Dog Bites Man

8. October 2013

Last week, a Tesla Model S, having collided with a massive piece of metal, thought to have been tossed by a semi, burned in suburban Seattle.  The driver was OK.

One car. One fire. One huge news story. Huh?

If this was a car with an internal combustion engine, unless one of the Kardashian girls was involved, chances are this would have been not even a story.

Because it is an electric car, it makes big news.

HAZMAT_Class_3_Gasoline image source: Wikipedia

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is the kind of guy, apparently, for better or worse, who gets involved in the public conversation regarding his company. And so he posted a piece on the Tesla blog that makes a point that executives of companies that don’t make electric cars (or who make few of them) are loathe to point out:

“A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.”

Yes, gasoline is one powerful fuel. Which is why it is so useful in automobiles. If one were to imagine that gasoline hadn’t become the dominant fuel for cars, that electric vehicles had caught on first, and then someone suggested that this flammable substance be put into metal containers on-board an auto, chances are that person would have been escorted to the door, post-haste.

But because of the efficiency of gasoline as fuel (i.e., remarkable energy density), it won, and it is taken for granted in a way that if you watch the behavior of some people at gas stations, you want to get to a safe distance fast.

Yes, lithium-ion batteries represent a new technology for automobiles.

No, I don’t want to drive in something that is unsafe.

But I don’t think that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would let Tesla or any other company put in tech that’s unreasonably dangerous.

EVs represent new technology. That there are so many people who seem resistant to it is really rather disappointing.