According to the police department of Corvallis, Oregon, slamming into large, stationary objects in a moving vehicle at over 100mph can have catastrophic effects on pretty much everything in the vicinity. On 11-17, the town police responded to a single-car crash in which the vehicle sheared “a power pole off at the base as well as striking and knocking over two trees and a telephone junction box.”
The next part is where things get a little nuts:
The damage from the collision caused the batteries from the Tesla to enter two different residences by breaking through the windows, one landing on a person’s lap and the second landing on a bed, catching the bedding on fire. A tire was ripped from the car during the collision and struck the second story siding of a nearby apartment complex with such force that it ruptured the water pipes within the wall, destroying the bathroom to the apartment and flooding the downstairs portion of the apartment as well.
No matter what you think of Tesla, let us pause a moment and reflect on the nature of this achievement. In a matter of seconds, a single Model 3 launched a brief career as an electrician, landscaper, and telephone repairman before segueing into home remodeling and plumbing. Truly, a vehicle for our age.
Tesla goes to some trouble to make certain that the battery cells in its vehicles don’t go flying in the event of a collision. But the nature of this impact was obviously sufficient to break whatever solution the manufacturer has developed for dealing with the problem. Previous teardowns of the Model 3 battery pack have shown that the cells are sealed in place with high-strength epoxy.
The problems of an out-of-control vehicle are, of course, scarcely limited to BEVs. I once lived a short distance from a very steep hill that descended over about half a mile down to a three-way intersection. There was a house directly across from where the steep descent met the intersection. I can’t say I was surprised to drive past one day and see what was left of a sedan sitting where the chimney had been. Any one-ton vehicle moving at triple-digit speeds is capable of tremendous destruction.
With that said, there does appear to be a unique problem for BEVs in a situation like this. According to a follow-up post, the Model 3 battery cells can remain hot to the touch and might cause burns for up to 24 hours following involuntary dispersal. That kind of hazard — specifically, the length of time you might be at risk from harm due to leftover detritus — seems a potentially significant issue in certain situations. Tesla’s epoxy solution shows it has considered the problem, but there may be reason to revisit things. It is unclear if individual cells remain at significant risk for secondary ignition after being separated from the main battery for any length of time or if the majority of fire risk is in the immediate period post-impact.
The driver, incidentally, survived, which seems to say something good about Tesla’s crash survival measures, at the least. The vehicle, needless to say, did not.
Feature image by the Corvallis Police Department
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