Driving an Electric Car gives you both Range Anxiety and Your Battery can Make your Car Catch Fire Anxiety

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 13th, 2011

Week in Review

If range anxiety wasn’t enough now there’s this.  After sweating bullets worrying whether or not that you’ll make it home on your battery charge.  Keeping the lights and the heater off to improve your chances.  And then, after making it home, you have to worry about something like this (see Volt fire 3 weeks after crash prompts safety probe by Chris Isidore posted 11/11/2011 on CNNMoney).

Federal safety regulators are investigating the safety of lithium-ion batteries after a fire started in the battery pack of a Chevrolet Volt three weeks after the vehicle went through a crash test…

NHTSA says it has investigated an incident and has concluded that, “the crash test damaged the Volt’s lithium ion battery and that the damage led to a vehicle fire that took several weeks to develop after the test was completed.”

That incident, the agency says, “is the only case of a battery-related fire in a crash or crash test of vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries.” It went on to say that it will conduct additional testing of the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.

The nice thing about a gasoline-powered engine is that the gasoline is stored separately from the things that make it go boom.  Fuel injectors (or carburetors on older cars).  And air.  You see, for gasoline to go boom you have to convert it first into an aerosol by pumping it through a fuel injector (or a venturi in a carburetor).  Then mix it with some air.  Then ignite it with a spark plug.  So it’s sort of like ‘some assembly required’ to get the energy out of gas to make a car go vroom.  Not so with a battery.

A battery’s energy comes from a chemical reaction in the battery.  From chemicals inside the battery.  That are there while you’re driving.  While you’re charging.  Even while you’re parked.  There always there.  And if something happens that disturbs their containment bad things can happen.  But unlike a gasoline leak, chances are you’ll never see or smell anything to warn you of a potential problem.  You’ll just know you have a problem when you have a problem.  Like your car being on fire.

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