But, the letter does raise the important idea that before we decry how awful the failure mode is ("the car caught on fire!"), it's worth considering what the alternative would be---what happens in similar situations in combustion engines?
In this case, we've seen reports from the driver in 2 of the 3 accidents, so it's hard to make a case for selection bias. Though feel free to argue it further if you know details of the crash in Mexico that I'm not aware of.
Driving a car is one of the least safe things we do regularly, FWIW. With the population large enough, we are virtually guaranteed to see more of these.
Unfortunately, the media does terrible things to our risk perception by giving us incomplete evidence and leaving us to extrapolate. For example, to compare whether the Tesla is unsafe--and for all we know, maybe there is some flaw that helps road debris catch on the plate and puncture it--it would be more informative to see fires/#miles driven for a large cross-section of common cars, as well as fatalities/#miles driven and the like. Of course, even that is somewhat biased, because there might be effects where, hypothetically, risky drivers are drawn certain cars or something like that.
That's dismissive hyperbole. Debris regularly causes serious damages to all vehicle types. If the object in question, as in this case, is hard enough and hit with enough force to penetrate the battery, it's hard enough and hit with enough force to seriously damage any system it hits. It may not crack the engine block, but it can destroy radiators/suspension/brakes/fuel tanks/etc. The worst case scenario is most certainly not "a flat".
That's just not true. I had about $2k in damage on a Mini Cooper (2006, stock) that hit the remnants of a blown out semi truck tire in the road. Similar situation to the blog post -- a pickup truck cleared it but I did not. I was not in a safe position to swerve.
The tire chewed up the lower front bumper and punctured the radiator. I had to immediately pull over and have the car towed. It happened to hit below the foam & all the fancy crash reinforcement on the bumper. Good times.
That was just 70lbs of steel-wrapped rubber. I can easily imagine a trailer hitch as described taking out a radiator or oil pan on a modern car. Unlikely to cause a fire for sure, but it'll certainly disable a vehicle.
"In 2004, a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study revealed that vehicle-related road debris caused 25,000 accidents—and nearly 100 deaths—each year."
See my other comment upthread for an example of a gasoline car catching fire because of cardboard boxes.
Tesla made a choice to arrange packs like this for swap purposes. It certainly wasn't going all out for safety. Throw in the fact battery tech really isn't all there yet and you get a very large battery that compromises have to be made.
Tesla chose a compromise based on their swap tech. They could have put more batteries in the rear or made the stack shorter. Used a central tunnel for more, etc.
That might have contributed, but I think lowering the center of gravity was the main consideration.
The first you would know there was a problem in a normal car, would be when you felt or saw the fire.
not sure if it adds to the overall credibility.
bottom line, the guy likes the car enough to write/cooperate, even after it hit a bump and burned up, how much of that is the car's greatness, rose-colored fanboi glasses, good old-fashioned working the media...unclear.
Maybe it's just a case that combustion engine based cars have had more time to resolve this issue properly.
Last month, right here in Seattle: http://www.king5.com/traffic/news/Collision-causes-car-fire-...
What happens then? There are several innuendos throughout this thread that allude to some sort of catastrophic scenario if it were a normal vehicle, however this seems unsupported.
Yes, normal combustion engines catch on fire, but they don't explode in a fireball when they hit debris on the highway (there is absolutely nothing rare about hitting debris on the highway).
Further there are millions of combustion engine vehicles on the roadway -- there are currently some 250 million traditional vehicles in the United States. Last I read Tesla is delivering something in the range of 30,000 vehicles per year.
To be fair, none of the debris I've ever seen or hit on the highway would have made holes in a quarter inch steel plate, and I have driven the better part of 25k miles/year commute over some very busy highways for approximately the past decade, so I've seen such random debris as chairs & couches in the middle of the road in addition to the usual assorted vehicle parts.
There is also a car fire roughly every 3 minutes, just to keep things in perspective.
I say that as we are guaranteed to see more fires given enough time. With them averaging out to one every 3.x minutes, it's only a matter of time before we go through this again.
Are you joking ? How does that keep anything in perspective ?
There are over 1b cars in the world and 50k Teslas. That's 0.005% of the total car population.
The Tesla has been available for 140 days, as of the time I'm posting this and using the June 22nd release date. So my back-of-the-napkin estimates say there have been about 63,000 car fires in that time so that 0.005% of the car population is responsible for 0.000048% of the car fires in the past 140 days, which does not seem disproportionate. There are other, even better ways to compare the risk for which I do not have data available. Feel free to research your own numbers and compare.
It seems obvious though that Tesla being a very different design will have different incident characteristics.
As to the point about them all being new cars, well, new cars are safer. If safety is what we're after then yes, a modern car is a good thing. If you're saying that the safety will decay as they age, well, that's reasonable but only time will allow us to correct our calculations there.
That might mean that we need more time to make a full determinations, but that's not a bad thing. This tells us about their current safety which is what's relevant now.
That said, the other test might be more relevant, as there were more actual Teslas on the road in the past 140 days, rather than at day zero of launch. I don't have the figures to calculate, say, fires/#miles driven.
I've been a firefighter for ~10 years. Nearly every vehicle fire I've seen falls into one of three categories:
1) Deliberately set
2) Faulty/old/corroded wiring (by far the most common)
3) Some flammable material coming into contact with something really hot (commonly after an accident where a car has gone off the road into tall dry grass)
Fires due to the fuel tank failing are _extremely_ rare (I've never seen one, or even heard of one in neighboring areas).
It may be related to the fact that I'm in an area that uses lots of nasty stuff to deice roads, but corrosion is a major issue with vehicle electric system, and the older a vehicle is, the more likely it is to experience a 'spontaneous' fire.
And neither did this one, so I'm not sure what your point is.
And 194,000 vehicle fires.
That is not true. Here's a case of a car catching fire after being hit by cardboard boxes.
The Tesla in the story was hit by a tow hitch looks like this. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-A22JVrgZjqY/TzKFRNPUN1I/AAAAAAAADh...
I find it very surprising that you think it's common for cars to run over things like that on the road and keep going. I or the people I know have never driven over something like that.
>Road debris is a hazard that can cause fishtailing and damage like a flat tire or even a traffic accident with injury or death. Road debris can cause loss of control crashes, rollover crashes, or penetration of the passenger compartment by the debris.
>Released in early 2013, NHTSA data for 2011 showed over 800 Americans were killed that year in vehicle collisions with road debris. Mississippi, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana were the top five states for these crash deaths to most likely occur. Also in 2011, New York and Massachusetts saw significant increases in road debris-vehicular crash deaths, unlike other big, populated states. In 2004, a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study revealed that vehicle-related road debris caused 25,000 accidents—and nearly 100 deaths—each year
This is not surprising. It's a little surprising that we've seen so many stories of Teslas hitting road debris, but my hunch is that the problem is caused not by being electric, but by a low bottom clearance designed for drag efficiency, battery space, and low center of gravity.
A gasoline car with such low clearance would encounter similar problems, as they surely do every single day. This is completely normal. The way it affects an electric battery is kinda crappy, but it's not necessarily worse than debris hitting a tank of flammable fuel, just different. A tesla would have gone right over cardboard, for example, and been unharmed, while it might get stuck in the underbody of an ICE car and catch on fire.
Different technology, different problems, but the sample size is still too low to make real conclusions. One thing we do know is that there have been no deaths in a Tesla vehicle yet; that can hardly be said for traditional cars.
The fuel tank is located higher up near the rear axle. Not alongside the bottom of the car as in a Tesla.
Note2: how do you think the fuel goes from the fuel tank <REAR> to the <FRONT> motor.
Thats how: http://i.stack.imgur.com/87oFf.png
Oh, theres a tube in there between the REAR fuel tank and the FRONT engine. Damn, didn't break laws of physics.
To be fair, that was more of case of a cardboard box catching on fire after being hit by a car...
Are you seriously saying that the car exploded into a fireball? Because of course it didn't, and in fact the combustion was primarily the incendiary material of the cardboard box, just as it would ignite near high power electric motors. That has zero relevance to this story.
I find it very surprising that you think it's common for cars to run over things like that on the road and keep going.
You entirely misinterpreted my post. I stated, nor implied, absolutely no such thing.