By on October 31, 2013

Tesla-ModelS-platform

Reports from unnamed sources critical of competitors are not the most reliable, but Pete DeLorenzo says according to his sources within the auto industry a design shortcoming is the reason why the batteries in two Tesla Model S cars have recently started fires following collisions. Presumably DeLorenzo’s source or sources are within General Motors because they compare the way the battery pack is housed in Tesla to the way the Chevy Volt does it. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stressed how his company protects the battery pack with 1/4″ thick armor plating underneath the car, but DeLorenzo’s source says that is essentially a band-aid solution to the fact that the battery pack itself has only a single protective shield, compared to the three layers of wrapping that the Volt’s battery pack has.

From DeLorenzo’s Autoextremist site:

What I’ve found out about the Tesla is this: There is a reason for fires upon impact with the Model S and it has nothing to do with the batteries themselves but how the batteries are – or are not, as the case may be – protected in the vehicle.

We all know Elon is a genius and that Tesla is the miracle of the new automotive world, but the fact remains that the miracle workers at Tesla skipped a step. It’s something that GM – you know, that tired old rust-belt auto company from a bygone era – learned while developing the Volt. The GM engineering team zeroed in on a critical area of concern with the Volt’s batteries when it came to protecting them upon impact, something like, “Gee, if someone were to really crash one of these things there could be a problem with the batteries, so, we better do something about it.” So the GM development team triple-wrapped the Volt battery pack to reduce the chance of “piercing” during accidents.

And guess what? The “piercing” of the batteries is exactly what caused the two post-crash fires in the Model S. Why? The Tesla development team chose to single-wrap the Tesla batteries, thus leaving the batteries less protected and more exposed during incidents, which is a giant heaping, steaming bowl of Not Good, when it comes right down to it.

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76 Comments on “Peter DeLorenzo: Sources Say Tesla Batteries Not Sufficiently Protected...”


  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    One might imagine that a real journalist would look at the comparative battery fire/damage statistics for the two cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Pete DeLorenzo is not a journalist but an advertising guy with strong opnions and I would not look to his blog for engineering information. He dislikes a lot of things but is particularly angered by EVs (well, maybe not as much as he loathes the chairmen of GM and Fiat-Chrysler) so the news of the Tesla fires must have cheered him up considerably.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      in the field, we have two Model Ss and zero Volts.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      The facts that are clear are that Tesla with a year and a half total maximum exposure from start of production has two vehicle impact initiated fires.

      Volt has much more exposure and zero impact initiated fires in customer use.

      Volt had one fire resulting from a vehicle crash test with the vehicle left upside down for days after the event. NO customer incidents.

      It is fair to say that virtually all vehicles have fires at some rate. Maybe PCH101 has the data, or knows where to point you for it if you wish to estimate this rate versus the general vehicle population.

      Empirical evidence. Any theory as to why data exists must at least comprehend and explain it. Just two anomalies? I wonder how much a recall to replace or protect batteries would run? Maybe they have enough carbon credits, but it is not good.

      It would be nice to see a little more technical meat in the articles. The photo of the chassis is cool except for the MASSIVE batteries it has to lug around. 50 pounds of battery hold the energy of 1 pound of gasoline. Tough nut to crack.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You rang?

        You can’t reasonably use statistical data in this particular instance when there have only been two events. There are so few vehicles that have traveled so few miles that there isn’t yet enough to provide usable real world data.

        That being said, engineers with knowledge of crash testing and lithium ion batteries should be able to address the design questions, irrespective of the number of fires. If the batteries are inadequately protected, then they are inadequately protected. I’m not in a position to know that, but there surely must be some experts who do.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          I am not suggesting any conclusions can be drawn from statistics, just thought they might widen the scope of understanding. A thorough analysis of the incident causes may explain them away as anomalies.

          On the other hand, I am pretty sure Tesla’s field crash fire rate is one or two orders of magnitude higher than average across the industy. Just gut feel. Data would be nice!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In this particular instance, statistics don’t provide any clarity because there have been only two events. When even just one event can create a huge swing in the numbers, then you know that a statistical approach isn’t a good one.

            If Tesla hasn’t adequately protected the battery, then it should be easy enough for someone who has the right expertise to figure that out.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe total miles traveled is a better measure than time in the market when gauging relative safety. The VOLT fires were a matter of improper storage of previously wreck ed cars.

        DeLorenzo has been a commentator/journalist almost as long as he was in advertising. I don’t think he’s an engineer. I wonder why his opinion counts for so much.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          @Ruggles- You are right that miles travelled would be more accurate than time exposure for this type of incident, but we don’t have data to judge that.

          My goal was to scope out whether the issue is a “shoebox, or a building”, relatively speaking, and also respond to some comments exaggerating the overall fire rates on IC vehicles. I really was just trying to frame the issue, not draw profound conclusions.

          All Tesla has to do is go 4-5 years before another incident and they will be as good as the average.

    • 0 avatar
      MarkySparky

      Concern trolling at its finest.

      There have been two Tesla fires so far:

      1. Model S runs over 3″ diameter metal pipe/beam at highway speeds, impaling the battery pack. No injuries, all safety systems worked as intended for fire control/venting.

      2. A Model S becomes airborne at a high rate of speed, hits a concrete barrier, then a tree. Driver walks away, car burns.

      Hardly deathtraps or fatally flawed designs…

      I am pretty skeptical of armchair engineering analysis from the likes of Autoextremist, given his revealed bias over the years. These type of cases, especially since they happened in the wild, are pretty poor surrogates for laboratory models. Maybe extra armor would have prevented the first accident from having a puncture, but at what cost? Another 300 pounds of structure to tug around? Where is the limit? Do we require all electric vehicles to be engineered to withstand IED attacks because the big scary batteries might burn in a controlled manner?

      We live in a world where a large number of conventional ICE-powered cars on the road at any given time are in a state of disrepair, or are piloted by impaired persons. What is more dangerous in the aggregate: rusted out N-bodies driven by teenagers on the highway, or the battery pack on a $50,000+ plaything of the 1%? My home state does not inspect roadworthiness or emissions, and as such has some pretty sketchy cars cruising the roads. But I’m sure the DeLorenzonian “True Believer” engineering wunderkinds at GM completely accounted for those edge cases when designing their safety systems decades ago. Detroit would never put a beta model up for sale…

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        It’s not “concern trolling” just because you don’t like it. There’s a key difference between the battery of an EV and the gas tank of an ICE car. If you’re driving along in a gas car and something pierces the fuel tank, you’re going to dump its contents on the ground. Whether the spilling fuel ignites depends on if an ignition source presents itself. At no time is the car going to “explode” because there is insufficient oxygen inside the fuel tank. If you’re driving a diesel vehicle, you’re in even better shape since diesel isn’t flammable at ambient temperature.

        With a lithium secondary battery, if you damage cells, they will undergo thermal runaway, fueling their own runaway reactions, and *the battery pack will burn itself out from within.* It does not need an external ignition source, nor does it depend on a particular concentration of oxygen.

        • 0 avatar
          MarkySparky

          It is concern trolling to disingenuously raise the alarm about a specific piece of engineering on the Model S, but attribute it to unnamed sources within a competing company. I couldn’t care less about pissing matches between Tesla and GM. I drive GM vehicles (W-body Love, yo), as does my entire extended family, and I will not be buying an electric car in the foreseeable future. But pretending that Peter DeLorenzo’s recounting of whispers by GM insiders amounts to real analysis is ridiculous.

          You should note that the first Tesla incident, where the battery was punctured, had the fire contained to one of the 16 blocks of the battery. It was designed to minimize the problems you mentioned, and worked as advertised. The fire also never penetrated the passenger cabin, and the fire department was able to extinguish the blaze without incident.

          You could make the same types of arguments about ICE-powered cars by highlighting rare failure modes. For example, having a 500 pound engine that could end up in your lap during a head-on collision. Or carbon monoxide poisoning from blocked mufflers whilst our muddin’. Or chopping your finger off in the serpentine belt b/c JimBob bumped the starter while you were adding coolant. That would never happen in a Tesla ZOMG GM sells deathtraps !!!!1!!

        • 0 avatar
          rodface

          Better take that cell phone out of your pocket, you might fall on it and initiate a runaway reaction!

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            kind of a dumb comment, since cell phone (and laptop) batteries have caught fire. Remember the big Sony battery recall of several years ago?

  • avatar
    Vega

    I’m not a Tesla fanboy by any stretch of the imagination. But ‘anonymous sources’ from Detroit feeding DeLorenzo with information about an external threat to their business model? That screams FUD…

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Vega- The competitors didn’t create the incidents. They did, however, comprehend them in their design. The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The whole article wreaks of whisper campaign FUD.

      I’ve spent most of my life in (or following) the computer industry, which has given me a highly refined BS detector. And this kind of article sets off my BS detector bad. The way he makes an engineering argument without actual making it, the lack of cited sources, and even the wording all set off the BS detector hard.

      I could be convinced by a real engineering paper, though, preferably one written to academic standards . (It’s a familiar format and I have a list of problems to look for when reading an academic paper.)

      The triple wrap thing reminds me of the episode of Futurama where Bender crashes the 6000 hull oil tanker into the penguin reserve. “IF ONLY IT HAD 6001 HULLS! NOOOOO!”. (The reference makes more sense to those old enough to remember the press coverage of the Exxon Valdez disaster.)

      Yeah, anyway, I’ll pay take those anonymous real detroiters opinions at face value as soon as they start building Tesla-class vehicles. They’re building some decent hybrids these days, but they’re really trying to beat Toyota and Nissan, and they’re making a respectable showing there as of the last couple of years. But, yeah, until they start showing us designs 200+ mile EV, I’m going to take their criticism as whining from coulda shoulda wouldas — who didn’t even try.

      • 0 avatar
        bludragon

        I agree completely. How many wraps does the average gas tank or fuel line have?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “But, yeah, until they start showing us designs 200+ mile EV, I’m going to take their criticism as whining from coulda shoulda wouldas — who didn’t even try.”

        Making an EV with 200 miles of range is easy. All you need is a really big battery, and a willingness to overtax the battery by using too much of its capacity.

        The large automakers haven’t done this because large batteries are also expensive batteries, which makes them money losers. They also have to protect their brands, which makes them unwilling to overutilize the battery.

        Musk’s strategy is to bet that hype will carry him along far enough that battery prices decline to a level that can make the cars profitable. In the meantime, he can hope that he flips the company before the masses figure out that the batteries aren’t particularly reliable, probably due to their overuse.

        Plug In America did a comprehensive review of the battery life of Tesla roadsters. In that survey, 19% of the vehicles had had their battery packs partially or completely replaced. http://www.pluginamerica.org/surveys/batteries/tesla-roadster/PIA-Roadster-Battery-Study.pdf No major automaker would tout a vehicle with that high of a component failure rate.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Hopefully DeLorenzo will eventually realize that years of being relentlessly antagonistic toward EVERYTHING will eventually result in less credibility. Mr. Pete, when everything is worthy of rage, nothing is.

      • 0 avatar
        walker42

        +1 DeLorenzo is a pompous ass. When I first read his column I thought wow what a relentless dude. Now the only thing relentless is his use of the word hubris. He’s jealous of the success Musk has had because he thinks no one can do it the way Detroit did. He hates how Musk has completely re-written the rules for how an OE deals with the press. You see that in a lot of the old school media. Like when the NYT Broder story hit, the next day the old dogs were on it. Two days later the wind shifted on news of best car ever in CR and record profits. It was so much fun watching the old dogs change their tune like the Broder thing never happened. Musk bitch slapped them all and ol’ Pete didn’t like that.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Not enough information by a long stretch.

    “Wrapped” with what? Tesla’s single wrap could be thicker than the three layers, of whatever, GM uses. Let’s face it, if you hit something with a car, bad things are going to happen.

    I’ve driven a Volt and hated it, but can’t say anything on the Tesla. It wasn’t the electric propulsion, that was neat, it was the rest of the car. I couldn’t make out hardly anything on the dash board, the center console was this giant piece of plastic filled with buttons. It was all to unsettling. But if I did have the money for either of those cars, I’d buy a big gas guzzling SUV and call it a day. Maybe a Grand Cherokee Overland; Hemi of course.

    • 0 avatar
      aycaramba

      I haven’t been in a Volt, but I have spent some time in the Model S. In fact, I rode in one for about 2 hrs yesterday (not driving unfortunately). I agree with your comment about the lack of controls like buttons and knobs being unsettling. That said, it was a comfortable, quiet ride with lots of oomph. And the large touch-screen panel in the console was surprisingly useful and easy to operate.

      I’ve never seriously considered an electric car before, but I’m quite taken with the Model S. It is becoming a dream car for me. And honestly, two fires after what were clearly major crashes are not enough data points to determine a trend. How many other ICE vehicles catch fire after a major crash?

      That said, I second your alternative of a JGC with the Hemi. Also on my list of vehicles I’d like to have.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    That chassis is a beautiful thing.

    Imagine… to be free of petroleum distillates ooking out everywhere.

    Anyone know what tires those are? No luck googling.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Are their any standards currently in place for gas tanks?

    I would imagine without some kind of generally-accepted standard for battery pack protection, this is just a pissing contest.

  • avatar

    I like the part that Lorenzo talks about the genius Musk and the tired old heap from a bygone era. That, in itself, without any technical analysis, holds a nugget of wisdom. Building cars is not for the neophyte.

    Any way you cut it, GM, among many others, have been doing it for a hundred years. The guys from Tesla have been doing it for 10? Hyundai, a much better funded company, has been around for 40 and still can’t get suspensions or engines as refined as the others. Experience goes hand in hand with innovation in this business.

    To me the truth is that if you buy a Tesla, or any other gas or ev from a very recent comer, you’re buying a beta version. I don’t believe that any of these new comers have the knowhow to make a better ev than evs from GM, Fiat, Nissan or any of the other traditional makes.

    It can be done, but it’s an uphill battle against the traditional makers. Like our former EIC said, if you want to establish a car maker, be prepared to fight a 50 year period just to establish yourself and bring a galaxy of cash. Hyperbole? Maybe, but it also is true.

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      At the risk of being mocked, I feel like even buying a car from a newer maker such as Hyundai or Kia is like buying a beta version. (I say this based on Steven Lang’s assessment of those cars’ longevity in the used car market.) Then again, there is no shortage of established marques with half-baked engineering (VW, etc.)

      I like bold new ideas but for my own ride I prefer tried-and-true conservative engineering. Don’t like those “unknown unknowns.”

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @friedclams: Hyundai/Kia are not ‘newer makers’.

        Consider how the ‘older makers’ have gone bankrupt due to poorly engineered cars and lousy management. I had a Honda in lemon law court, and traded an 02 VW due to its thirst for oil and endless electrical problems in the three years I had it.

        Consider the likes of Saturn, Pontiac, Saab, Hummer, Oldsmobile, and countless others who were run by ‘experts’ for decades, then disappeared.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      @Marcelo

      But this is the only safety issue that has arisen with Tesla and it can probably be solved by a layer of some fancy carbon fiber or HSS incorporated into that apparently aluminum floor pan.

      I think Tesla is readier for prime time than you seem to be saying.

      Caveat: it’ll be a goodly while before battery tech will allow me to consider an EV for a Wisconsin vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Kenmore! Maybe, maybe not. The cars have not been around all that long. And while electric motors seems to take some of the complexity out of car making, they add new ones. Tesla I believe struggles with the first part. While the traditional makes, and Tesla too, have to deal with the second. A car is a myriad of systems that all have to go hand in hand and deliver for years and years, under wildly varying climatic and road conditions, user commitment to maintenance etc., etc., etc. Experience in getting that done is fundamental.

        In other words, if this problem is just a question of how much protection was needed, why did GM (apparetly) catch it and Tesla didn’t? I’d say GM’s accumulated knowledge bore fruit if it turns out Lorenzo is right. Multiply that a hundred times over for all the other systems and sub-systems in a car…That’s what I’m getting at, why I said what I said. I could be wrong of course, but I don’t think EV’s have changed the fact that a car is more than the sum of its parts, in that a good, safe, reliable car has to be necessarily very well integrated.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Marcelo, can’t argue with that.

          When I woke up this morning I never imagined myself saying anything supportive of Tesla.

          I think thelaine is right, I just have the hots for that chassis. It’s an appliance thang.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Or alternatively, you can just not worry about it. And try not to run over pipes or hit walls and trees at high speed.

        Reality is most cars have a tank filled with a HIGHLY flammable fluid right under/behind the passenger compartment. And that tank is NOT protected by much of anything. In fact, on most cars these days it is just plastic. Cars can and DO catch on fire when they are crashed. Especially at high speed. Look at the Mercedes that journalist was driving – one of the safest cars in the world from one of the oldest manufacturers, and it went up like a bomb because he hit a tree just wrong. I’ve already mentioned, I personally know someone who hit road debris and caused a fairly spectacular firey accident with a regular car – a Sentra, IIRC. Another friend hit a pipe lying in the road and it came up through the floor boards and went through her leg!

        Nothing to see here kids.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Or alternatively, you can just not worry about it. And try not to run over pipes or hit walls and trees at high speed.

        Reality is most cars have a tank filled with a HIGHLY flammable fluid right under/behind the passenger compartment. And that tank is NOT protected by much of anything. In fact, on most cars these days it is just plastic. Cars can and DO catch on fire when they are crashed. Especially at high speed. Look at the Mercedes that journalist was driving – one of the safest cars in the world from one of the oldest manufacturers, and it went up like a bomb because he hit a tree just wrong. I’ve already mentioned, I personally know someone who hit road debris and caused a fairly spectacular firey accident with a regular car – a Sentra, IIRC. Another friend hit a pipe lying in the road and it came up through the floor boards and went through her leg!

        I have a number of qualms that would keep my from buying a Tesla, but accident safety sure is not one of them.

        Nothing to see here kids.

        I will make one comment on the relative engineering of the two cars. IIRC, the Volt has it’s battery in a “spine” down the center of the car. The Tesla uses the whole floor area. This does mean that the Tesla battery is a bigger target. But the Tesla battery is also massively bigger, so there is really no alternative if you want to have that huge trunk and lots of interior room. The reason the Volt is only a 4 seater is because the battery is in the way.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Tesla’s built a car in 10 years that Cadillac couldn’t (or wouldn’t) in 100.

      I have a lot more respect for them than I do for the multiple generations of inbred stupidity at the legacy automakers.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I do think that GM has the resources to out-do Tesla in terms of EV engineering, but GM is so huge that the project would get tied up in all kinds of expensive red tape and be heavily-unprofitable by default. Tesla is a company that is far more lean, but one that does not have as many resources as GM. Once Tesla begins competing in the average price range, it will be at even more of a disadvantage. Let’s hope that Tesla becomes widespread and stays ahead before GM—or one of the other behemoth automakers—flexes its muscles and smashes the proverbial runt.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Knowing Mr. Musk’s reputation for litigiousness, and assuming DeLorenzo is not a complete idiot in understanding libel, I would guess there’s something to this story, otherwise he wouldn’t print it.

    Of course, often lost in the fog of discussion about safety of any kind is the fact that safety is a relative term. Nothing is absolutely safe.

    It may be that Detroit’s engineers, having been “taken to school” by their companies’ lawyers who all learned about the Pinto “exploding gas tanks” their second day on the job, have a different standard in mind for safety in design than the whiz kids at Tesla, many of whom were in diapers when Pintos were “blowing up.”

    Drawing conclusions from small numbers is dangerous, but it certainly is worth notice that, given the small numbers of Tesla S’s on the road, there have been these two catastrophic fires, and, apparently zero for the Leafs, Volts, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> given the small numbers of Tesla S’s on the road, there have been these two catastrophic fires, and, apparently zero for the Leafs, Volts, etc.

      Yes, but wouldn’t ICE cars with the performance levels of a Tesla tend to have accident rates higher than cars with the performance of level of a Leaf or a Volt? I haven’t seen numbers so I’m just speculating.

      • 0 avatar
        MarkySparky

        The Model S Performance version does 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. That is in the same range as the BMW M3, Porsche 911 GT3, and the Audi RS4.

        The Volt struggles to keep 0-60 times under 9 seconds.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      I agree with DC Bruce that Sweet Pete DeLorenzo a.k.a. PDL isn’t an idiot. He’s mainly a nasty curmudgeon and saves his worst vitriol for those who don’t kiss his feet for his brilliant advice. I don’t know how valid what PDL wrote is, but I agree it smacks of a whisper campaign against Tesla.

      As for risking litigation, think about this: that may be EXACTLY what PDL is hoping for. Think of it this way: he’s become a tired old crank. The more PDL screams and yells (“Sergio’s a fraud!” “Akerson is Captain Queeg!”), the less people listen.

      So why not get slapped with a lawsuit by billionaire Elon Musk? It’s not like PDL has the money. More importantly, it’ll attract the attention PDL needs. Then it becomes a nice David vs. Goliath scenario, and finally the media meme changes — Elon Musk is exposed as a thin-skinned egotist who can’t handle any dissent.

      From my dealings with Mr. DeLorenzo, I’d conclude he’s just off-kilter enough to think this is a good marketing idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      We do have agencies full of crash safety experts. The Tesla scored tops at NHTSA, 5 stars all around. The Volt did well too, 5 stars except the frontal crash earned 4 stars.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Most of the time, DeLorenzo is a twit, claiming all sorts of “inside” knowledge from the True Believers, the mythical hard-working gossips buried deep within GM who, for some altruistic reason feel compelled to turn out Grade A world-beating vehicles, but are stymied by management and so produce mediocrity instead. Anyone with that much pride to keep on plugging away would have ended their frustrations and left for a better job years ago. So it’s all bunk.

    Let’s take a Volt, smack it into a concrete wall at 80mph or whatever it was for the Tesla in Mexico, smashing through a concrete wall and into a tree. If the driver hops out afterwards injury-free, requests a double latte, and gets on the horn to GM to order another Volt, then DeLorenzo’s “sources” can crow. Especially if the Volt doesn’t catch fire, either. But otherwise, clam up. Your day will come as you gloat with misplaced pride. At 80 mph, the Volt’s “range extender engine” would probably be sitting in the driver’s lap. The Tesla, of course can’t replicate that particular feat.

    What a lot of hype about nothing. All the naysayers like to gore all the oppositions oxes for no reason other than it’s fun. Ha, ha. Actual reality? Who cares if you can score a point for the home team. The politicians are teaching the general populace how to be incredibly petty and divisive about both unimportant as well as critical issues. It’s as if people lived in a TV world where yakking partisanly is as important as actually accomplishing something concrete.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Granada-Hills-Deadly-Fatal-Crash-200784711.html

      http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48423

      http://www.plugincars.com/chevy-volt-totaled-collision-school-bus-occupants-unharmed-110117.html

      Frankly, if something bad were to happen to mine, I’d consider an i3 but would probably get another Volt.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Is that guy still around? I used to love his website. It was a critical look at the auto industry.

    Then after awhile it turned into a “GM is on the verge of greatness” blog, everyone else sucks, and the other guy Bud just wrote about how mean he was to his wife.

    I’ll pass.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yeah, it was a good read for a while in the early-mid 200s. I gave up on him in 2007 when he became fixated on dogging Toyota every week (which was about the same time that GM started cutting him paychecks again).

  • avatar
    vcficus

    Pete’s better when he’s sticking to the marketing angle, but I don’t think he’s all off on the Sergio Great Sweater Hoax… Chrysler is down to launching less than one platform a year and not being successful at that and he still doesn’t have control of Chrysler which he got for free. I’m glad he came in at all but there is a lot of vaporware coming out of Auburn Hills. Note your article above this one.

    On the battery angle, what about the Nissan? I’ve heard they have no enviromental controls (to keep battery life up) and less armor than the Volt but I’m not aware of any Leaf fires or I’ve just missed them due to lack of vitriol.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      One data point – a friend owns a Leaf which has 50K miles on it now. It lives in a temperate climate near Seattle. No battery degradation yet. In warmer, southern climates is where the Leaf has had issues with a loss of battery capacity.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The Leaf’s battery is pretty far inboard:

      http://www.inautonews.com/nissan-manufactures-lithium-ion-packs-for-the-leaf-at-tennessee-plant/nissan-leaf-battery-pack-images-03#.UnKvcBD4Lzs

      The battery is air-cooled (but controlled to an extent, I think), to reduce complexity and cost. Water cooling would improve battery life.

      The unit-less battery temperature gauge in my Leaf hardly moves. Looking up the gauge interpretation, the battery temperature seems to have varied between 20F and 100F, but it has certainly been exposed to colder temperatures. After 10k miles, it seems to still be working well.

      I am not aware of any Leaf fires, and there are plenty of them out there worldwide.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      What “vaporware,” exactly, is coming out of Auburn Hills?

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    Comparing the Volt to the Tesla is like comparing a Spark to a Ferarri. The Spark doesn’t have the capability of reaching the speeds required to create the carnage that a Ferarri would cause in a head on at 150MPH. Does that mean the Spark is a better engineered car?

    As far as Delorenzo goes, I emailed him about a year ago telling him I wish he’d quit recycling the same 5 articles. See, he’d write the one about various brands IE Honda losing it’s mojo, Acura having no clients, Toyota losing their eye on quality, and the like. It was ok, but then he would recycle it, and still does. He also has an article about the various types of cars, hybrids vs electrics, and it’s the same tire arguements. And I told him that putting a different shade of lipstick on the same dame isn’t fooling anyone.

    He replied and told me that if I didn’t like it not to f**kin read it.” Yes, those were his words…I took his advice and havent’ been to his site nor have I listened to Autoline since.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      @Troyochatter — Yes, I got the same exact response, word for word, when I dared to critique PDL’s vicious takedown of Steve Rattner for daring to come in from liberal, car-hating NYC to assess the bailout for Obama.

      Wow, I never felt such hatred! I have to admit it made me act very childish for awhile. I tweaked his beak whenever I felt mean, just to see if PDL would give himself a heart attack from his own bile. When that didn’t happen I got bored and moved on.

      Today it’s like you say — PDL mostly writes the same crap and I don’t get past the first paragraph. I’m sure those “key influencers” whom he once boasted were scared of him don’t bother any more.

  • avatar
    JimAlger

    This is absurd. Gas cars have an average of 150,000 fires every single year. This fear mongering because of 2 fires (one was in a 120 MPH crash with a cement barricade and the other was a complete freak accident where a large metal object that was shaped in such a way as to provide 24 tons of pressure puncturing the battery pack) is disingenuous to say the least. Both accidents by the way, the drivers walked away. The same fear mongering took place after the Chevy Volt first came to market.

    Make no mistake, these controversies are being pushed by people with an anti-EV agenda. They want us to believe hauling around 40 gallons of flammable liquid in a tank is a better idea then hauling around a battery. It’s a moronic position.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      +1. You wrote what I was thinking.

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      II would also like to thank you for this. I do think that attributing the vitriol to a particular agenda is giving too much credit to those who spew it. Closed-mindedness is difficult to distinguish from shilling.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Please provide links for the data you present: 150,000 fires/year. Of course, there are around 200 million gas vehicles on the road in America, but that number still seems rather high. It is certainly a very much lower number of gas vehicles with fires initiated by crashes. Fire is actually a very rare result of a crash. Very rare.

      It is not about emotion or an agenda, just the facts.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @DocOlds
        He’s understating by 30 odd thousand actually.

        http://www.nfpa.org/research/fire-statistics/the-us-fire-problem/highway-vehicle-fires

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          It’s not hard to perform a google news search with a 24 hr restriction and come up with at least one:

          http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/car-catches-fire-after-crash-4339.shtml

          http://www.patriotledger.com/news/x1372980176/Minivan-strikes-tree-catches-fire-in-Stoughton?rssfeed=true

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    @Big Al from Oz- Thanks for the link! Now, for some numbers.

    The United States has 254.4 million registered vehicles.

    The link you provided shows 187,500 highway vehicle fires in 2011.
    It also says that only 3% of them were caused by collision or overturn, or 5,624 of the total. Those 3% do account for 58% of the fatalities!
    If we generously (for Tesla!) assume all of them were collision induced that produces an average rate of 5,624/254,400,000=0.000022.

    If all 12,550 Teslas sold through June (latest data I easily found) were actually on the road for a full year, we would expect the probability of a single crash initiated fire to be 0.000022*12,550=0.277 incidents. In other words, we shouldn’t see a single fire for at least 3.6 years. Since the Tesla exposure is actually a lot less than 12,550 vehicle years, a conservative estimate that the rate we have now, with two fires, is over 7 times the average.

    The real collision fire rate is likely at least 10 times the average vehicle population, probably more like double that number when you consider the June sold cars only have a few month exposure. Very unappealing.

    Any more collision initiated fires will be very, very bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @DocOlds
      Using the current data available you appear to be quite accurate.

      Telsa has a potential problem.

      Myself, like yourself working in an engineering environment and trending data I would assume (hope) that Telsa engineering and logistic support are looking closely at this.

      Telsa PR and marketing would be ‘watering down’ any suggestion of a potential problem until their lawyers and bean counters send out a signal.

      The storage of massive amounts of electrical energy is more dangerous than a flamable liquid. I wouldn’t buy and EV for that reason.

      Unlike a normal carbon based fire where you only have to remove on of the three contributing elements, oxygen, fuel and/or source (item burning) in an electrical fire the ‘fuel’ (electricity) sometimes can’t be removed.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Big Al- Both cases involve a lot of potential energy, and gasoline has roughly 50 times the energy per pound compared to batteries!

        My intention is not to knock Tesla or EV’s in general. I am convinced they are the future with the world’s vehicle population climbing into the billions. The Chinese along with the US are pushing very hard for EV development.

        My desire is simply to bring data and logic to the discussion. btw- EV fires are no different, still require the same elements to exist as for any fire. We are just unfamiliar with the EV details.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      As I noted above, this approach that you’re taking is an abuse of statistical data. Not only does it not help, but it clouds the situation.

      There aren’t many Teslas on the road. If you’re going to use fire:car ratios as a litmus test, then even one single Tesla fire would appear to be disproportionately high because the denominator is so low. In effect, you’re confusing an anecdote with data.

      The more reasonable way to assess this is to have engineers evaluate the design and tell us wrong with it. If there are design flaws, then those flaws exist, no matter how many or how few fires there have been. A bad design would be a bad design, even if there had been no fires at all.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @PCH101- My analysis is sound and exactly how regulators decide to bring engineering analytical focus on issues to determine if a defect exists. I haven’t drawn any conclusions as to what, if anything, should be done by Tesla, but simply addressed the issue of average crash induced fire rates versus what the current state is for the Tesla Model S. It is nothing more than a rough cut.

        I am curious how understanding and comparing rates is unhelpful or clouds anything, unless you simply want to shield Tesla. I agree that it is neither definitive nor a litmus test without engineering evaluation of the incident details. I wrote on the earlier post about the first fire that it is up to Tesla to evaluate what happened and what it means.

        The bureaucrats will focus on the rates and Tesla will have some ‘splaining to due.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    Regardless of the source, there is a valid point to be made here: Tesla chose to cover nearly the entire bottom of the car with battery. This has the effect of making a very big target for road debris or crash damage, including projectiles kicked up by the front tires.

    The Volt battery is in the center console and under the back seats – a much smaller target. The volume contained vs surface area is much higher, making the structure both natively stronger and easier to armor within a given weight.

    No car maker would dare to turn the entire bottom of their car into a gas tank these days. The Volt’s battery container would make a fine, safe, fuel tank – the Tesla’s, not a chance!


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