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A Slightly Different (?) Take on the Fire "Risk"

Discussion in 'Model S: Driving Dynamics' started by riceuguy, Nov 8, 2013.

  1. riceuguy

    riceuguy Member

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    So here is my take on the whole battery fire thing; maybe it's not as different a view as I think it is, but I think the focus in the media and even here and the teslamotors.com forum is off base. Simply put, it is a financial issue (in that insurance rates could be pushed higher and that the perception issues could hurt sales) but not a safety issue. There have been three fires, but all have been caused by significant impacts to the battery. This is an important point because these are not spontaneous fires, such as with the Boeing 787. In fact, the safety of the car--including fire safety--is outstanding. In the first fire, the car sustained a major blow from a sharp, curved piece of metal with so much force that it pierced a quarter inch of steel and punctured the battery. The result was that the car warned the driver, who safely exited. Would an ICE vehicle do that before a fire? The second one was the result of a massive accident (and some downright awful driving) that would likely have resulted in the driver's death in another vehicle. Instead, the fire was an afterthought, and neither the wreck nor the fire seriously injured the driver. Finally, the most recent fire was the biggest disappointment as one wouldn't expect a trailer hitch to total a car (sure, it could cause major damage to an ICE, but a total loss would be pretty unlikely!).

    However, after millions of miles of driving, there have been three fires, no injuries, and at least two of the incidents would likely have been as bad as or worse in an ICE vehicle. So mostly we and the media are fretting over the trailer hitch incident. Again, I would reiterate this is NOT a safety issue. It sucks that it can happen, but this is one of 20,000 cars, and in both non-stupid cases the driver was given a friendly warning, and the ensuing fires were safely directed away from the cabin. So I guess my point is that this seems terribly overblown, at least for now. All the talk of modifying the cars seems terribly premature. Or is it just me?!
     
  2. Raffy.Roma

    Raffy.Roma Active Member

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    @riceuguy

    You are right but IMO true problem is that people has un unconscious fear of a new technology able to move a car like, and even better I would say in the case of the Model S, an ICE car. That's why when a Model S catches fire there is all this noise on the media.
    So I think that anyway some changes could be done to improve the Model S with respect to the danger of road debris.
     
  3. bosgig

    bosgig Member

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    I agree with your points, riceuguy. That said, I think it's probably inevitable that they wind up with a design modification to the underside of the car. These debris-induced fires are likely to continue to happen as more cars get delivered and at some point TM isn't going to want to take the reputational risk any more. I am absolutely 100% confident driving my Model S and have no safety concerns whatsoever--let me make that clear--but I also don't believe debris hits on the underside of the car should cause fires that potentially total the car. Ultimately they will come up with something that reinforces the plate or otherwise reduces the occurrence/severity of these fires--it will be incorporated into the assembly line and our cars will be retrofitted. It will cost them some $$ and depending on the extent of the redesign it might add a bit of weight to the cars but probably not enough to really matter. I'd be surprised if they don't have an engineering team on it already. That's my opinion, anyway. Still the greatest car on Earth, and the fact that owners who had this happen to them want another Model S says a lot.
     
  4. TonyWilliams

    TonyWilliams Active Member

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    A few layers of Kevlar® aramid fiber might help, covering the entire bottom from behind the front bumper to the rear of the battery.

    "Kevlar’s properties aid in distinguishing it from many other fibers and materials. Kevlar is strong but also very light. The tensile strength of the Kevlar fiber is over eight times stronger than of a steel wire. It also handles heat very well and can withstand temperatures well above 850ºF. Kevlar will burn but is easily extinguished by removing the heat source.. Kevlar is capable of remaining soft and pliable down to -320ºF. and is even slightly stronger at lower temperatures. Just like any super hero, Kevlar does have its weaknesses. Long exposure to ultraviolet light will cause discoloration and degradation in its fibers. Additionally, certain chemicals on the fibers can weaken it."
     
  5. Jhall118

    Jhall118 Member

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    Hopefully it's optional, as I wouldn't want to pay for it. It also wouldn't have stopped the second fire.
     
  6. Raffy.Roma

    Raffy.Roma Active Member

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    @bosgig and TonyWilliams

    Well said. I agree with both of you.
     
  7. Discoducky

    Discoducky Active Member

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    I'm inclined to believe that the only risk currently is an increase in insurance costs. Nobody has been hurt and all want new cars. However, the algorithm that would increase the insurance risk is complicated and since there have not been injuries, which can increase insurance costs dramatically, the more the car proves itself to be 'the safest car ever made' to it's occupants could prove to actually *reduce* insurance costs overtime.
     
  8. Teriyaki88

    Teriyaki88 Member

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    I would love to know how many Tesla crashes have happened and how many did not start on fire. My guess is that it's not that many.
     
  9. Electric1

    Electric1 Member

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    One would hope that the insurance companies look at life safety as a cost reduction, but I suspect that they will use the excuse of fire risk to raise revenue.

    We must also recognize that the model S is, if for no other reason than it being (almost) all aluminum it is a very expensive car to repair. I was actually surprised that initial insurance rates weren't a bit higher.
     
  10. neroden

    neroden Happy Model S Owner

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    It will be interesting to see next year's insurance rates.

    Model S is unusual in that my collision & comprehensive premium is a LOT higher than my casualty & liability premium. This indicates that the expense of repairing the car is the main driver of the insurance premiums, at least where I am. The 'safest car ever' will cut casualty & liability premiums, but the aluminum body and $20K+ battery pack will raise collision & comprehensive premiums.
     
  11. SFOTurtle

    SFOTurtle Active Member

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    Well, here's a link to a thread that has pictures of a whole bunch of major accidents with no fires (and I know of at least one other significant accident that was not included in this thread where no fire occurred):
    All these Model S-crashes did NOT result in a fire
     
  12. donv

    donv Member

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    No one has been hurt in any of these accidents-- something important to emphasize.

    If they do anything, my guess is that Tesla will either remove the "Low" mode from the air suspension, or at least turn it off by default. But I'd be surprised if they do even that, given that no one has been hurt.
     

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