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Posted on October 07, 2013 by Dr Peter Harrop

Lessons from a burning Tesla and a sinking Titanic

Electric Vehicle Energy Harvesting/Regeneration 20
A Tesla Model S was filmed burning in the road recently, allegedly having struck a metal object. The leading EV analysts IDTechEx have several points to make about this. Firstly, it is no good saying that gasoline vehicles frequently fry their passengers: an estimated 194,000 highway vehicle fires occur each year in the USA alone, across all types of vehicles. People are peculiarly intolerant of any dangers from what they see as a "new" technology such as electric vehicles, even though these have been around for over 130 years.
Tesla let it be known that using thousands of cylindrical batteries instead of a few large ones should greatly reduce the chance of a conflagration but it never claimed perfection. It has even used this scheme in the RAV 4 pure electric car of its investor and partner Toyota. Others use it in electric scooters in the Netherlands to give tailored range by adjusting the number of cylinders. Noting some parallels in other incidents with lithium-ion batteries, Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman and leading EV analyst at IDTechEx comments that,
"Two out of 50 Boeing Dreamliners caught fire recently due to lithium-ion battery packs. The airliner is flying again but, at a recent conference, the containment of its battery sub-modules in ceramic tubes was deemed by a NASA expert to be inadequate on its own to ensure safety. Let me put it this way. Just as the Titanic was deemed unsinkable with its sealed compartments but an iceberg slicing a lot of them at once sunk it, so many sealed battery cells can be shorted by one lump of metal slicing them apart. There is no such thing as a perfectly safe lithium-ion cell or battery pack or even a battery management system that protects against all eventualities. Tesla remains one of the finest electric car businesses in the world with sales to prove it. Whatever the cause of this accident, lessons will be learnt and action will be taken. We are in the age of the lithium-ion battery and there is no going back."
Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2017-2027
Dr Peter Harrop

Authored By: Dr Peter Harrop


Posted on: October 7th 2013