Tesla Fire

As we continue to await Elon Musk’s ten-minute battery charge, it seems that his $70,000 boondoggles are liable to to be entirely destroyed by running over “large metal objects” in the road:

Love the excuses from Tesla’s damage-control department:

Yesterday, a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did. No one was injured, and the sole occupant had sufficient time to exit the vehicle safely and call the authorities. Subsequently, a fire caused by the substantial damage sustained during the collision was contained to the front of the vehicle thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack. All indications are that the fire never entered the interior cabin of the car.

The real story, of course, is that a commonplace under-car impact that would have caused little or no damage to a conventional gasoline-burning automobile totaled a $70,000 Tesla and put both its occupant(s) and fire fighters in severe danger, while creating a huge traffic jam, all thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack.

$102,000 for Electrical Fires?

electric fire Apparently, the Chevy Volt’s tendency to burst into flames isn’t just a GM problem. The same issue — failure of battery cooling systems — exists in the IQ-test-for-rich-people known as the Fisker Karma:

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) — A123 Systems Inc., the maker of batteries for electric vehicles, said it found a “potential safety issue” in batteries it supplies to Fisker Automotive Inc.

A123, which also sells batteries to automakers such as General Motors Co. and Daimler AG, said hose clamps that are part of the internal cooling system of its batteries supplied to Fisker were “misaligned” and may cause coolant to leak. Such a leak could lead to an electrical short circuit, David Vieau, chief executive officer, wrote in a memo on Waltham, Massachusetts-based A123’s investor-relations website.

One wonders how the car’s means of preventing electrical fires is going to perform after collisions, given that misalignment in manufacturing is a problem. Maybe Fisker will have its own battery shut-down squads roving the nation and swooping in after every crash. Or maybe not.

That’s the problem with increased complexity: It tends to create more ways for things to fail.

Of course, so long as we let capitalists dictate how we conduct our lives, they are going to continue insisting that we butter our toast with these profit-maximizing chainsaws.

Smoking Halo

dumpster_fire Not that it much matters, given the sub-anemic sales, but it seems that GM’s vaporware/haloware/loss leader, the Chevy Volt, might be prone to conflagration after collisions. Bloomberg reports:

U.S. auto-safety regulators are scrutinizing the safety of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles after a General Motors Co. (GM) Chevrolet Volt battery caught fire, people familiar with the probe said.

The regulators have approached all automakers, including GM, Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co., that sell or have plans to sell vehicles with lithium-ion batteries with questions about the batteries’ fire risk, four people familiar with the inquiry said.

The Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin, three weeks after a side-impact crash test, said an agency official. The fire was severe enough to burn vehicles parked near the Volt, the agency official said. Investigators determined the battery was the source of the fire, the official said.

As usual, NHTSA is dutifully representing the interests of the industry by keeping the investigation secret:

The official, as well as the three other people familiar with the inquiry, said they couldn’t be named because the investigation isn’t public.