because I've paid attention to everything that was taught to me. Plus I'm looking into starting my own Solar company.


The optimizer consists of MOSFETs, an inductor, and a microcontroller. The circuit is pretty similar to a BLDC motor controller.

The circuit relies 100% on the microcontroller outputting the right signals, otherwise a mosfet gets stuck on (causing overcurrent, and burning out). Little boxes like that are hard to waterproof and make resistant to repeated temperature fluctuations. My guess is some water went in and shorted some control signals, or repeated temperature changes caused a solder joint to crack. That caused the MOSFETs not to get the right control input, so they got really hot and caught fire.

It's just as likely to happen on a de-energised panel too - the optimizer is still connected, and the sun is still shining.


> The circuit relies 100% on the microcontroller outputting the right signals

I'm not an E.E. but does that apply for DC optimizers? Older optimizers had no AC conversions in them.

> Little boxes like that are hard to waterproof and make resistant to repeated temperature fluctuations.

Hmm. I never checked to see if the warranty for the optimizers are 20 years. The panels are but I'd be surprised to see the optimizers be less than 20. Most, non-cheap, optimizers do have insulation to prevent moisture from getting in.

> It's just as likely to happen on a de-energised panel too - the optimizer is still connected, and the sun is still shining.

Based on your description, that makes it a possibility. Why aren't the optimizers equipped with some type of regulator to prevent output in situations like this?


DC optimizers seem to be DC to DC converters, you rarely do those with MCU in professional setting, there are dedicated chips for it. Googling pictures of PCBs there are a ton of products with Aluminum electrolytic capacitors, those are rated at up to 10K hours at 105C, thats probably less than 5 years of sun divided by days whole thing gets cooked on the roof. Still that would merely lead to product failing to output power, MLCC and tantalum capacitors are the real problem, those love to short HARD under mechanical stresses, and temp cycling is a perfect environment to induce it.

mlcc fire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2rvAoO-MIA , causes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgKY5QWehME


> Tesla/SolarCity must be using very cheap electronics because this shouldn't happen. Each panel's optimizer should be equipped for the situation when they aren't producing usable power.

It feels nice to see the truth come out. Cheap parts [1].

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-project-titan-replace-...


lack of clearance below caused overheating and fire ?


lack of clearance between panels. if a roof settles a bit after construction it might flex down reducing the space between panels. (i think)


How would that cause a fire?


Theorizing...

Reduced gaps can limit/change air circulation. No matter the efficiency, solar panels absorb/create a nontrivial amount of heat that could be trapped underneath. That heat alone could be a problem or it could accelerate wear of other systems/parts.

You could also have breakage, rubbing, pulling, or other mechanical issues that can result in shorts and by extension fires.

What is in the article suggests poor quality control or poor quality installation to my eye.

The solar city acquisition still stinks to me of one Musk company buying another Musk company using investor money and shouting 'synergy' until people refocused on the poor quality of Tesla's car production instead.


Very interesting theory when it comes to the change in air circulation. But I can't imagine a situation where that would occur unless Walmart's claims are valid on 'poor installation'. The brackets, that hold up the rails, that go into the roof should lock in and shouldn't be any cause for concern.

The underbelly of the panels do run warm but they aren't hot, except in extreme heat. Nor is there any thought to the air circulation when designing a system, since the panels themselves don't have holes in the sides to encourage flow between an array.


Not enough air circulation is unlikely to get anything much over 100C, not hot enough to start a fire...

In OP's case, something electrical was almost certainly involved...


Once all the clearance is gone, panels can push each other and all sorts of breakage can happen.


At least in my installation they’re all strongly fastened to a cross bar. I’m not quite sure how they would shift in that scenario?


From Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/SolarCity/comments/9ikm8g/solarcity...

"whistleblower123456 1 point · 7 months ago If you want the truth here it is. Tesla has installed millions of defective amphenol connectors all over the u.s. These connectors are catching fire and burning down homes and businesses. They are hiding it with something called project titan where they are hiring thousands of people just to replace connectors. The problem is that they are testing it with infrared cameras to see if the connector heats up and only then replacing it. These connectors are defective meaning just because it passes one day it does not mean it wont fail the next even after testing. Tesla refuses to replace all of these connectors betting on insurance to cover any fires and only looking at homes when their monitoring platform reports arc faults. This is why they are dismantling the solar division with layoffs. Right now if you have tesla installed on your roof you may have a ticking time bomb ready to kill you in your sleep. If you have it on your business same thing. Don't believe me, google walmart fires. If you have tesla stock better prepare to sell it because when this gets out it is going to crash. They need to do the right thing and shut off all systems with these connectors and replace them with mc4. They wont because it would cost them hundreds of millions to do and hundreds of thousands of dollars on lost production. Do the right thing Tesla."


Sounds like a short seller.


Buried in the lawsuit is some entertaining commentary on Tesla's SolarCity acquisition:

"On information and belief, when Tesla purchased SolarCity to bail out the flailing company (whose executives included two of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's first cousins), Tesla failed to correct SolarCity's chaotic installation processes or to adopt adequate maintenance protocols, which would have been particularly important in light of the improper installation practices."

...

"On information and belief, SolarCity's business model was ultimately a bust."


The Walton Family also happens to own much of First Solar, a competing provider of photovoltaic cells.


The Walton family collectively is worth over $150 billion, it’s not surprising they have exposure to a solar company somewhere in their vast fortune. If you’re implying that this lawsuit has no merit because of that investment that seems like an incredibly shaky accusation.


It's a little curious they wouldn't choose to buy panels from a company they own.... don't you think?


First Solar has acted as an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm for large ground-mounted solar farms, but they have never been in the rooftop solar installation business like SolarCity.

First Solar's panels would also be an unusual choice for a rooftop installation even if a different installer handled the work. Rooftop solar installations typically call for high efficiency panels. First Solar makes lower efficiency, lower cost panels that maintain performance at elevated temperatures. Their panels are good for solar farms, particularly in hot climates. They don't have anything special to recommend their use in rooftop projects.


except catching any CdTe runoff in gutter traps


Blatant nepotism and self dealing might be normal at WeWork and Tesla but some companies do have better corporate governance.


Yeah Walmart is really a bastion of moral integrity in corporate America


Compared to your average SV outfit like Tesla? It most likely is.


You said, with zero evidence to back it up. Unsubstantiated anti-Musk astroturfing is really tired and boring


Evidence of what? Of Saint Elon calling people pedophiles because they laughed at his harebrained ideas? Of Teslaclaiming to have the world's safest vehicles when between Musk's marketing and serious product deficiencies they quite literally kill people? Of and Musk personally being regularly found making fraudulent statements? And so on and so forth. I didn't realize than I need to provide backing evidence that water is wet. But Tesla's PR troll brigade would just say that it is the shorts' conspiracy anyway, because Saint Elon says water is solid, and so it is.


Examples of where it’s not, in comparison to other similar companies?


Walmart’s “controversy and criticism” section on Wikipedia links to its own page (which I’ve never seen before): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Walmart

> Criticisms include charges of racial and gender discrimination,[1][2][3] foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, environmental practices,[4] the use of public subsidies, and the company's spying on its employees.[5]


Despite having a high average quality, wikipedia is a very dangerous source for anything controversial. And in particular, using the existence of a criticism page to infer anything at all is ill-advised.


Many SV companies, and certainly tons of corporate America are subject to the same (or worse) criticisms.


Not at all. Obviously more to it but these are the 2 main reasons I see;

1) Walmart would have a procurement department. These guys probaly have no idea of the likely 1000's of investment companies the Walton family own.

2) As a listed company, Walmart procurement would contact jobs like this to the best offer, not to seperate companies that happen to be owned by shareholders.


Honestly not really.


seems unlikely that the issue would've risen to the level of walmart's board, so they might not have even heard about.


Isn't the largest shareholder Vanguard, by far? My impression based on a cursory Googling is that Vanguard has about 130 million shares, whereas the largest individual shareholder, Jim Walton, only has about 10 million.

In fact all of the top 10 shareholders of Walmart have more shares (>10M) than any of the Waltons, it appears:

The Vanguard Group, Inc.

SSgA Funds Management, Inc.

BlackRock Fund Advisors

Fidelity Management & Research Co

Geode Capital Management LLC

Northern Trust Investments, Inc.

State Farm Investment Management

Wellington Management Co. LLP

T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.

Dimensional Fund Advisors LP

So maybe you should look at whatever the interests of the index fund providers are, and who runs them.


Lukas Walton owned 21% as of the start of the year, more than 3x Vanguard which owns 6.62%. I don't know about the rest of the Walton family - at one point the entire company was Walton owned - but that's nearly $1.5B owned by the company's "Significant Shareholder". I have no idea about the merits of this case but one should note that it's not uncommon for competing companies to sue each other.


"Lukas Walton owned 21% as of the start of the year"

Are you sure about that? Do you have an authoritative source?

I get zero hits for Lukas among Wal-Mart shareholder disclosures on sec.gov. Jim Walton, by contrast, does show up.

Also, Wal-Mart is trading for about $320B, so $1.5B is more like half a percent than twenty percent.


The parent is inferring that Lukas owns a non-insignificant stake of First Solar, a quasi-competitor of Solar City/Telsa, not Walmart themselves.


They're referring, I believe, to the ownership of FSLR: https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/FSLR/ And Walton is at 21%: https://m.marketscreener.com/FIRST-SOLAR-INC-37008/company/


Ok, sure, but I've lost the thread here. Walton sounds like Walmart, and so does Wall Street and walrus. And this means...?


And Forbes lists Lukas' net worth at $17.6B, so unless he has a ton of other debt, he cannot possibly own more than about 5% of Wal-Mart.


I'm sure they're also rampant short sellers in cahoots with Big Oil. Give me a fucking break.

Tesla has had a lot of growing pains and they'll be a better company when you guys stop dismissing every single criticism and actually hold the company and Musk accountable for their missteps.


Are you implying they set fire to their own stores? Or that you want them to ignore the fires caused by Tesla’s panels?


Hmm. I didn't know this but that's a solid observation.

Regardless, SolarCity probably did a poor installation job with cheap parts. They have a reputation among other Solar installers and it's not a good one.


So are you saying they staged seven fires, or that after 7 of 240 installations caught fire they only sued because of their conflicting interests?

Tesla installed 29 MW of solar last quarter, compared to a peak of 253 MW at Solar City before the acquisition. First Solar, which isn't an apples to apples competitor since it specializes in utility scale, is on track to produce 1375 MW per quarter of panels this year.

Tesla's solar business is dead. They might turn it around with the solar roof product, but if that succeeds it will make Tesla Energy even less of a competitor to First Solar, since it has zero relevance to utility scale solar.

Even if Walmart had evil intent, why give Solar City the PR boost of hundreds of installations in the hope that they'll fail and they can later sue?

It's easy to make a nice conspiratorial quip, but there's nothing of substance here. Jumping at every shadow just numbs you for when you really should be angry.


I wonder if Tesla moving into utility scale battery makes them a competitor or ally to solar. Both right?


I cannot see how it is anything other than ally. Biggest complaint about solar for utilities is that it needs some offset to match peaks. That is accomplished with batteries.

Generally, batteries compete with the power sources that can be turned on and off quickly with control to meet spiky demand. Solar doesn't produce power at the whims of the operators and is not in that category.


Talk about putting words in someone's mouth. The original comment merely points out an interesting note in that both parties have their own interest in solar. You make so many specific counter-claims to a simple sentence that it seems like you're responding to the wrong comment.


The post he was replying to was clearly implying foul play, as it would not have any relevance to the story otherwise. What I think is odd is the fact that you parse human language like a machine rather than a human. There is more to human language than the extremely literal interpretation of the words in a sentence. Implied meaning is one of those things.


> The Walton Family also happens to own much of First Solar, a competing provider of photovoltaic cells.

Where is foul play implied in that sentence? To me it reads like more of an aside than an allegation of wrong doing. The stakes of this particular suit feel more "business-as-usual" than malicious or strategic.


The Walton family owns a lot of other things as well, but the mention of solar was clearly to suggest a conflict of interest.


If I misinterpreted the parent, I'm genuinely happy to delete my post and apologize. But I don't think I did.


I interpreted the post the same way.


Csteubs is correct - there was no implication of foul play in the original post. Typically when there's an article about a business dispute like this, you would expect the article to include relevant information about overlapping business interests, so I added that for context.


Looks like it's too late to delete or edit, but I'm sorry for misinterpreting what you were saying. Looks like I was the irrationally paranoid one, after all :)



Wasn’t this work done during the SolarCity years?


I found that interesting as well. The article is trying to link solar panel failures to Tesla vehicle failures. They were not born from the same company nor process.

It seems whatever generated the story was looking for some segue into how the price is down.

The stock price was affected by the market's new knowledge. They both contain words for fire but are otherwise independent and distant events in Tesla's history.

A more likely scenario is these liabilities that Tesla acquired a couple of years ago had otherwise gone unnoticed. They have now been noticed and the market will risk the outcome of Walmart and all of these other Solar City contracts.

The potential risk of these contracts is what is weighing on Telsa's stock price, not a handful of vehicle fires.


It was originally SolarCity that did the work, but SolarCity was acquired by and merged into Tesla.

The surviving entity was Tesla, so Walmart sued Tesla.

(SolarCity's debts actually represent the majority part of Tesla's debt load and is part of why Tesla has been struggling financially despite 19%+ margin on each car sold.)


Is there a good place to find those numbers? We always hear about Tesla debt but not the distinction of solar city debt.


Their SEC filings. In a nutshell, the overwhelming majority of Tesla's debt is Solar City's debt.


My friends at SolarCity never had to work 70h in a week before Tesla acquired them (nor work weekends installing solar panels on Musk mansion in L.A.)

So it might very well be the result of the same company and processes.


So your friend had better working conditions during the same time period this work was done (before the acquisition)?


infinitely better, yes. They had more time out of work, no nights or weekends, and since the acquisition, the layoffs cut the team in 1/3.


Honestly with all the Tesla shorts trolling HN, an unsubstantiated comment like this from a fresh account is very suspicious. Can you post from an account with more comment history?


This comment breaks the site guidelines. Would you mind reviewing them? https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Nobody is moving markets with a HN comment. Suggesting astroturfing is against the site guidelines anyway.


> They were not born from the same company nor process

But their founders are cousins.


When you buy a company, you also get their liabilities.


SolarCity is now part of Tesla.


>totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket losses, Walmart said in the lawsuit.

This amount is immaterial for each party involved.


In terms of corporate Walmart, absolutely. But it's annoying as can be -- and even scary -- to employees at those stores. Customers too.

Walmart's real objective with a very public suit like this is to make sure that customers and employees see Tesla/Solar City as the villain. Not America's biggest retailer.

Even tight-fisted businesses get righteous about this kind of stuff. It's a great way to win the "we care" posturing game, at least for one day.


I wouldn't call a fire merely "scary", is a real risk.

Yes, I think Tesla should be more diligent here.


Right because destroying small town businesses, unethical employee treatment, etc. didn't push folks away, but a fire at a walmart somewhere in the country will.


Small town businesses were destroyed by consumers who stopped shopping there.


Walmart may have been first with low prices rurally but with Amazon and other online realitors it was only a matter of time.


This really doesn't matter. The fires endanger lives. Some things are more important than money. I should hope you'd realize that.


yeah and 5 fires on just 240 stores sounds like a staggering amount


Somehow I think if this was the other way round, and Walmart had caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to Tesla, the HN comments would be cheering them on and demanding they sue Walmart for every penny they had.

The fanboyism is ridiculous for grown adults.


Why would Tesla allow this to go to suit, given it’s likely press coverage? Surely there was opportunity to settle.


When did Musk ever settle, if there is an opportunity to open his mouth and make things worse?

I just can see explanations coming from fanboys that Walmart sells engine oil and is therefore part of the ICE mafia out to get Tesla. And they short the stock, too! /s


It's possible they asked for an absurd amount knowing they would want to settle.


I wonder if theres any danger of walmart being declared a vexatious litigant, since this amount is clearly nonsense. If their concern is damage from public opinion, aren't they required to quantify the damages? I don't think the court appreciates being used only as a tool for public opinion.

As is probably obvious to those with any legal knowledge, IANAL


>I wonder if theres any danger of walmart being declared a vexatious litigant, since this amount is clearly nonsense.

What amount sounds like nonsense? I'd sue someone if they stole $100 from me, or sold me $100 of bad goods and wont do anything about it, even if I make 200K!

And what part of "fires at stores" (regardless of amount) sounds comforting, legal, and acceptable?


I don’t know what the standards are for that but pretty much zero chance. First their shit burned up on your roof, thats a pretty solid prima facie reason to sue IMO, even if you later lose. Second 100k+ is not nothing, federal jurisdiction only requires 75k and to my knowledge there isn’t any kind of test of the money of the plaintiff as to whether the amount matters to them.


That's not what a vexatious litigant is. Hundreds of thousands of dollars is a real loss.


Is it? Wal-Mart's revenue is 500billion. 500 thosand is .0001%. If you make 200k, thats like suing someone over 20 bucks


Totally, like why does Wal-Mart even bother selling items that cost less than a million dollars?


This lawsuit could drag on for years and cost a significant portion of the amount being sued over because the value is so small. Hardly an equivalence.


Tons of lawsuits are brought for under 100k. This argument applies to all of them. The fact that Wal-Mart is a big company doesn't change anything.


Especially Walmart, which routinely prosecutes shoplifters even over trivial amounts to curb theft.


The alternative is that Wal-Mart establishes a policy of allowing vendors to damage them for 6-figure amounts with little consequence. That’s probably not the right strategy. Kind of like Newegg spending more defending patent lawsuits than settling with the trolls. (Do they still do that?)


$20 bucks, and the fact that he sold you something as safe, that can burn down your business and kill people...


> Is it? Wal-Mart's revenue is 500billion. 500 thosand is .0001%. If you make 200k, thats like suing someone over 20 bucks

So we just accept violations of the law because of some arbitrary scale you made up? Can you cite any laws that grant amnesty for thefts _under_ a certain dollar amount?


Should've used microinverters, but then again, the technology wasn't mature yet at the time SolarCity was still independent.


Anyone know details about how the solar panels resulted in fires?


These specific cases, no. But I used to work for a company that made solar components and fires were our biggest fear.

The most likely issue is incorrect design or installation due to the complications of DC power. This article goes into details https://iffmag.mdmpublishing.com/solar-panels-and-the-dc-dan...

Simply put DC power with enough current to power a home is much more dangerous than AC. And solar power isn't converted to AC until it gets to the inverter.

Meaning all the wiring and everything in the solar system has a ton of current going through it on a sunny day. If the system was designed incorrectly or installed incorrectly then there isn't going to be enough copper for that current to go through at some point and it's going to heat up and start a fire.

You can also have components fail and all that. But given they are blaming Solar City I'd bet on it being improper installation or inadequate design of the system for the load.


Not a solar installer, but who uses thin enough DC wiring that the current rating is an issue? Every solar installation I’ve seen uses way oversized DC wiring (4-6mm^2 for 10-20A closed-circuit current) to minimise losses. You could literally just short the wiring at the inverter and it’d never overheat.

Most fire hazard comes from connectors burning out from what I’ve seen.


Well its a lot of things, you could bend the wire beyond its specs for bending radius and in a way that would damage its ability to carry current. You could install it in a way that puts the cables too close together so they then transfer heat to each other and overload the thermal rating of the insulation, thus causing a failure there. You could damage the insulation on the cables leading to water ingress. Proper to code installations which provide plenty of margin to prevent fires are defined mostly by the NFPA 70 (National Fire Protection Act) National Electric Code

You could install the cable in a way the the heating and cooling of the cable, over time, causes it to move or shift (kind of like a snake, generally in the direction of gravity where its on a slant or hanging down) and then cause tension on connectors that wasn't there before, if you didn't properly secure the cables or design with that in mind. This one was an actual issue I know about having happened on some wind turbines.

If you have a really incompetent contractor, maybe they used the aluminum conductors instead of the copper conductors in some places (the former is far cheaper, but has less bending radius and carries less current).

There is a lot to get wrong, most of which I had no idea about until I had to think about it and know the problems in that domain of engineering. Even then, I only did that for a short time so I'm sure there is plenty I don't know.

Most of the issues I heard about though weren't engineering issues, it was poorly trained contractors who had no idea what they were doing. They used contractors especially in the Wind Industry, because of the cyclical nature of the building of power plants. Wind had a tax credit that use to not be a partisan issue, then it became one and congress couldn't get its act together which caused the sudden stop of ordering of wind turbines several times. Then there is the lack of unions in many parts of the country, and unions generally keep their workers sharp by keeping them employed even in down turns by evenly spreading out mandatory furloughs. They also go through rigorous apprenticeships and trainings.


> And solar power isn't converted to AC until it gets to the inverter.

Most solar installations now use micro-inverters at the panel. It's possible these installations predate micro-inverters.


Not necessarily. Micro-converters to step up from panel DC to a common DC bus, and then inverting from the common DC bus to house's AC bus is much cheaper than going straight from DC to AC at the panel.

My house is wired up this way, with individual DC/DC maximum power-point trackers at the panel, and a central inverter.


And yet, somehow TSLA is only down 1.6% in after market hour trading today (this news broke after mkt close). TSLA, appears to have irrationally exuberant investors.

A (nearly) irrelevant comparison; WMT, a profitable enterprise, is down 1.53% at mkt close today, didn't experience any negative news today, and a core aspect of their business model doesn't explode into flames.


Probably because they dont make Solar panels anymore and the panels in question are well out of warranty.


Ok, let's exclude solar panels. WMT's business model doesn't include extreme capacity Li-ion chemical bombs traveling at highway speeds.

To be fair, I admire and hope one day to afford a Tesla. But the risks are clear. High capacity Li-ion batteries have high risks and incident rates of explosion.


You do realize that all vehicles have risks of fire or explosion. In order to make a vehicle with sufficient energy density to be usable for transportation you have to take those risks.

While it's true that Tesla has had a relatively small number of vehicle fires with the Model S and X. To date there has not been a single fire with a Model 3. Even with the Model S and X fires they were far rarer than ICE vehicle fires. It's just that nobody bothers reporting on ICE vehicle fires because they happen all the time. The relative rarity of the Tesla fires is what made them news not a high incident rate.


Model 3 fire and subsequent explosions: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-model-3-fire-explosion-mosco...

Based on anecdotal evidence, Teslas seem more prone both to spontaneous combustion and fires from minor accidents than comparable luxury cars of similar age (that is, relatively new). The latter is why the NHSTA made them retrofit a titanium shield to the underbody early in the Model S lifecycle.


> the risks are clear. High capacity Li-ion batteries have high risks and incident rates of explosion.

The risks are clear: high-capacity gasoline fuel tanks have high risks and incident rates of explosion.

Except... the fire and explosion risks of an ICE fuel tank are seemingly far greater than a Li-ion battery pack.


It is the pigeons I tell you! You can still see them right there in the photos!


It’s okay, Elon has moved on. Now let’s install his 100% trusty brain probes. What could go wrong?


just wait till those high capacity batteries start going. we are going to see some interesting things.

Though in this case, i wonder how much is walmart and how much is tesla. knowing both telsa over-promised and walmart probably refused to pay for maintenance.


“This is a breach of contract action arising from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla with respect to solar panels that Tesla designed, installed, and promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores,”

Tesla seems to be the operator and maintainer. I would expect a contract has maintenance as a flat fee per year if it is anything like other contracts of this type.


As alleged by Walmart.

Failure due to rushed, shoddy work is definitely Tesla's M.O., but Walmart is also not exactly the most credible source, given their history.


There would be a written contract between the two companies outlining Tesla's responsibilities. If this case proceeds that far, it would definitely be part of the evidentiary record.


It would be incredibly stupid to lie in court documents about Tesla "promised to operate and maintain" since the that is pretty easy to disprove.


Not at all. “On information and belief” is an extremely low standard.

The standard for Tesla getting damages for accusations which don’t ultimately pan out... that’s pretty high.


Fairly hard to invent seven roof fires in retail premises and Tesla's first act when they took over Solar City was to massacre the sales department. That means that things had got so bad in there that taking money from new customers was not worth the risk, given the product.


I assume Walmart order of Tesla trucks might also be in jeopardy considering they decided to go to court over these fires?


Probably in jeopardy because the trucks don't exist, and Tesla's capex is below its depreciation so they're unlikely to build out the plant necessary to manufacture them anytime soon.


So many apologists on this site its hilarious. I guess Walmart is against climate change!

https://twitter.com/sama/status/1130913917864034304?s=19

At won't point will you hear something that makes you doubt this company? Anything?


If you think everyone or even most people commenting on this site are pro-Tesla, I think you're not really reading HN. Either way, the Tesla debates I see are a whole lot like people debating over petty bs like celebrity news, so I usually stay out of them.


>If you think everyone or even most people commenting on this site are pro-Tesla

The "influencers" are, and if you don't think so you aren't paying attention. Look what they say on Twitter. I posted a link in another comment, but miraculously it disappeared.

It happened with Theranos too. People of "high reputation" on this very site claimed everything was "FUD", that if you were against the company it was because you didn't want to see a young woman succeed in Silicon Valley. Then it turned out to be a fraud. And yet these people are still reputable here, after ridiculous commentary. It says a lot about the community, unfortunately.


Another Tesla bashing article by mainstream media, move along.

100s of thousand of damage, that's pocket change for Walmart and Tesla.

Model X and S burst into flame !!! Tesla stock is down 1%, Be Afraid ! Don't buy Tesla !!!

Tesla spend zero on advertising, their main source of revenue. They are also disrupting big oil and the auto industry, plenty of enemies to go around.


Teslas bursting into flames is a real risk though.


EVs burn frequently on the internet.

Compared to the fema estimate of 171,500 highway car fires per year.

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v19i2.pdf

Tesla has contributed 14 total since 2013. I know of at least 2 other cases by others have been reported

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/22/tesla-inv...


Its 171k fires in 2 years not per year. You need the total Teslas vs ICE cars in the road to compare those figures. Even then not sure if its a good comparision because Tesla is on the luxury side, it should be compared with ICE cars in the same price range, not any chinese car with little safety.

Common sense tells me that a big,unstable ion lithium battery at high speeds is not a good idea, gasoline is much less reactive than people think.


> Its 171k fires in 2 years not per year.

No, I think it's per-year - "Each year, from 2014 to 2016, an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States"


There are 4 orders of magnitude between 14 and 171,000. I could be wrong, but I don't think those adjustments will cross that divide.


From https://www.tesla.com/en_GB/VehicleSafetyReport

"From 2012 – 2018, there has been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 170 million miles traveled. By comparison, data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation shows that in the United States there is a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles traveled."

(No indication whether the NFPA/DOT numbers include the Tesla fires, though, or how many of those are arson - in the UK, arson accounts for about 65% of vehicle fires which you can't really blame on the ICE. If the US is the same, that'd increase the 19M miles to ~54M miles per fire - still looks good for Tesla tho', especially when you consider that the ICE has 100 years of safety development compared to, what, 10 for the Teslas?)


Thanks for digging that up and sharing. Looks like Tesla's are safer than your average ICE when it comes to vehicle fires, but not by multiple orders of magnitude. Although, as you say, that gap may widen as they have more years to invest in safety.


> Tesla is also facing a federal field investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board after several Model X and Model S owners across the globe said their cars burst into flames

yawn

Are other automakers suffering the same investigations?

https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=812639

> Each year, from 2014 to 2016, an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States, resulting in an annual average of 345 deaths > Approximately one in eight fires responded to by fire departments across the nation is a highway vehicle fire.

Car fires are nothing new. The media coverage for EVs is not proportional.


> The media coverage for EVs is not proportional

Do we have EV car fire frequencies for comparison with ICE engines? Without denominators saying “all cats burn” is overly reductive.


> Do we have EV car fire frequencies for comparison with ICE engines? Without denominators saying “all cats burn” is overly reductive.

Fine. And yet, is Reuters reporting those? In fact, why is Reuters even talking about cars?

Tesla fires feature very prominently in the news whenever they happen. When was the last time anyone here saw news of ICE fires? I only ever see those in local news, and only if they caused other incidents (like fatalities or traffic jams).


ICE cars aren’t catching on fire due to design defects, generally. They don’t spontaneously combust. There is almost always a causal factor unrelated to the actual car. Tesla’s could conceivably catch fire sitting in your driveway.


> Tesla’s could conceivably catch fire sitting in your driveway.

My mother had to drag me out of an ICE car when I was three because it caught fire in our driveway, so I'm not sure you're comparing equivalent things.


There's hundreds of times more non-EVs on the road, so the question would be the proportionate level of fires.


any figures or citations?


Yeah, but relatively speaking there aren't that many Tesla's on the road.

What you'd need to do is compare the number of Tesla fires (per 1000 cars) versus other new IC cars (per 1000).


Indeed, and please share the numbers if you have them. But my complaint was centered more in the media reporting, rather than the investigation per-se.


No other car company claims to sell the safest car ever made.

When you make outlandish statements like that you have to expect increased scrutiny.




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