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GM tells some Bolt owners to park 50 feet away from other cars (autonews.com)
299 points by rsj_hn 83 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 415 comments



Maybe lithium-ion batteries in mass-market vehicles aren't such a good idea. We may need a battery technology that can survive poor maintenance less than perfect battery construction, and low-cost vehicle designs. Tesla had to put a titanium plate under their battery. That's not a mass-market solution.

BYD is converting over to lithium iron phosphate, which is much better behaved when damaged. Toyota is working on solid state batteries, which hopefully don't catch fire.

The NYFD reports over 55 electric bike and scooter fires so far this year.[1] Two deaths, 60 injuries, including 18 firefighters. Fires destroying electric bike shops are a thing, with one fire expanding to all the batteries around. All we need now is for a cascade auto battery fire in a parking lot. Or, worst case, a garage under a building.

Boosted skateboards used to use lithium iron phosphate, but were just too expensive.

[1] https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-e-bike-sco...


> Fires destroying electric bike shops are a thing, with one fire expanding to all the batteries around. All we need now is for a cascade auto battery fire in a parking lot. Or, worst case, a garage under a building.

As a firefighter let me add some context: Electric car fires are no big deal anymore.

Yes, they're not "out" when there's no more flames or smoke for the moment as the damaged cells might be reacting further and further.

Easy solution: Put them in a tub full of water for at least 24 hours, better monitor the temperatures of the water and only lift them out once it has not changed for a few hours.

Most fire departments nowadays have some kind of container that can be filled where you can lift the car into. If not, they'll call somebody who has such a container, like landfills and alike.

Yes, the car is done after that, but it wouldn't be different with a gas-powered car either.

This might have been new five years ago, but so were solar panels 20 years ago and everybody was worried that nobody could ever extinguish a fire under solar panels.

Real life has shown, that you just rip the panels of the roof (if they're not already burned when we arrive) and work as if nothing has happened (simplified, but not too far away). With eletric cars you sink them. Easy as that. "Improvise. Adapt. Overcome." it is.

Also: garage fires are special in itself due to the lack of head room and "place to go" for heat, smoke and fire. It's not really a big difference after that. Basic rules of engagement are to be followed: Get the fire out and then the cars out of the garage. WIth electric cars you'll have to sink them once they are out of the garage, obviously.

Please stop fearmongering with "electric car fires".


> Electric car fires are no big deal anymore.

> Easy solution: Put them in a tub full of water for at least 24 hours

How is this not a big deal? This forces firefighters, which sometimes are small departments without a lot of resources, to transport the cars. It's a nuissance if it's 1 car, but a parking lot caching fire would be an absolute nightmare.

If a car catches fire in a narrow street in the middle of a city, and it jumps to just a few more cars, you may have a massive issue.

It's great that you guys have adapted to this, and I'm sure we will learn how to make battery powered cars safer. This is the early-ish stages of a new technology, which are always rocky times... but it is still a big deal which shows how early it still is, which would be fine if we didn't need to stop using gas ASAP.

PD: I tried not to sound snarky but I may have failed. I intended no snark. I'm actually asking, how can this not be a big deal? Because it sounds like a big deal to me.


> How is this not a big deal?

First of all sorry for my English, I sometimes fail to find the right words, so it's sometimes hard to explain what I mean.

It's not a big deal in the sense that you'll call the control/dispatch center and tell them that you'll need a tub for an EV. They'll then take care of getting it to you and that's what firefighters worry about.

How the car leaves the place? None of the firefighters' business, at least here in Germany.

Of course there are lots of things in the aftermath like how to recycle the water from that tub as it might be contaminated and needs special treatment, but that's a problem for someone else and possibly already solved somehow.

> but a parking lot caching fire

Yeah, that would be shit, but it could also happen today with gas-powered cars. I've experienced something similar myself once with a used car sales lot. It was somewhat frightening as the fire spread to multiple cars very fast because of the large amounts of heat.

In the end we concentrated on cooling the unburnt cars at first, and only as a second measure slowly fighting and extinguishing the ones that already caught fire when reinforcements (lots of!) had arrived.

Would you handle it differently with EVs? Yes, probably, you'd also need lots of tubs.

Would it be completely differently? No. Cars are, once burning, very nasty to extinguish, no matter how they are powered.

I wouldn't fear an EV more than a gas-powered car if I would get called right now.


I think your thoughts speak to how public services operate in US verus other western countries.

In the US, such a process would (in my naive understanding)cripple my small-mid sized coastal towns FD, and throw the town leadership into a headspin for 20 years until the next solution is paid for by the next group of decision makers.


It's very possible that the resources (tubs) for a large amount of cars, as in this scenario, would not be available. Even if it's a yesterday problem in the operational level, the logistics look fragile.


firefighters are tough people, they had procedures for gasoline fires, now they have them for electric fires. not a big deal.


They do require a lot more water to be put out though.

> "Improvise. Adapt. Overcome." it is.

And here is the problem: most fire departments are horribly underfunded, meaning their machines are old, water tankers don't have enough capacity, water lines are un(der)maintained and the firefighter training has been ... spotty to put it lightly.


Don't know where you're from, but for Germany this is mostly solved, but those tactics are obviously still "new" for most and need to be refined, yes.

edit:

> They do require a lot more water to be put out though.

As OP was mentioning garage fires, I was expecting urban neighborhoods, where getting enough water should (hopefully) not be a problem in 2021.


> Don't know where you're from, but for Germany this is mostly solved

German here as well. For the Berufsfeuerwehr (for the Americans here: professional, full-time firefighters in big cities) yes, for Freiwillige Feuerwehr (volunteers, mostly in rural areas) not, which has been the subject of numerous media articles (e.g. https://kommunal.de/feuerwehr-fehlen-einsatzkraefte).

> As OP was mentioning garage fires, I was expecting urban neighborhoods, where getting enough water should (hopefully) not be a problem in 2021.

I was talking about electric car fires in general... and in rural areas, that is a problem (see e.g. https://www.nordkurier.de/uckermark/kontaminiertes-wasser-be...).

Anyway I'm not interested in fearmongering, just pointing out that even in Germany the situation isn't as decent as one might hope - and the US is even worse off.


I see you haven't lived in a mega-city like Karachi. When I lived there (some years ago, admittedly, but I don't believe things have improved much) we were lucky to get mains water for a few hours a couple of times a week at some seasons.


What is the problem with solar panels and fires? What happens when a house with a Tesla Solar Roof is on fire?


> What is the problem with solar panels and fires? What happens when a house with a Tesla Solar Roof is on fire?

When solar panels were new, firefighters were afraid, that classic methods will no longer work and that lots of houses would burn down, because the solar panels would be a solid, impenetrable "shield" against the water from the outside.

Turns out that solar panels will melt due to the heat before the firefighters arrive (for large fires where you have to extinguish from the outside), have killswitches, can be ripped from the roof when using a ladder and a wooden pole with a hook at the end... In the end it was just fear of this new and rather unknown technology.

Also tactics have evolved. Your main path to the fire will be from the inside, especially for normal housing fires, as you want to get as close als possible to the fire so you'll have to use as little water as possible. This lead to a steep decline in the use of "attacks from the outside".

Those will only be necessary for very large fires. In that case the panels are often gone, as already mentioned, or the house is a total loss, so destroying the panels forcefully is not that bad if you really need to do it.

Tesla Solar roofs will probably behave like any other panel/tile and can be penetrated with the right equipment or will break down by themselves as a result of excessive amounts of heat. I don't see big problems here.


From my recollection of a documentary I watched a few years ago: You can cut power to the burning building if the fire hasn't already destroyed the circuit(s) itself, solar panels though are not bound to the utilities thus can't be shut off remotely and could give electric shocks to the firefighters/left-over occupants. IIRC there were some nasty accidents that happened like this.


Well, if the manufacturer says I should park my car 15m away from others due to spontaneous fire risk...


I don't understand this at all. Right now I'm in the second recall with my Hyundai Kona EV. They have found that there might be a problem with the battery packs, so ALL Kona get a new one where the bug is fixed.

Might take its time till they are done, but they did not tell me to park near a river or something, in case the car catches fire. So either GM is even more cautious or just stupid.


Given GM's history between recall lawsuits in the past and "activist" shareholders in the present, I'd lean way more towards "more cautious". GM is an American company more prone to certain types of US lawsuits than other manufacturers and a lot of their PR has always been full of CYA, and also currently in a multi-year battle against some shareholders trying to intentionally tank GM's electric efforts (presumably so that Tesla "wins"?).


The problem here is the form factor of the cell as much as the chemistry. Pouch style cells are very difficult to regulate temperature in. This is a key reason why other automakers like Tesla use the small cylinder cells. Chinese companies like BYD have always used lithium iron phosphate. It has less energy density than lithium nickel batteries like NCA and NMC, but is cheaper. The patent was never taken out in China and the key patent expires for the rest of the world in April 2022. As much as 3/4 of vehicle batteries might end up being LFP. Improvements in the chemistry and less need for cooling systems and packaging mean its disadvantages aren't so glaring. Plus there aren't enough nickel mines to supply the coming avalanche of demand. Lithium, iron, and phosphate are plentiful.


FYI nickel is plentiful and unlikely to ever be in shortage. It's just so cheap right now that most nickel deposits are "non-economic", and thus not counted as part of proven reserves. The same thing is true with uranium for example.

see here for the difference between resources and reserves,

http://minesqc.com/en/informations-sheets/what-are-mineral-r...

We are currently extracting 2.5 MT of nickel a year, from reserves of 94 MT. Resources are estimated at 300 MT, which is definitely a lower end, as prospecting tends to concentrate profitable ores. If the price of nickel went up, we'd see more resources becoming reserves and more discovery of new resources.


If batteries are easily swappable with minimal tools, then a lot of range concerns go away as well. I think battery ownership and care needs to be decoupled from the vehicle. I also think the federal government should enforce interoperable batteries between vehicle brands.


The cars shape and structural components are designed around the battery. The cars software, motors, charging electronics, software, cooling systems, etc are all designed for the specific battery. The battery eats up a significant fraction of the cost of the car, and the systems designed around it a significant fraction of the remainder.

Asking for interoperable batteries between vehicle brands is like asking for interoperable engines between vehicle brands, it's ridiculous. The government should not be saying "hey, that $xx,xxxx item with a million constrains and optimizable variables, why don't you make it meet this arbitrary standard so people could theoretically put it in another chassis that wasn't designed to let you optimize it as well as possible".


Certainly no one should expect to be able to swap the main batteries that are embedded into the chassis of the car. The total weight of the batteries in a Tesla are around 1200 lbs.

But it seems like there could be a hot-swappable portion of the battery, kind of like a separate "reserve tank" (although it wouldn't actually be reserved).

Some back of the envelope math says that if 1200 lb battery gets you 250 miles, a 200 lb hot-swap battery would get you 40 miles. Possibly enough to get to your next destination.


> a 200 lb hot-swap battery would get you 40 miles.

According to one report, for a Tesla Model 3, a supercharger can add ~100 miles of range in ~10 minutes. It's hard to see how any improvement over that could possibly justify the immense additional complexity of physical battery swapping for only 40 additional miles of range.

https://insideevs.com/news/506520/tesla-model-3-supercharger...


Does the Supercharger network come with a fleet of drones that can autonomously repair a charger in the middle of nowhere, that broke down one late evening of a particularly snowy winter Sunday?

That said, it's probably a UX problem. Once EVs stop competing on range so much, it'll make sense to just designate the last 10% of battery as "reserve" and not count it in the battery level indicator.


Somehow gas pumps get repaired/maintained in the "middle of nowhere" today. Eventually the economic incentives will align that that the charger networks get maintained no matter where they are.

Arguably it should be far easier to get those economic incentives aligned as chargers are far simpler mechanically (they are just plug sockets with weird over-engineered male adapters) and most of what breaks on them is either vandalism or a small subset of existing problems of gas pumps: credit card reader malfunctions, display/screen problems, internet connectivity issues for account management/credit card transactions. (All the human UX points of contact.)

> Once EVs stop competing on range so much, it'll make sense to just designate the last 10% of battery as "reserve" and not count it in the battery level indicator.

Most already do (even while still competing for range) because it's a battery maintenance requirement. Li-Ion cells generally don't like being 100% full, especially not for long periods of time, and sometimes have a preferred "directionality" (ie, a cell should only be charging until it hits 100% and then you can draw from it and vice versa once you start drawing from the cell you should keep doing so until it hits 0%) so battery controllers already have to do a bunch of math to keep a "reserve" so that they don't violate "directionality" (you always want cells in the "charging" direction available even while driving for regenerative braking storage, for instance) and don't generally hit 100% charge for long rest periods, but instead 95% or so.


I thought we were comparing fast charging to battery swapping. Surely a machine that physically swaps out a battery is going to be significantly larger and more complex than a supercharger, and therefore also much more likely to break down..


No but there are always multiple supercharges at each station.

> it'll make sense to just designate the last 10% of battery as "reserve" and not count it in the battery level indicator.

Very questionable? Why would you do that?

We don't do that for gas cars either.


Every ICE car I've ever driven did exactly that with the 'reserve' where the needle is already at (or below) the zero line but you still get about 50 km of range.


I've been wondering about that with the cars with digital displays, particularly the ones that report your estimated remaining miles.

I once, embarrassingly, found myself on the highway with an empty tank of gas and 20 miles to the next gas station. I watched the estimated miles remaining indicator tick down mile after mile, ticking precisely my passage. At 3 miles estimated remaining, I pulled over because there was a very wide safe shoulder, and I didn't want to putter out in a less-safe spot.

I don't want to try the experiment of letting it tick down to zero and seeing if I still have 10 miles or so left.


Yup, exactly that.

I think the use cases for field-swapping a (part of the) battery pack are the same as for carrying extra fuel canisters with you, which I can only speculate about, because I've never been in such situation with an ICE car.


What about small generator and a canister of gasoline?


That’s what BMW did with their i3 REX models: a scooter engine and a tiny tank, hooked up to the electrical system. Turns out though that the extra weight impacted the performance without adding much in the way of range to the point that it wasn’t really worth it.


A 2000W inverter generator could give a Chevy Bolt an extra 14 miles of range after 3 hours of charging. A 240V generator could shorten that time or lengthen the range but would also be larger and take up more room in the car. Carrying gasoline in the back of your car all the time in case you run out of battery is somewhat dangerous. The generator means less cargo space as well. For a long trip to the middle of nowhere it may make sense to carry a generator and some gas. For a trip into town it may not.


> Asking for interoperable batteries between vehicle brands is like asking for interoperable engines between vehicle brands, it's ridiculous.

Engines are interoperable to a large degree; you can switch out the engine+ecu of your car for the engine+ecu of another car more easily than you'd think because the majority of the effort will be in changes requiring an adapter plate and shaft for the transmission.

There are hurdles that make it harder (for example, auto transmissions have software that expects a particular set of engine characteristics), but by and large most engines are isolated enough from the rest of the car and the drivetrain that you don't need to worry.


Batteries are to the same degree. if you really wanted to, you could take a bunch of liquid cooled Tesla modules and fit them in a old leaf, when it’s batteries degrade.


It's not ridiculous but it does lead to this conclusion: That there is probably a single optimal "skateboard" type design. Manufacturers are converging on this anyway.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skateboard_(automotive_platfor...

Then the real truth that no one wants to hear, is that there is no need for so many different types of passenger vehicles.


It's astonishing how similar all cars are becoming, outside of the superficial stuff. For a reason. Convergence on the optimal solution.


They are also optimizing for superficial appeal to customer, not 100% functionality.


If that’s actually true there will be one player to rule them all. Tesla essentially been selling same car for a decade.


This is nonsense. That's like saying 'everybody converging on a 4 wheel design'. The details of how the platform is built and integrated is still very different.

> Then the real truth that no one wants to hear, is that there is no need for so many different types of passenger vehicles.

Good that we have you to tell us what vehicles people should drive.


> Asking for interoperable batteries between vehicle brands is like asking for interoperable engines between vehicle brands, it's ridiculous

No, it is like asking batteries for radios follow the norm (so that they can be swapped), or petrol to be the same for all cars, with the same pouring mechanism (a round hole), or USB connectors to be the same between devices.


Swappable batteries preclude the large weight savings of a structural battery that is an integral part of the car's chassis.


I'd say it should be possible to have a certain degree of compatibility just like I expect my GPU to work on any of the MB on the market supporting PCI-e(Space and cooling issues asside). The battery should be just a battery with a protection system. Charging and BMS should be separate and replaceable along with the battery. The OS of the car should support x number of BMS systems with a unified protocol.

You want a Li-Ion pack? This BMS and this shielding are required. You want Lead batteries? This BMS needs to charge it. Do you want that new battery tech? You need the new BMS for it and an OS driver for the BMS. Plug it in and it's done.


The battery is the most expensive part... which susceptible to wear, abuse and fraud. (and fire). Making them easily swappable with minimal tools means they'll be easily stolen.


The negative replies to this are largely valid, but ignore the fact that we can have multiple strategies at the same time.

I for one would love to be able to take my battery out, swap it, have a few so some are always on solar charge. Be able to take one onto the boat. Use a new one for higher performance special occasion driving, and an old one for bumper to bumper slow commute which I can wrong every last mile out of. Have a few which default to home backup and can support the grid.

The highly optimised around the battery argument is very good. But it doesn't mean that we can't also have a company focusing on interchangeable batteries with a third party market.

Let the buyer decide. Neither solution will get 100% of the market, or zero. Why write one off right now with confidence when both could have a healthy market for the hugely diverse users (ie not just SV nerds)

The fed enforcing interop wouldn't be black and white. Just like Mercedes are allowed to sell super low MPG AMG Sports cars because they also sell lots of small city cars. The fed could encourage things in this direction without being black and white and mandating 100% of batteries be replaceable.

I think the downvotes of the parent comment here aren't what downvotes should be for. He or she brings up a very interesting point


Literally nobody is arguing against some companies being allowed to do that.

And Nio does in China.


Easily, yes, minimal tools, no.

But a 93 second full battery replacement for the Model S:

https://yewtu.be/watch?v=H5V0vL3nnHY


The people I know with electric cars charge at home the vast majority of the time. Swapping adds a lot of complexity and cost in the pack design. NIO is doing swaps as another commenter pointed out, but more customers in China live in apartments. In the end, I think charging stations will be ubiquitous, even for apartment dwellers, and swaps will be rare.


They are too heavy to swap them by hand


The comment you replied to said minimal tools.

In practice this would probably mean something like: a vehicle hoist, a suitable lifter, a couple of sockets and a racket handle, and a screwdriver or two.


Tesla actually had a battery swapping machine at one point, I think it was at the Kettleman City location. There's no reason the battery and charging infrastructure can't be leveraged for all passenger vehicles. The battery on your electric vehicle should be like the propane tank on your gas grill - just swap it out when you need to. (This doesn't preclude recharging it)

Not to mention, when the battery reaches the end of its normal life cycle. Just goes straight into the recycling pipeline.


Tesla's swapping machine was just for tax credits. It was never built to be something they'd sell to customers. They built that one demo location and then abandoned battery swapping completely as not viable.


If they legitimately cared instead of faking it they could probably do better. Especially if the target is a maintenance-style machine setup rather than a 30 second gas station rival setup.


Nio's cars support battery swaps:

https://electrek.co/2021/07/09/nio-plan-open-battery-swap-st...

You can rent the batteries and upgrade and downgrade the capacity as you like. It also makes it easy to replace the battery in the future if you buy it outright.

They offer 70 and 100 kWh packs now. They're aiming for 150 kWh packs next year:

https://insideevs.com/news/465188/nio-150-kwh-solid-state-ba...


might want to put it into context though... there are on average 160,000 passenger car fires per year and about 360 deaths due to that. i'd like to see that figure broken down per 100k miles driven or per 100k cars of the type but i can't seem to find that easily.

https://www.nfpa.org/vehiclefires


Yes, but an important part of that context is that electric car fires also burn longer and hotter and take significantly more effort to put out. Too little water can actually make the fire worse.

Annecdotally, my recollection from other articles is that electric cars do in fact catch on fire less often. But it also seems like they may be more difficult to deal with. This may change as EV's become more mainstream & fire departments adapt: Graphite may be effective in putting out these fires, and maybe it will become a common tool in fire departments.

For the time being, rare or not, they post a much larger problem to deal with when they do occur.


Yep. Moreover, the issue isn't new cars today.

You know when you saw that old Chrysler Grand Caravan burning on the side of the road, and you hear the story that the person has been holding it together solely with thoughts and prayers and maybe $500 between tires and oil for the last 7 years of its 19 year life?

That's the current inevitability. I'm not worried about someone's 6-month old Bolt or 2-year old Model 3. The issue is when we're eventually talking about a 22-year old Model 3 that's had 13 years of deferred maintenance, is totally clapped out, and is only on the road because someone paid some mechanic off to look the other way during a state vehicle inspection for the past 5 years.

Germany is starting to standardize on towing an electric car away to dunk it in a tank to ultimately handle fires.


> and is only on the road because someone paid some mechanic off to look the other way during a state vehicle inspection for the past 5 years.

Making mechanics liable - maybe jointly as a business and an individual - for their failure to inspect vehicles properly would be a pretty simple mechanic to reduce this risk.


These inspections are nothing but pointless revenue generation for the state, checking for the check engine light and inspecting 1 wheel at most usually. Lots of states don't even have them.


In Germany they are very serious about vehicle inspections, and insurance requirements.


Didn't the big German auto manufacturers literally develop the hacks to bypass diesel emissions inspections? I'm not sure I'd hold anyone up in a pedestal on this score...


Those cars still passed the inspection. Which means they were physically sound. A battery isn't going to shift into an alternate mode where it becomes a spontaneous fire hazard.


Those have nothing to do with each other: Germany indeed has a company level corruption problem (especially in combination with the conservative party), but pretty low corruption at the citizen level, i.e. where vehicle inspections happen.


They got caught.


Not by any German regulator or agency.


That sounds more like an argument for effective inspections being universally required more than anything else? Apologies if I've misinterpreted.


We get by fine without rigorous inspections, and they amount to a regressive tax like a lot of other fees related to keeping a car.


Death by burning from an exploding battery from an uninspected, poorly-mainteained car in the garage of your shared low-rent apartment building is also a regressive tax.

I'll take the inspections.


It's not like states without inspections have an endemic of exploding cars as it is. I don't think the justification for inspections is really there.


Fuel-based cars tend to burn after an extreme adverse event, usually a collision.

Battery fires are more frequently spontaneous, or occur during charging.

How many barbequed children do you find an acceptable number?


Battery fires usually happen after collisions too. Fires while charging are rare but they grab headlines because they're novel.

I think trying to use inspections to solve that is a case of barking up a really stupid tree. In the case of EV charging fires there's not really much a mechanic can inspect that some electronics cobbled onto the pack couldn't. In the case of battery pack damage an annual inspection isn't going to do much good since most of those cases will cause problems before that or not at all.


"Parked Teslas Keep Catching on Fire Randomly, And There's No Recall In Sight"

https://www.thedrive.com/news/28420/parked-teslas-keep-catch...

Article list 9 cases. None involved accidents. Several were during charging, one during transport (on a flatbed truck).

All are of


In Ireland, roughly half of the vehicles going for the NCT fail on the first try, and ultimately about 5% don’t pass at all after retries.

Of that, I’d say half of the initial failures are simple things that don’t require a mechanic, (dead bulbs, bad/low tires) and the rest require a me hanic to do something.


My state has inspections, but does not charge for them.


If it’s a Chrysler product it doesn’t need thoughts prayers or old age to spontaneously combust. A brand new one will sometimes so it all on its own due to bad design


Some countries have mandatory regular inspections for critical vehicle functionality like brakes. We will probably require EV battery checks like this as well, if the BMS / firmware is not enough to keep the battery pack safe.


Safety inspections are close to worthless for safety on a macro level (they are great if you own a BHPH dealer or are a government regulator trying to give shops a reason not to fudge emissions inspections though).

You implement mild inspection laws and they do nothing because people can just pay the fine or whatever.

You implement invasive inspections where people are rich and they do nothing because rich people already don't drive on bald tires and whatnot.

You implement invasive inspections where people are poor and you create incentives to circumvent the law and hardship among those who don't ignore the law.

Mechanical failure is a negligible cause of accidents and injury so applying lots of effort co chase something that's only a source of the minority of problems is kind of a fools errand to throw a ton of societal resources at it.

If inspections really make the roads safer it would be an insurance thing and you'd see differences in premiums that reflect differences in law, insurers setting up their own programs where none exist and lobbying states for inspection programs. You basically never even hear a peep out of them about safety inspections unless it's in the context of getting people to upgrade to a newer car with better safety tech. Contrast with intoxication, distraction and driver training which are issues that insurers and their lobbyists constantly weigh in on.


GP covered that: "(...) and is only on the road because someone paid some mechanic off to look the other way during a state vehicle inspection for the past 5 years".


> Germany is starting to standardize on towing an electric car away to dunk it in a tank to ultimately handle fires.

I suppose if the problem is widespread enough, every city will have a mobile dunk truck at the ready for electric vehicle fires.


And what do you do if those fires cause other things to burn in the vicinity?


Same thing you do when an ICE car sets a building on fire. Apply water and put it out.


Except for an ICE you only need to dump about 300 gallons on it. For an EV, it can take 24 hours to get the thing fully dealt with.


That's only relevant for the EV itself, not for the stuff it lit on fire.


You put out the fire, then dunk the EV in a tank when it's out to keep it from reigniting, while not having to monitor it.


Bring the regular truck filled with water to hose it down.


Not if, when.


This is yet another good reason to decouple the battery from the rest of the vehicle. Hit the emergency release, battery drops out of the car, and push the rest of the vehicle away.


I kind of hope that gets to be an (infrequent) problem.

As it is, I've lately been wondering about what happens to 14 year-old electric cars with dead batteries that cost more than the car is worth.


People like me buy them for $500 and put the motor in a grass kart


I had no idea what a 'grass kart' was, so I looked it up.

Cool stuff! And thanks for repurposing the motors.


Towing the car in a tank seems a sensible solution, but I'm wondering if it wouldn't be simpler to tow the tank near the vehicle, lift it and dunk it there?


It could be hard to get a car up into the tank... connecting a winch might not be possible due to the heat, but I wonder how they get around that to tow it?

Also, needing to plan for larger vehicles like a pickup truck would mean > 4,000 lbs of water to submerge one, base an approximate dimensions of such trucks & the corresponding volume of water.

Than again with batteries generally in the bottom of the car, maybe you'd only need to submerge a few feet?

I can definitely see the need for new emergency response equipment in the EV future.


> It could be hard to get a car up into the tank... connecting a winch might not be possible due to the heat, but I wonder how they get around that to tow it?

Seems like something similar in design to this would do the trick, maybe with sufficiently thick steel plating on the side:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaYN6yC4bnI


> The issue is when we're eventually talking about a 22-year old Model 3 that's had 13 years of deferred maintenance, is totally clapped out, and is only on the road because someone paid some mechanic off to look the other way during a state vehicle inspection for the past 5 years.

Except that the 22 year Model 3 also has a computer inside the battery that should be keeping things in check. Assuming the battery can even hold any charge at that age.


And said computer was likely receiving software updates and sending telemetry for most, if not all, of that time.


Or it have been hacked either to send fake data or no data at all... Knowing the general level of security in industry and even with some high end smartphones, I expect it to happen.


For everyone interested, there is an interesting study to be found researching EV vs gas driven car fires [1].

"Nevertheless, existing test results have revealed that the heat release rate of EV fire is comparable to that of the fossil-fuelled vehicle fire, while EV fire may release more toxic gasses like HF from burning Li-ion batteries."

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338542510_A_Review_...


> For the time being, rare or not, they post a much larger problem to deal with when they do occur.

It seems to me that being harder to put off but occurring less frequently, and most importantly not exploding (leaving significant amount of time for occupants to get out, if they are able) is a pretty good trade off.


Also a gasoline car actually exploding is exceedingly rare. It generally takes a bit of effort to get gasoline to explode, rather than simply catch on fire. The tiny explosions that occur in the engine are only possibly due to gasoline being aerosolized into a fine mist.

Take a gas can with a soaked rag & trail of gasoline leading to it & set it on fire and you'll have quite a fire on your hands, but no explosion. Now, add a tiny bit a black powder to the equation to disperse the flaming gasoline into the air and you've got a small fuel-air bomb on your hands. But that-- or similarly explosive circumstances-- just don't happen with cars much at all. Pop culture, where a few guns shots result in an explosion, gives the wrong impression here.


For the curious: The Mythbusters actually tested the "shooting a gun at a gas tank explodes the car" thing, and it didn't work. It only worked when they tried it with tracers, but those are a whole different thing than ordinary ammo.

I couldn't find a clip of it, but here's the Mythbusters Wiki page for the episode: https://mythbusters.fandom.com/wiki/Car_Capers


Don't try this at home though


It could be a good trade off, it depends on more details though. Do electric car fires flame up faster, giving passengers less time to exit the car? What about toxic fumes emanating from the burning batteries? Since they they burn hotter and for much longer, are they more likely to damage surrounding infrastructure, like a bridge, before being extinguished?

I don't know the answer to these questions. They could all be "no". But before judging the trade off those are important factors to understand.


I don’t know about giving occupants more time to get out. I have seen the carpark video of a Tesla going up in flames in China.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2019-04-22/tesla-inves...

Thing went from 0 to 110 real quick.


From an exterior perspective of a parked car certainly that would look like the case. The interior software in an operating Tesla has very loud warnings as soon as the first firewall breaks between cells which according to multiple incidents happens at least 5-10 minutes before enough cells hit critical temperatures that the entire vehicle becomes fire. Far more warning than an ICE fire.

There's probably a case to make that there should be an effort to provide better, similar software warnings for parked/"off" vehicles to signal emergency services with that extra lead time.


> Tesla has very loud warnings as soon as the first firewall breaks between cells

I searched but wasn't able to find a video of this. Any reference?


The “explosions” you hear from car fires are almost always first the tires popping, and later the airbags going off. I watched a car fire near me last year and the firefighters didn’t even flinch when the loud bangs happened.


Lithium batteries are far more explodey than modern gas tanks. Battery fires burn much hotter and faster than "regular" vehicle fires (which are generally just the contents of the vehicle burning, not the fuel).


> It seems to me that being harder to put off but occurring less frequently, and most importantly not exploding (leaving significant amount of time for occupants to get out, if they are able) is a pretty good trade off.

It's very rare to get a gas tank to explode (as others have pointed out). You need to have very little fuel (or better, none at all) in the tank before a spark will cause explosions.

Take a 2l plastic soda bottle, fill it 90% full with petrol and (with tongs from a distance) drop in a lit cigarette. I've tried to get the bottle to go bang multiple times and it never happens - the ciggarette is extinguished every single time.

Then empty that bottle until there is less than 5ml of petrol in it, close the bottle and shake it up to get a rich mixture, and then repeat the experiment (I've gotten fairly big bangs every single time, this way).

The TLDR of it all is that there is danger of explosion when the tank is emptied, not when it is full, because the fumes cause explosions, not the liquid state of the fuel (which just catches fire).


Yes, as I understand it, the fuel vapors give a relatively minor boom that disperses the rest of the gasoline enough to become essentially the second stage. Not that it takes long enough to really discern two stages: aerosolized gasoline will go up fast.


How long would you suggest those tongs should be, to ensure a safe distance? For the ones that go bang.


> How long would you suggest those tongs should be, to ensure a safe distance? For the ones that go bang.

I'm hesitant to answer in case some tries this and gets hurt.

I used a flexible claw (one like this: https://www.amazon.com/Flexible-Claw-Automotive-Mechanic-Gen...) inserted into a standard copper pipe (used for taps and other plumbing) to stiffen the spring and held it at arms length.

So, about 2m was safe for me. I also suggest wearing protection for your ears as these are really loud bangs, and protection for your eyes as well (it is an explosion, after all).


I think, given the HN community, the appropriate answer is "build a robot to do it for you"


How many of those are with the car off and at rest ?


There have been a couple of big recalls in the not-to-distant past for ICE vehicles spontaneously combusting. They have electric components too, which can short out and start a fire.


Saturn had a recall over generator fires when the car was off. When running the generator would over heat, when the car was off the residual heat would cause a fire since there was no cooling airflow.

My sister had her Chrysler LeBarron go up in flames in her parking garage.

Happens more often than you think


I would much rather my car catch on fire when I am not in it.

Well I’d really prefer it not catch on fire at all but you get the idea…


Is that actually relevant though, or just an implementation detail? Perhaps you could argue a moving car seems more potentially hazardous? But then that's only learned from extant behaviour anyway?


A car being driven is guaranteed to have a person behind the wheel. (For now...) A electric car in an attached garage spontaneously bursting into flame at 2 am is a recipe for burning a house to the ground.


The major issue in these fires is the lack of someone attentive. We can leverage the existing horn in the same way as anti-theft systems to fix that. We need a way to detect the issue, but I would hope there's a thermometer somewhere we can use to sense dangerous thermals.

Even more interestingly, the car could communicate with your smoke detectors to set off the fire alarm. It would be a great value proposition for something like Nest. It can let you know that there's going to be a fire before it even starts.

I would hope that honking the horn in case of fire is something we could achieve with a software update, but maybe not.

The pipe dream would be for the car to be able to get itself somewhere safe-ish in bad conditions. We're probably a good ways off from it, and safer batteries may take over first, but worst case scenario we may be able to program some kind of "escape path" into the cars. My car has the ability to save garage door opener codes. It's not too far fetched to be able to tell it to roll up the garage door and pull out into the driveway in case of potential fire situations. You might need an automatic ejector for the charger cable, but that doesn't seem insurmountable either.

I do agree that electric cars are more dangerous for now, and will continue to be even after the updates. We can narrow that gap with software, and even more with some integrated hardware.

It's not all doom and gloom for EVs, though.


So automated ejection of the warp core in case of a pending breach?


My dad's gas car (20 years ago) caught on fire in the garage while he wasn't there. The house was fine b/c of a a code required fire break between the garage and house. It's probably more rare nowadays, but not impossible.


Well at this rate the refrigerator will text you if your house is burning down.


In the former case there's definitely a person inside the thing that's on fire, and in the latter case there almost definitely isn't a person inside the thing (I guess once in a while somebody sleeps in their car but this isn't recommended) and that seems like a much safer situation.

Houses are replaceable, that's why people have insurance.


How is it safer for a car to catch fire in your garage while you're asleep? This is clearly the more dangerous situation.


Safer than being in a car which is on fire. That's what we're comparing here.


I still dont understand how that is safer. If the car is on fire, you can get out. I have been to many car fires when I volunteered with the FD and unless it's a wreck with entrapment, there's never any injury. In comparison, there are plenty of deaths from fires starting while people are sleeping.


Safer if you don't expect the person to get out when they see black smoke and flames coming from under their hood. Cars don't usually catch fire explosively.


Humans are replaceable, that's why people have insurance.

Just kidding.


Catching fire when no-one's around seems like it could go a lot worse than catching fire with a driver present.


https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-st...

56 vehicle fires / billion miles driven.

15 vehicle fire deaths / hundred billion miles driven.


The risk of lithium ion fire is very obvious and real. But to decide if this is a problem relative to the current alternatives (gasoline) we would need to compare the rates and severity of fires between the two.

Gasoline cars also have complicated parts to help mitigate their fire risk.


Not to mention the chronic illnesses and deaths reduced by taking ICE vehicles off the street.


I’ve never heard of a gas tank spontaneously bursting into flames.


https://www.nbcnews.com/business/autos/bmw-adds-nearly-185-0...

"BMW is adding nearly 185,000 vehicles to a 2017 recall for possible engine fires.

Two years ago the company recommended that the vehicles be parked outdoors until problems are fixed."

Now you have heard.


"engine fires..." not gas tanks.


Given gas cans often need a flame arrestor to keep the same happening from gas stored in garages, and that often wasn't included in cheap versions but was in commercial versions for many decades, my guess is that it happened and might still happen.


80’s television taught me that virtually every rollover accident will result in a vehicle explosion.


There are about 160,000 fires involving personal internal combustion engine vehicles per year.


I think the key word there was "spontaneous", along with the relative danger and difficulty of dealing with them. An EV fire can take 24 hours to secure. A gasoline car takes about 300 gallons of water.

I'm not saying EV fires are a bigger issue than gasoline cars. I'm saying that you cannot look merely at incident rate to determine the issue.


I would say that's an advantage for EVs. I'd rather have fires that are slow to start and slow to put out than the opposite.


I’m not sure, it’s 24 hours of constant monitoring and fire suppression from a trained fire crew. Not something that’s scalable.


So, there’s a guaranteed recipe for starting an engine fire (though from oil, not gasoline): Icy hill, and idiot drivers holding their engine at max revs for a few minutes to try and conquer them. The heat destroys the seals, oil leaks out, and combusts on the hot block.

Which makes me wonder, how would an EV handle the same poor driving conditions?


I think you'd just heat up the battery pack until the cooling system couldn't keep up, and then it would automatically limit the output to prevent the battery from overheating. Apparently racing tesla's on tracks has the same thing happen.

It's not obvious to me how you could cause an ev to fail catastrophically like that, because they do have sensors to detect overheating in the battery. I guess in theory you could also do something like catch the tires on fire from too much friction...


How many of those are due to the ICE? In my experience most vehicle fires are electrical in nature, whether it's an EV or not (the 12v system in an ICE car can still cause a fire).


Ethanol gasoline degrades older vehicle's rubber fuel lines, This has lead to many fuel fires.


Yeah, I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying it's very infrequent in my experience (~15 years as a firefighter). Electrical issues, accidental fires in the passenger compartment (cigarettes/joints igniting trash in the footwell), and even arson are all far more common than fuel system issues.


Tesla already uses lithium iron phosphate for some Model 3s as it's cheaper (not more expensive like you claim). And Tesla has basically already solved the fire problem through careful engineering, and other carmakers will figure this out as well.

But also, car fires happen all the time. They're just normal and so don't get to the news. My grandfather died in a gasoline fire (which can happen a lot faster).


> And Tesla has basically already solved the fire problem

Have they? So why did a Tesla Model S Plaid (a new car) catch fire while being driven just a few months ago?

https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2021/7/2/22560662/tesl...


There are 1.5 million Tesla cars out there on the road. Most of them, nearly all of them really, are not on fire.


I understand that. But if I tell someone at work that I "solved the XYZ problem", I mean that XYZ doesn't happen any more.

If there's a claim that Tesla has "solved the fire problem", I would hope there's a good explanation for why fires still happen with the newest model delivered 3 months ago.


This was a manufacturing failure of a particular battery design. Other pouch batteries with a different design built by LG have not had problems.


Tesla is using Lithium Iron Phosphate in Model 3s and Ys manufactured in China. It's giving buyers of the SR+ in North America the option of the LFP version if they want faster delivery.

The downside of LFP is lower energy density which means an LFP Model 3 has a slightly reduced range compared to the Lithium Ion version.

The upside is the LFP likes to be charged to 100% where as Lithium Ion prefers 90% charges.


Tesla is shipping LFP batteries in it’s new cars.


I was about to correct you that it was only for cars in China, but it looks like my information was out of date. An article for others who hadn't heard:

https://insideevs.com/news/529228/tesla-model3-lfp-battery-o...



Sodium reacts explosively with water.


Pure sodium, sure.

You're full of sodium, though, and you don't explode.


As a kid I remember watching a documentary on spontaneous human combustion. That gave me nightmares for weeks...


So does pure lithium


Which is exactly why I am wondering how sodium batteries will be any easier to manage.


https://spectrum.ieee.org/sodium-ion-battery

> Sodium batteries are also more stable and safe than lithium-ion. They have a wider temperature range, are nonflammable, and there is no thermal runaway—which can cause lithium-ion batteries to catch fire—under any condition, says Pouchet.


Thanks for the actual informative link instead of the CATL press release others are linking. Sodium-ion batteries seem to have some very desirable properties over other rechargeable battery chemistries.

Has CATL substantially improved the energy density? Half the capacity on a per-weight basis than Lithium-ion seems pretty bad for EVs. Halving the range of already barely-acceptable vehicles seems pretty bad. Maybe it’s fine for short-range EVs and hybrids, but the range is one of the selling points of the Bolt.


That's not a mass-market solution

Tesla have sold well over 1.5 million cars at this point


Gasoline fires happen all the time. They just don’t get press.

No method of packing enough energy in a car for hundreds of miles of range is going to be perfectly safe. Stored energy is stored energy and any material with that much really wants to party.

It does seem that the Bolt has an issue. I’m glad I opted for the 62kWh Leaf for an affordable EV and so far I think there has only ever been one Leaf fire. It happened years ago and they have been on the market about the longest. The Bolt has slightly more range but I looked at both and liked the Leaf more. This was before I heard about fires.


> The Bolt has slightly more range but overall the Leaf is better.

I'm curious how you determined this? Everything I've seen suggests the Bolt is better in most ways, and overall. Excluding the current minor risk of fire, of course.


Not to imply I know what I'm talking about, but I really wish we could find some way to create carbon-based batteries (graphene or something) so we could develop a carbon capture -> battery process. That would be pretty damn cool.


We need to hurry up with Graphene Aluminum batteries


> The automaker told Bolt owners to limit the charge to 90 percent, plug in more frequently and avoid depleting the battery to below about 70 miles of remaining range.

Tesla's approach here would be to issue an OTA update that told your car to treat 90% as 100% and 25% as 0. I can't decide if I like that better or worse.


I think there's the 5 second cool factor but after that novelty you're probably just as disgruntled as the fact that you lost 35% of the range for your car.

I hope the Chevy bolt is a rare case and stories like this don't pop up with the other upcoming electric vehicles. The new lightning F150 looks very attractive.


I think it would be good. If you drive your car or charge it out of those ranges it can catch on fire. Removing that area of "ordinary things you can do with your car and it might make it burn up" is exactly why that is important to consider. There must be hundreds of thousands of bolts and at least some of those customers have not heard about this. The other side of it is hey you took something away from my car and I don't like that. GM has to deal with this by fixing people's cars and giving them monetary compensation.


Cool, but if i bought a low cost electric car specifically because my commute range allowed for it, for example, until your "bug fixes and changes" OTA was quietly force-pushed and i find myself on the highway with a dead battery, i'm likely to set the fkn thing on fire myself...


Obviously the manufacturer should compensate its customers, it's just better to have an EV with worse range than an unsafe EV or even a pile of scrap (if they all got recalled and probablt not fixed).


> There must be hundreds of thousands of bolts

99,356 in USA & Canada, per this number: https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/chevrolet-bolt-sales-figures-u...

I was curious about this so I looked it up, you might think it is interesting too.


Thanks for actual data to correct my guess!


>The new lightning F150 looks very attractive

you will be happy to know Ford is using SK batteries after switching away from LG. SK just recently settled for $2billions a case that revealed they stole LG battery technology. Bolt uses LG batteries.

LG had a chain of costly recalls and replacements for all of their clients

"LG Energy Solutions, the company that makes the battery for the Bolt and Kona EV, has not had a good year. First, they agreed to replace the 82,000 batteries sold to Hyundai for the Kona EV, Ioniq, and Elec City buses. Although the initial rumors were from a faulty battery separator, Hyundai later said that the problem was badly folded tabs. GM emphatically pointed out that they use a different separator, and a different factory. Thus neither of those problems should apply to the Bolt fires.

Porsche recently initiated a recall on a loss of power in its Taycan LG batteries, and Ford also moved from LG in its Mustang Mach-E to SK in its Ford F-150 Lightning."


I heard really good things about the EV mustang from Ford. I wouldn't take this to be representative of EVs in general, but rather a remark on GM.


Is it GM or LG for making bunk batteries? TFA clearly states that GM believes they will be recouping this money from LG.


Both really. The problem is supposed to have been caused by misaligned robots at LG's factories:

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2021/08/misaligned-factory-robo...

But the fault of both GM and LG is that they weren't able to detect the problem sooner.


So better regression testing on new battery deliveries and better unit tests on the batteries themselves. That's a good item to add to the after action report. Now, what do you do to the battery to make the unit test? Shake it? Heat it? For how long?

I guess I'm just not seeing fault at GM here. Trying to get there though.


In this case you can x-ray it to see the problem. They were x-raying some, but not enough.


If you're going to outsource manufacture of key components -- like the battery for an electric car, which is the single most important and expensive component in the entire vehicle -- then the buck stops with you for quality control. People inside GM may want to blame LG, but everyone outside GM will blame GM.


The Bolt has been around since 2017, and the Mach-E arrived this year. It is way too early to be deciding that maybe Ford will have better luck.

Neither company is actually making their own batteries, in any case.


I don't see how electric cars are any different than mobile phones. So basically this means a 3 year life span in terms of battery performance. Regular combustion cars though also suffer reduced mpg so I am not saying this is an apples to apples comparison.


Common misconception and big reason why many avoid EVs. They are both Li-ion but battery degradation is very much mitigated in an EV because of very close attention to thermal management. Plus warranties on batteries give you something like 70% at ten years I think


With phones and regular usage you are likely doing full charge/discharge cycles every day or two, which is hard on the battery. That's not really the case with electric cars. When you have 200-300 miles of range, and you only regularly drive, say, 20 or 30 miles per day, it's pretty easy to keep the battery around 70%-80%, which should significantly extend the life span.

Obviously the batteries still degrade, but they should be usable long past 3 years assuming regular driving habits.


Electric cars have been around sufficiently long that we already know this isn't the case. Even with these early technology EVs. The only EV with any kind of problem that is sort-of similar to that is the original Leaf.


The reduced mpg is not all that much though, maybe 2-3 mpg nothing nearly as significant as driving behavior on mpg. A small displacement honda is going to have good mpg all its life unless something has really fouled up.


I've noticed a 5mpg decrease with every car I've owned in pretty similar driving conditions over 5-10 years and immaculate maintenance.


That can’t be right, it would leave your cars immobile after like 6 years, and getting half the range out of a tank after 3 years.

Cars are good for 20 years still going roughly as far on a tank as they did. I’ll believe 10% loss of mpg over a lifetime, I don’t track that closely, but 10-20% range loss on a tank per year, nahhh.


Sorry I meant a 5mpg decrease overall not every year. That would fit with the 10% you describe.


That is not normal. Every car I have owned has maintained its gas mileage unless something was wrong with it. My current vehicle is over 20 years old and is actually getting better gas mileage than it was when I bought it 3 years ago. I do keep up on maintenance more than the average person does tho.


Honestly in my experience, small displacement cars have typically gotten OVER epa estimate mpg. I had a 25 year old acura that got 35mpg easily each tank, epa estimate when it was new was like 30mpg iirc.


I'm driving a 2013 F-150; it's got ~20mpg since I got it in 2014. The 2004 Corvette still gets approx. 30 (mostly highway), although it desperately needs new fuel injectors.


While nobody will come out and say it, I’m convinced based on some extensive early career battery system engineering and various evidence from tesla that what they do is put in much more raw capacity than they sell you and then limit with software the capacity of the battery.

Early in the life of the battery this leads to slowed degredation and as the battery agrees the software uses more and more of the raw capacity to make it appear like the capacity is being lost much slower than it is… then at some point capacity will fall off a cliff when the excess is depleted.

Comparable to how SSDs have capacity reserved for bad blocks.

It is probably good engineering but it would be nice for the mechanics to be sold truthfully and some level of control to be given to the owner.


I mean, you don't have to guess. There are plenty of battery teardown videos where they count the cells. IIRC it's on the order of 5-10% kWh reserved.


I'm pretty sure every product with lithium-ion batteries does this, but it's not so that they can use the extra capacity later, it's because letting these kind of batteries either fully charge or discharge is itself harmful to the batteries, so to get a useful lifespan you have to have some amount of extra capacity.


I mean the Chevy Volt uses only 50% of it's battery capacity but it can more easily do that thanks to having a built-in gasoline engine that operates more like a generator for the electric engine. When I found out that they limited the battery for maximum longevity I was less stressed out about the battery life. They still degrade over time and until they become more modular like the Ultium system GM is putting into their next-gen EVs it's still a big costly single point of failure.


It's not as high as 50%.


This is clearly the case as every time there is a mass evacuation from somewhere they issue an OTA update to release more battery capacity.


GM also does this with the Bolt and Volt. I was under the impression that Tesla did this less so.


Wouldn’t this be extremely easy to find out with a battery tear down/test?


A friend with a 6yo P85D says his battery performance is still in the high 80%s vs brand new. What to do with large numbers of EVs at the end of their useful battery life is still an unsolved problem though.


At least with a car you might be able to replace the battery. Maybe. Of course the auto companies have the same incentives as the mobile phone companies to want you to replace the whole thing.


It's pretty easy to replace phone batteries, I wish people would stop spreading this myth. Popular models can nearly al be done by somebody that could change their own oil in a car. And there are phone repair shops in nearly every town for those who want to spend $20-$50 to have a pro do it.

Please don't discard a phone merely because of a bad battery, unless you've tried to get a replacement!


So, just like a phone then? Those batteries are also replaceable, even if they aren’t user-replaceable.

https://support.apple.com/iphone/repair/service/battery-powe...


Most phones use LiPo Batteries not LiIon, so they're not directly comparable. Afaik LiPo is known to have a lower lifespan.


> I can't decide if I like that better or worse.

It's a really good question. Let's think about it.

As you've outlined it, Tesla's approach prioritizes the user's confidence in the product, rather than the user's knowledge about the product.

Naturally, when a product is faulty, the user's confidence in the product is inversely proportional to their knowledge about the fault; the less I know about the fault, the more unshaken is my confidence in the product.

So I guess it comes down to this: when a product fails, would you prefer to react with "wow, how unexpected" or "figures"?


Isn't this basically what Apple should have done to avoid their throttling lawsuit? Told their customers to change their behaviors?


Nah, they should have just been transparent about the throttling.

They still throttle now after the lawsuit, you can just stop it if you want to. Also an important difference with Apple is that the iPhone throttling wasn’t a safety concern.


The throttling was a reaction to poor battery performance at the technical endish-of-life part of the product. After X cycles the battery recharge ability was limited, couldn't be fully charged. It also had increased internal resistance, meaning an increased power draw (eg CPU/GPU load increase) can't be sustained. If too much current is drawn, the voltage drops, and the result may be a brown-out event (voltage too low -> shutdown/reboot). Since the battery couldn't deliver, Apple limited use of the battery so it doesn't run into those brown-outs.

This is all sound and well and well-known, which is why you design in a safety factor so that you have plenty of margin even at end of life.

Why didn't they? Since no internal Apple discussions surface, I can just speculate it's either,

  * incompetence, they didn't anticipate this
  * cost-driven decision, despite Apple products being top-dollar devices and even low-range devices work better in this aspect
  * design-driven decision, larger battery would mean a larger device
I'm betting the last point. Someone (Jobs? Ive?) had a fixed upper size limit on the device, and at the same time a fixed minimum CPU/GPU performance limit to not feel sluggish.


Around that time there were a ton of battery recalls for phones nowhere near the end of their life - mine was one.

I think they just got a bad batch of batteries or were too aggressive cost optimizing and this was the fix. 5&6 era iPhones never had this problem and their batteries degraded just the same.


They've tried that before, it turns out that "you're holding it wrong" isn't the best customer experience.


I still can’t believe they went for that


Not just that they went for that - but that they ended up in that situation to begin with. IIUC, the outer rim was two (or more) metal pieces, whereof one acted as antenna. The signal degradation occurs when the user holds the phone and bridges the antenna-piece with a non-antenna piece. This affects the antenna tuning and attenuates the signal.

Just missing out on such a basic thing is a bit boggling to me. My iphone 4 was working pretty good though, but I was also mostly in the inner city where connectivity is good to begin with.


Apple went with the Tesla model and had a PR mess as well as lawsuits


EV owners are conscious about range. Tesla would have said that they were limiting range until vehicles are repaired.

Apple didn't tell anyone and a slower device is harder to quantify in normal use than not being able to drive the same distance between charges.

The EV equivalent would be reducing acceleration slowly over the lifetime of the vehicle with the helpful (to the company) side-effect that new models seem a lot more responsive.


Apple's solution was akin to taking a Tesla going 80 mph on a freeway, suddenly turning on "limp" mode and locking the car to 10 mph, all without informing the user anything abnormal was going on.


> Tesla's approach prioritizes the user's confidence in the product

More like Tesla prioritizes removing user error


Tesla's approach would limit significant danger to human life & property. I'm going to guess that many Bolt owner may never end up knowing about this issue.

I would vote for Tesla's approach, followed by a partial refund for loss of advertised functionality (or a class action)


As long as it included messaging and an admission of fault, that seems significantly safer for the general populace.


To be fair this is the norm for pretty much any rechargeable electronic device. Lithium chemistries in particular are sensitive to damage from over discharging. "5% battery remaining on the display" is pretty much never "5% of available energy available"


Yes, but raw cells basically stop being rechargeable when you discharge them past a certain cell voltage. They either won’t recharge or are rather likely to burn when you do.


I think practicality is governing each company’s choice; there’s no way GM is capable of pushing an OTA update to change all those cars’ firmware. If they could push an update over cellular, I would bet you GM would do it in a heartbeat.


They could easily achieve the same 90% == 100% charging result with “myChevrolet” (onstar).

Car sends status update that charge has hit >=90%: stop charge command issued server side. Last I checked, the car sends a vehicle status update every percentage tick on charging so this wouldn’t be perfect but it’d be better than nothing.


Both GM and Ford have OTA updates on their modern cars. They just don't do it very often. The upside of Tesla pushing an update every week is they're good at it.


Tesla did pretty much exactly this to some Model S owners. And got sued over it. I don't know if that has been fully resolved yet. Some people got screwed out of a lot of battery capacity and performance.


Tesla's approach is safer for everyone. Now, if you want to discuss ethics, that's a totally different thing.


Yeah, this kind of shit just isn't going to work. If I have to be told how how to maintain my fuel source, then these cars with this battery technology aren't ready for mass adoption. They just aren't.


GM's first fix was to go in for a software update that limited max charge to 90%. This of course took scheduling and sitting in a dealer for a little over an hour.

I'd much rather have the OTA option.


As a Bolt owner and advocate for right-to-repair/etc - I'd prefer the OTA option for sure.


They should have limited the charge from the beginning. No way the engineers didn’t realize deep cycling is bad for the battery.


> They should have limited the charge from the beginning. No way the engineers didn’t realize deep cycling is bad for the battery.

Have you even read up on the manufacturing faults behind this? It's a cell manufacturing robot alignment problem that went unnoticed, not a deep cycling problem.


Thanks for the correction.


It's not that they were deep-cycling the cells before. Discharging lithium cells to 0 volts is very bad for them; the cars definitely restrict the cells from being discharged below a certain point. Rather, the potential for danger due to this rare, hard-to-detect manufacturing flaw is great enough that Chevy is asking Bolt owners to self-impose even tighter restrictions on how low the batteries will be discharged.


That's insane. For (probably) a majority of owners it makes the car unusable if you adhere to that restriction.

If I had one then I would have nowhere to park it. Certainly not at work. And at home with once car in the driveway and another in front of the house they couldn't be 50 feet apart. In tightly packed houses even one driveway to the next isn't 50 feet apart.

If you went shopping and we're lucky enough to manage to find a space 50 feet away, there's no guarantee someone wouldn't park closer, though I can't even think of a place I go where finding such a spot in the first place is at all likely.


The idea isn't getting you to adhere to it, the idea is when inevitably one of these ends up incinerating a national forest or a home for orphans, GM can say "We told you to park 50 feet away, if only you hadn't been negligent and followed our simple directions!" rather than "So sorry about that"


Ah, yes that makes sense. The "thoughts & prayers" approach.


Yeh that's completely insane and irresponsible, but we're getting kind of used to that sort of thing.


I mean, that's just the tip of the iceberg:

> The Bolt normally can go 259 miles on a charge, but that has been limited by GM’s guidance to avoid a fire. The automaker told Bolt owners to limit the charge to 90 percent, plug in more frequently and avoid depleting the battery to below about 70 miles of remaining range. They’re also advised to park their vehicles outside immediately after charging and not leave them charging indoors overnight.

So instead of 259 miles of charge, it's about 163 miles of charge. Oh, and don't leave your car in your own garage after charging.

Tough pill to swallow, I'm a Volt owner and I love that car, but couldn't blame anyone for them being soured on GM after that.


I’m a (former) Bolt owner and you are vastly overestimating the available range. The Bolt is lucky to crack 180 in regular freeway driving at 75-80MPH. In the winter in freezing temps the range dips as low as 140. The loss of range from the new charging limitations make the car practically unusable for anything but city driving.


Yep. I have a Bolt. We are fortunate that the previous owner of our house put in RV hookups so during the recall we have been able to charge while parked in the driveway rather than charging in the garage and then moving to the driveway each night. But there is no way we can follow this latest guidance.

The farthest we could park is on the street evenly spaced between our driveway and our neighbor's driveway. This will end up being about 20 feet from the entries to our respective driveways and 35 feet diagonal from our respective garages. And I don't live in a dense area at all.

My biggest concern in all of this has been that there is a large pine tree in our front yard and there is literally no place in the driveway or street that isn't at least partially under the canopy of this tree. If the car catches fire, so will the tree, with pretty good odds of falling on the house.

We love the car, and don't really want to go through the hassle of shopping and buying another car to replace it right now. So it is really tempting to look at 10 fires out of 140,000 cars and say those are reasonable odds, but I don't know if that's the smart thing to do.


Have you spoken to your insurance? If there is a fire would they cover it, or would they reject the claim as you "aren't following the manufacturers guidelines" (as impractical as they are).


Some of this is CYA on GM’s part to shift liability from them to customers should anything bad happen during the recall period.

Anecdote: I found out my Ford had one of the Takata airbag inflators that was prone to producing shrapnel. Ford had yet to recall my car but they were offering optional replacements. I called my dealer to schedule one and they said ‘you can get in 6 mos from now when we get the part, very backorded, in the mean time don’t worry it is safe’. A month later they issued a formal recall. I received letter after letter telling me to schedule a replacement immediately. They even left me voicemails about how I might die by bleeding out (very graphic). Sold the car to the dealer shortly thereafter.


Wouldn't this also open GM to lawsuits on being sold a defective product ? I am sure the marketing materials projected range higher than keeping 70km reserve.

It could also be argued expecting to park 50m from others makes the product unusable ?


Folks are apparently being told they can't park their Bolts in various garages, etc:

https://old.reddit.com/r/BoltEV/comments/pp2inx/just_receive...

https://old.reddit.com/r/BoltEV/comments/pp3yrs/another_no_b...

https://old.reddit.com/r/BoltEV/comments/po9imp/is_this_goin...

These cars just became a lot less useful.


So what is a family with a two car garage supposed to do, park the Bolt a block away? This seems like the kind of thing GM should get wayyyy in front of with a very generous offer to buy back the cars as a trade towards another GM model.


The article says they've announced a recall, so I assume this advice is for people who have chosen not to send the car back yet.

edit: no, I'm confused. From another article:

> The Detroit automaker has recalled all of the roughly 142,000 Bolts sold since 2016 because the battery can catch on fire. GM has taken a $1.8 billion charge so far for the cost of the recall and has been buying cars back from some disgruntled owners.

[...]

> GM has said that when it is confident that LG Chem can produce defect-free battery modules, GM will notify Bolt owners in writing and repairs will begin. Once a repair is made, GM will provide an eight-year/100,000 mile warranty on it. In the meantime, GM has assured Bolt owners that if they follow three steps, the cars should be safe

So they're not ready to repair them yet, but it's unclear whether everyone has the option of a buyback or not. If not, I don't understand how they can be said to have 'recalled' all the cars.


Some people have gotten buy backs. GM Says that a buyback is an option for me, but I have to wait 5-7 business days (from a few days ago) to speak into more details.


Interested in what you're going to do? If you take the buy-back, going to buy another GM? Would you consider a EV again?


It just means that they've acknowledged the problem and issued a recall notice. To the best of my knowledge they haven't repair any yet and don't intend to conduct a mass buyback.


Park outside the garage in the driveway, or next to your neighbor's car that won't return your mower they borrowed six weeks ago.


> Park outside the garage in the driveway

That only works if your driveway is >=100ft long.


If I had a Bolt, I would have (grudgingly) been ok with parking it outside since I could just park it in the driveway. But I can't park it 50 feet away from another car, since 50 feet from my garage (where my other car is parked) is the street, and I can't prevent anyone else from parking near the car on the street.

I'd be pushing for a buyback at this point.


I'm in that situation. My driveway is pretty big, but then again, 50 feet from any other car is pretty far. I already park it about 15 feet away from another car on the driveway. That's my limit.

Whether I will try and return the car ... I dunno. The risk is still on the low side, and it's such an inexpensive little car to drive. Drive's pretty nice, too. I don't know what I'd replace it with that wouldn't be much more expensive to both purchase and operate.


I have a Mini Cooper SE EV -- much less range than the Bolt (110 miles), but a bit cheaper. The range isn't a problem, since it's my commute car, and it can handle 3 days of commutes without charging, and I don't take it on long trips, we have a second car for that.

We almost got a Bolt, but my wife always wanted a Mini and since we were replacing her car, she got to choose. In retrospect, she chose wisely.


> This seems like the kind of thing GM should get wayyyy in front of with a very generous offer to buy back the cars as a trade towards another GM model.

This may have been in the playbook typically, but most car lots are really sparse. All of Q2 production was 688,236 vehicles [1], and there are about 107,000 Bolts in the US [2]. While current Bolt owners are undoubtedly frustrated, GM would really hamper efforts to expand market share.

[1] https://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.html/content...

[2] https://gmauthority.com/blog/gm/chevrolet/bolt-ev/chevrolet-...


They are following the letter of the lemon law in each state. In some states you can get back all the maintenance, interest and so on... in some states you get back what you paid (pro-rated for mileage). Texas has poor lemon laws, so we get some of the worst deals.


Find another Bolt owner outside a few blocks away and swap garages with them. You park in theirs, and they park in yours.


what about those of us thay have our car parked next to a bolt on the street. 100 feet is 5 parking spaces give or take.


Some owners have successfully gotten Bolt buybacks. Of course with the car shortage that might mean not getting a replacement car immediately.


If a Bolt owner without a permanent garage spot can manage, then certainly a Bolt owner with a permanent garage spot can manage. The latter has strictly more options than the former.


I have an attached 2 car garage and I don't think I have more "50 foot away from other cars" options than someone without a garage. I could have managed to park the Bolt outside since I could just park it in my driveway, but I couldn't manage to park it 50 feet from another car since my driveway is not 50 feet long, so I'd have to park on the street, and I couldn't park on the street and prevent someone else from parking within 50 feet. The 50 foot restriction leaves out renting a space in a parking lot too, unless I'm willing to rent out all the spots in a 50 foot radius.

I could probably rent a spot from some rural farmer, but it's going to be a hard sell "Hey, I have a car that could burst into flames at any time, is it ok if I park it in your dry grassy field?"


People who live in an HOA may have a different experience, but if you chose to live somewhere HOA-encumbered, that's on you!


I wonder if there's a map which shows HOA-encumbered property. Anecdotally, when I searched for a large modern home around Seattle in 2020, there was vanishingly little on the market which was not HOA-encumbered, and so the choice was to accept that, or do and/or between: (i) Worse property for the money (space, finishes, lot, et al.); (ii) Worse neighborhood and area (crime stats, et al.); (iii) Worse commute because you're buying much further out.


Yeah or because an insane housing market prices you out of a single family home


You can also own a single family home that's encumbered by HOA restrictions -- many neighborhoods here have HOA's.


How do you figure? Apartments, duplexes, and smaller homes without garages all have less distance between parking spaces than a house with a garage, not more.


Sell the other car

Edit: or get a rubber car to counteract


They can build a basic covered garage somewhere on their 5 acre lot.


People park their car in their garage?


Everyone knows the garage is for storing the treadmill you never use.


For the few folks that doesn't live in SF, maybe?


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