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DACI Newsletter Extra: More Lithium Battery Troubles?

flamingteslaA Tesla Model S electric vehicle, which uses lithium batteries, burst into flames after supposedly running over a road obstruction. The state trooper who investigated the event did not find evidence of an obstruction.

The car’s battery pack is located in the floor, so it is possible that an obstruction ruptured the pack. But without confirmation, it is also possible that the battery pack erupted in flames due to an internal defect, similar to the Boeing incidents. Low-probability incidents by their very nature will occur rarely, but when they do occur they can be deadly when associated with high energy storage system, such as battery packs.

Photo above from the USA Today report: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/10/02/tesla-fire-stock-falls-analyst-downgrade/2911345/

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MicroViews: Electric Vehicles Are Not Greener and Cleaner / Dreamliner Batteries Still Misbehaving? / Robot Boogie Time

pollutingRecommended Reading: “Unclean at Any Speed
“Electric cars don’t solve the automobile’s environmental problems,” by Ozzie Zehner, 30 June 2013 IEEE Spectrum. A standout example of scientific journalism. Mr. Zehner provides a remarkably thorough and balanced review of the overall relative pollution impact of electric vehicles.

Is The Boeing Dreamliner Lithium Battery Issue Really Solved?
From “Technical glitches delay two Dreamliner flights from Poland,” 4 July 2013, Reuters:

787dreamliner“A flight from Warsaw to Chicago that was scheduled to fly on Wednesday was canceled because the aircraft had “problems with the power supply…” “The spokeswoman would not say if the latest technical problems were related to over-heating batteries which forced the grounding of all Dreamliners for over three months.”

The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming!
And wow, can they dance!

Flaming Lithium Batteries versus Profits: Who Wins?

CellPhoneFire“The unfortunate reality is that lithium-ion batteries were not ready for prime time four years ago and they’re not ready for prime time today.”
-from “Are EV Dreams Going Up In Smoke?” by John Petersen, 28 Mar 2013, Seeking Alpha

Despite claims that lithium battery technology is improving, lithium batteries continue to catch on fire. See the article above for some recent Mitsubishi examples.

The continued widespread use of a product that poses a serious and thus far unresolvable safety hazard is apparently based on the unfortunate business practice of balancing the costs of jury awards against the competitive advantage of using a dangerous product (lithium batteries have smaller size/weight for energy stored, compared to much safer types). Is there a CEO out there who is willing to forfeit some profits by discontinuing the use of lithium batteries? If so, please speak up.

-Ed Walker