Will Thieves Target Tesla Battery Packs?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

While watching the video of Elon Musk demonstrating Tesla’s new battery swap mechanism that will be installed at the EV company’s ‘supercharger’ stations (Musk prefers to call them “Tesla stations”) I remembered something that Tom Wolfe wrote about air-cooled Volkswagens in his 1968 compilation, The Pumphouse Gang.

[A]ll up and down the coast from Los Angeles to Baja California kids can go to one of these beach towns and live the complete surfing life. They take off from home and get to the beach, and if they need a place to stay, well, somebody rents a garage for twenty bucks a month and everybody moves, girls and boys. Furniture it’s like one means, you know appropriates furniture from here and there. It’s like the Volkswagen buses a lot of kids now use as beach wagons instead of woodies. Woodies are old station wagons, usually Fords, with wooden bodies, from back before 1953. One of the great things about a Volkswagen bus is that one can exchange motors in about three minutes. A good VW motor exchanger can go up to a parked Volkswagen, and a few ratchets of the old wrench here and its up and out and he has a new motor. There must be a few nice old black panthers around wondering why their nice hubby-mommy VWs don’t’ run so good anymore — but — then — they — are — probably — puzzled — about — a — lot of things. Yes.

The reason why it’s so easy to steal a Beetle (or Bus) engine is that they’re mounted from underneath the car. Jack up the Bug, put a floor jack under the engine, remove the four bolts that hold the engine to the bellhousing on the transaxle, disconnect the throttle cable and fuel lines, and roll away the engine.

As you can see from the video, the Tesla S’ battery pack is also mounted on the underside of that car and I’m sure that a Tesla station’s battery swap machine isn’t the only way those batteries can be removed. Dealer mechanics must have the ability to remove and replace batteries as well, using conventional tools, lifts and hoists. I’m wondering what kinds of systems or technology Tesla has implemented in how their Model S battery pack is mounted and connected to the car in order to prevent battery theft. Otherwise, like the owners of Wolfe’s nice hubby-mommy VW’s, some Tesla S owners might come out to their cars to find that they don’t run so good anymore.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS


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  • Shaker Shaker on Jun 22, 2013

    The good news: If this actually ever becomes a problem, then we'll know that EV's have *arrived*.

  • Blowfish Blowfish on Jun 23, 2013

    At least in Vancouver I heard thieves do steal catalytic converters, they worth 150ish. So if they know what to do is relatively quick money. These batt may weight a bit but a few hundred bucks for a quick job. That will be enuf for a quick habit fix!

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Auto insurance renewal every six months. Ten year old car, good driving record, own my own home, excellent credit score, no teenagers on the policy, etc, etc, etc.Yet, I pay thru the nose!!!!!Adds on the morning news brag about $500k settlements.I paid less when I lived in New York State.
  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
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