Fight fire with fire

Fight fire with fire

I have an idea of how to prevent a tesla from catching fire should its battery be penetrated from road debris. Thermite... A small thermite fuse rope could be installed inside the perimeter of each of the 16 modules in the battery. Should a module catch fire for any reason, the thermite would ignite and rapidly burn its way through the bottom of the battery. The burning contents of the module would fall out onto the road, thus saving the car.

Car t man | 21. november 2013

Cool debris for other vehicles to hit, because we hate other road users?
I think we should also simply throw thermite at other drivers just for the hell of it. You save your car that way also. It isn't burning.

Seriously. What were you thinking???

bhancharyk | 21. november 2013

I admit, the idea is out of the box... Literally. But let's hope Musk has a fleet of folks thinking out of the box on this problem. The media will crush Tesla if the fire issue doesn't go away even if no one gets hurt. Road debris happens and if the current design stays as is, more Teslas will burn - guaranteed.

The AA batteries tumbling out from under the car are relatively harmless compared to the 20 lb trailer hitch that caused the event in the first place. If I was driving behind the Tesla, I'd rather drive over the little batteries than the trailer hitch.

What ideas are out there? If you were Musk, what you do? Telling the world it's not a problem isn't working...

Malibu_Two | 21. november 2013

The steel plate seems like a good idea that's been floating around.

Malibu_Two | 21. november 2013

I also think Tesla should voluntarily recall the Model S to make the retrofit. It would be a good PR move.

bullnewyork | 21. november 2013

Don't know about the rest of the folks awaiting delivery, but I am cancelling my Model S order. I don't believe Mr. Musk is genuine now that MIT comes out and says that my future car is more fire prone than an ICE vehicle, and other articles highlight that the Model S is more fire prone than the Leaf and Prius plug-in I was considering.....what to do and who to believe?

Brian H | 21. november 2013

There's a second stage to a car fire: what's burning and how likely is it to harm passengers? Electrolyte is easier to contain than gasoline, which is especially volatile when hot.

Gas Killa | 21. november 2013

Bullnewyork- did you read that whole article?

"Electric vehicles store less energy, in part because they’re far more efficient, and there’s no combustion or high temperatures involved propelling the car. So there’s reason to expect they will ultimately prove less prone to fires, even with existing battery materials."

bhancharyk | 21. november 2013

How thick would a steel plate need to be to withstand a 20lb trailer hitch at 70 mph?

Timo | 21. november 2013

It's not the mass of the trailer hitch, it's the pole vaulting effect it does to Model S (or any other low car). That goes thru any car bottom.

Two fires cars due to road debris pole vaulting, one after driving thru two stone walls, none of them lethal. Compare that to ICE car that burned because it ran over a cardboard box which got stuck in ICE car non-smooth bottom and ignited because of hot exhaust.

Seriously, no competition there. BEV is far safer than ICE car.

Car t man | 22. november 2013

If you really canceled because the "fire issue", the decision isn't really
all that wise. At worst, take a few extra weeks or months and observe the
situation, if you're more on the faint hearted side as far as these things go and then reassess.

bhancharyk | 22. november 2013

I completely agree, Tesla's are safe, but it is not me that needs convincing, it's the general public and the stock investors. My 72 year old mother called me yesterday; she heard a news report that Tesla's are fire hazards that need to be investigated by the government. Perception is everything. This is the problem that Musk is facing.

Everyone on these forums can tell each other how wonderful and safe Tesla's are. But when the public dumps on Tesla after a 20 second news clip and a serious fan like newyorkbull bails on Tesla after one negative article, Musk's vision of mass acceptance of electric cars is in serious jeopardy. The fires absolutely must stop.

I fully support Musk's vision, I thus feel compelled to ask this forum to come up with ideas that will stop future fires. My idea at the top is admittedly extreme, but there are a lot of smart and creative people reading this forum, better ideas must exist. The steel plate is a good start; it would be relatively cheap and it might work assuming it was thick enough. What other ideas are out there?

Timo | 22. november 2013

Some sort of fire extinguishing foam that expands rapidly to engulf exposed batteries after serious damage to battery pack?

It would need to separate damaged cells from rest of the pack and to isolate it from oxygen.

Joshua Burstyn | 22. november 2013

This whole situtation reminds of why I have little faith in humanity.

ian | 23. november 2013

+1 Jewsh

alanwwebb | 23. november 2013

+1 Jewsh.
I was a firefighter in my youth. I went to car fires on local roads and highways. MIT is wrong to compare only fires caused by collisions. That is seriously bogus. Plenty of gas cars catch fire for other reasons, of course, and they are more dangerous than a Tesla because of that. And, while only 4% of fires are caused by collisions, 60% of automobile fire deaths are from collisions.

"U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage.

Facts and Figures
Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths.
On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week.
Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires.
Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths."

OC_DC | 24. november 2013

This whole fire issue is one of the most ridiculous things I've come across in years. Human nature indeed.

It reminds me of when the the iPhone first came out and every blackberry owner (including myself) said there was no way they could ever get used to typing without a keyboard. Left and right, people were saying the iPhone is sort of "fun" but could never replace a professional tool like the blackberry.

A few years later, Blackberry is bust, everyone else has copied the iPhone's touchscreen (including blackberry) and Apple is the largest company in the world. When you introduce technology to a problem, things can change very quickly.

In my opinion, on par with the electric motor is Tesla's true integration of technology into its vehicle. I can no longer drive ICE, partially because of the motor, but also because all other cars seem stupid, clunky and non-intuitive after driving the Model S with the large touchscreen.

All of the crying foul by the ICE crowd (most of it fueled by short sellers, IMO) is merely a last attempt to preserve a dinosaur of an industry on the verge of extinction.

dollardragon | 26. november 2013

There are many ways to deal with this road junk problem. One thing to do is to set up a detection peremiter. Tesla is currently designing its version of autopilot or similar system. This of course involves sensors that are and/or are like radar. There is plenty of research out there about this stuff. Tesla recently hired a engineer that specializes in this stuff.

The goal is to give the car 360 degrees of situational awareness. It should not be too difficult to include different levels of forward looking to establish detection of junk in the road and the system evaluates the info and take action accordingly by safely slowing the car while raising it up if necessary, while warning the driver as to best evasive action.

Further, they can have a cheap breach detection system that would sense penitration should that happen.

A surface could be put on the metal underside that makes it very slick and hard for projecting things to catch hold but rather just skid along the surface.

There are plenty of fixes for this.

blue adept | 26. november 2013


This issue has already been resolved with the disabling of the automated ride height adjusting function (which lowers the car at high speeds to further reduce drag, increasing mileage as a result), thereby circumventing the possibility of exposing the vehicles' underbody to the sort of potential roadway debris that doesn't effect the average commuter vehicle which, in case you were unaware, is the ONLY reason why the Model S experienced such extraordinary circumstances.

Mind you, this is coming from someone whose vehicles have always had performance/sport tuned/modified suspension systems installed on them, be they factory equipped from the European marques, or aftermarket additions on domestics to suit my own driving tastes, road debris is always an issue to such suspension configurations.