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Under the Chassis: A Look At Tesla's Battery Shield 152

Posted by timothy
from the now-for-the-suv dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Tesla said a few weeks ago it would add additional safety shielding to protect the battery of every Model S car on the road against damage from road debris. But it offered no photos of its update as it would look when installed--so one owner took his own. These may be the first detail shots of what the three different pieces look like. There's a half-round aluminum tube, a titanium plate, and a T-shaped section--and you can see how they combine to deflect and direct impacts to minimize damage to the battery. Do these updates look like they'll solve Tesla's problems?"
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Under the Chassis: A Look At Tesla's Battery Shield

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  • Problems? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:03PM (#46715699)

    " Do these updates look like they'll solve Tesla's problems?"

    You mean Tesla's problem of already being the safest car money can buy?

    Or do you mean Tesla's problem of having every minor pecadillo be over-hyped by the media, especially right wing news outlets that want to downplay Tesla's success because admitting Tesla is successful is tantamount to admitting a policy of the Obama administration that the right wing fought against actually turned out to be a good policy. It might fix that.

    • Obama?! What, did he invent the electric car?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      " Do these updates look like they'll solve Tesla's problems?"

      You mean Tesla's problem of already being the safest car money can buy?

      Or do you mean Tesla's problem of having every minor pecadillo be over-hyped by the media, especially right wing news outlets that want to downplay Tesla's success because admitting Tesla is successful is tantamount to admitting a policy of the Obama administration that the right wing fought against actually turned out to be a good policy. It might fix that.

      Right wing news media? The right wing fought against? You've raised douchbaggery to a new level.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mspohr (589790)

      As we all know, the folks here at /. all know much more about everything than anyone else so they are eminently qualified to opine on any subject. In the current case, I am sure that the engineers at Tesla will read every comment carefully to see where they have gone wrong and try to correct their mistakes even though they cannot equal the brain power and engineering prowess of the collective "Slashdot hive mind".
      Let the flame wars begin!

    • You have a bias-ply mind in a radial world.
      Perhaps I missed all the 'right wing news outlets' hammering Tesla.
      Was it ABC? CBS? CNN? Comedt Central? MSNBC? MTV? NBC? NPR?
      Well, let me know because I can't monitor them all by myself.
      You make a list and wheel (see what I did there) run those rascals down like the rabid chipmunks they are.

    • by hendrips (2722525)

      I was all set to agree with you until I got to the end of your post. How is equating "Tesla is a success" with "Obama's energy policy is a success" any more valid than equating "Solyndra was a failure" with "Obama's energy policy is a failure?"

      Sure, I've seen the media try to make both of those connections. I, wrongly, assumed Slashdotters wouldn't be stupid enough to fall for either one.

    • by MikeMo (521697)
      Kinda reminds me of Apple...
  • by dclozier (1002772) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:03PM (#46715701)
    These accidents all seem to stem from the drivers and their carelessness. From crashing through brick walls to hitting large chunks of debri in the road rather than going around it. All Tesla has done is made their vehicles less prone to the driver being careless. (good move none the less)

    Next up - Tesla cars catch fire after drivers park them in the ocean.
    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:15PM (#46715793)

      disagree about carelessness.

      I believe products should be designed (over-designed) so that even if users are not operating fully as planned, you should still have a safety margin to protect them.

      its typical german (old school; not sure about now) engineering design. don't just do the job barely; OVER do it. just in case.

      having protection down there makes uber sense ;) not having it is a weakness. this should have been there on day-0 and I'm very surprised that they didn't.

      when making a brand new product, its best to over-plan for disaster and mitigate as much as you can, in advance, via over-design and better parts quality than you thought you might need. you get only a short window to prove yourself to the world, might as well do all you can to make that big splash work for you and not against you.

      to contrast, the chinese way (sigh) is all about just barely having enough headroom to support use-cases. they will put lower voltage capacitors on a circuit thinking 'this is good enough for our foreign users; if the circuit blows up, who cares, we already got their money'. this is why so many people are going out of their way to avoid chinese junk electronics. their design mindset is ALL WRONG and actually dangerous.

      I'd like to see more of a return to overdesign and thoughts about customer safety and product longevity. this throw-away culture really pisses me off.

      • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:27PM (#46715895)

        Sure, except that in every reported case of battery fires in a Tesla, the user has walked away from the crash (even when the crash took place at 100 mph or so). The cars already have the highest safety rating possible in tests. Expecting a safety margin is one thing, and Tesla has shown they more than fulfill that. Expecting to be invincible is quite another, and that's what a lot of people (or, at least the media) seem to be expecting, and that's incredibly stupid.

        This battery shield is a PR move, quite simply. Not a bad one, and it might marginally improve safety, but I suspect only extremely marginally so, and it's certainly not worth it as a safety measure alone.

        • by abigsmurf (919188)
          It's perhaps the biggest example of the Tesla Kool-aid that being able to walk away from an engine fire is seen as something incredible and amazing.

          In almost all engine fires, the only way you'll fail to walk away is because you were physically unable (trapped or unconcious). I've a low end 2003 Skoda fabia (costs approx , if my engine were to catch fire, I'd get the heat sensor beeping at me, then the engine warning light would beep at me, then, if I hadn't stopped by then, it'd go into crawl home mode.
          • by X0563511 (793323)

            So you're saying you should expect to send your car at a concrete wall at +100mph, and walk away after emerging from the other side of said concrete wall?

      • It all boils down to $$$, for both the consumer AND manufacturer. I would love a Tesla, problem is, I also don't want to pay 1/3 of the cost of a house to get one. People say they don't build stuff like they used to, which of course is true, you look at a washing machine and there is a whole cockpit worth of buttons on it for options and configurations because people want it. I use the exact same cycle on my washer and dryer no matter what I am doing, the odd time I might use a second. I don't need 30 diff
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          1/3rd the cost? I know people that live in homes that cost LESS than the price of one. hell I bought my very nice home 5 years ago at the bottom of the market crash for less than the price of a Model S and I'm on the edge of the $5,000,000 mansion neighborhood. so it's considered upper middle class land.

          You cant call california home prices normal, they are ungodly abnormal.

          • by JeffAtl (1737988)

            You bought a $90k home that borders a community with $5M homes? That seems bizarre.

            • by hendrips (2722525)

              It's more possible than you would think in certain small cities. Drive through a few residential areas in midtown Columbia, SC and you'll see exactly that.

            • by Anguirel (58085)

              At the bottom of the crash? Not entirely impossible if he got it in a foreclosure auction - I remember seeing more than a few that were going at less than 10% of their "official" value. There's also a chance the $5m homes are still at inflated valuations. Between those, I could see it happening.

        • It all boils down to $$$, for both the consumer AND manufacturer. I would love a Tesla, problem is, I also don't want to pay 1/3 of the cost of a house to get one.

          I wish I lived in your area... here, a Tesla costs ~1/8th the cost of a house, and 4 x the cost of a stripped-down budget new car.

      • Any consumer available product should certainly be engineered to be safe when used as directed, and should be able to accommodate any reasonably foreseeable circumstance without itself becoming an undue hazard. In this instance, a Tesla Motors vehicle should be able to withstand any circumstance which might reasonably be expected to occur - within bounds of reason. I understand that in all instances of battery fires, the vehicle's occupants had ample time to exit the vehicle and watch their car burn up fr
      • The car shipped with a shield, it's just that it turned out some events could pierce said shield so they reinforced it.

        Some of this stuff is learning experience on the differences between a petrol vehicle and a battery-electric. They only gained minimal knowledge from the industry's history of protecting the gasoline tank.

    • s/catch fire/sink (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:34PM (#46715971)
      But to be fair, my Dad managed to sink a new VW Bug in Lake Michigan back in the late sixties. He learned that "It floats!" - right up 'til it sinks. Took a while.

      Incidentally, he never thought about sueing Volkswagen - back then, he figured if he was stupid enough to drive an automobile into a lake, he got what he had coming. Nowadays, I'm pretty sure the settlement would've been worth millions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slinches (1540051)

      Going around road debris isn't always the best decision, so I wouldn't necessarily assume the driver is being careless. Running over something which may do some damage to your vehicle may be a much better alternative compared to hitting the vehicle in the next lane or swerving into oncoming traffic. Both of which would risk harming others.

      Still, any vehicle with relatively low ground clearance is going to have trouble in this sort of scenario and the most anyone could claim is that the Model S is more pron

      • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:53PM (#46716243) Homepage Journal
        any vehicle with relatively low ground clearance is going to have trouble in this sort of scenario

        That's why when I'm driving through a parking lot and some ricer with their "ground effects" car is grumbling behind me, I speed up just slightly so they're paying attention to me and not the speed bump which they can't see because they're so close to me.

        I always get a pleasure hearing a sustained, "CRUNCH!" as their car scrapes over the bump.
    • I guess you are not from the North East.
      Pot Holes. The hole doesn't just appear, is breaks loose then a car or truck or plow will dislodge the material and make the hole. Causing debris, often without you seeing it. Other people can be careless too such as rear-ending you. And sometimes even if you are very careful, something could distract you enough to get in an accident.
      We all think that we are great drivers... But we are not, a lot of times when we are not at our best, we are lucky that nothing happ

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      Why don't we just get rid of all engineering guards and warning labels on everything?

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        I want large steel spikes in the middle of steering wheels. a lot of drivers need to be impaled.

    • I don't know why they don't have the entire bottom covered. Better aerodynamics and protection against road debris in one.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      Like another poster here, I also disagree about the carelessness aspect. In my misspent youth I have crashed a motor vehicle through a wall and hit several large rocks in the middle of the road, and the only damage, other than to my ego, was a few dents in the bonnet and undercarriage respectively. There were no fires nor engine failures.

      Designers must, MUST, design for conditions well above what they would consider the boundaries of reasonable use.

  • by mr_tommy (619972) *
    Telsa did this in response to i) dubious driving by end users and ii) dubious journalism by commentators. Would it be better put then not as 'solving a [pr] problem' but rather sliding along a scale with trade offs between weight and strength / safety.
  • Really given the 'error rate' that Tesla has with this issue they have fixed something that wasn't really a problem at all. Or at least it was one that was so insignificant it's no big deal. I'd also like to say: Great Job Tesla on showing how to make a great product and stick it to the old guard as well.
  • Car blog? (Score:1, Troll)

    by OhPlz (168413)

    My hybrid probably has some protective plates on its undercarriage, should I post that as a story?

    • Specifically, post video of your car running over the same kinds of debris that Tesla demonstrated here [teslamotors.com].
  • by pla (258480) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:12PM (#46715765) Journal
    Do these updates look like they'll solve Tesla's problems?

    Since Tesla's biggest problems come from buggy whip... I mean, car dealership... protectionism, combined with a dislike bordering on zealotry from a media that still considers the Chevy L88 as the engine to beat for every compact sedan they review?

    No. No, these updates will not solve Tesla's problems.
    • by mmell (832646)
      You forgot Amoco, BP, Shell, Texaco, Sunoco . . .
    • by kimvette (919543)

      The L88 isn't hard to beat. Solid lifters that need constant adjustment, hot-running engine in a car with the heat and defroster deleted, with a poor unstreetable idle in a car whose performance is matched by today's family sedans, all that and only 7mpg city, 10mpg highway - if you can find the fuel to keep the 12.5:1 compression engine running happily.

  • How much titanium (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kardos (1348077) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:14PM (#46715785)

    is there in one of these plates? Are they detachable by thieves to be sold for the metal value?

    • by mmell (832646)
      Given the location and structural requirements, I'm going to say this is not a readily detachable part - at least, no more so than any other automotive component. Probably as difficult to remove as any structural chassis element.

      Now, if you want to think in terms of malicious behavior, seen the news lately about "smart car tipping"?

      • is there in one of these plates? Are they detachable by thieves to be sold for the metal value?

        Given the location and structural requirements, I'm going to say this is not a readily detachable part...

        Don't underestimate the persistence of a meth-head: Catalytic converters are removed with battery driven grinders and saws-alls all the time.

    • by Carnivore (103106)

      Titanium itself is pretty low cost, material-wise. The cost comes in working it. I just found a retail price of $450/m^2 for 1mm sheet. I'm not sure how thick the plate here is, but it's only about 4x the cost of stainless sheet from the same place. If we assume that the plate is a solid rectangle measuring 60x30cm, then the retail value of the material is $80. I don't think it'd be worth much on the scrap market.

      Anyway, to steal it, you'd have to crawl under the car (12cm clearance), detach the plastic aer

    • Are they detachable by thieves to be sold for the metal value?

      Would be a LOT easier to just steal the whole car.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm not the biggest fan of Musk and (as an hybrid battery engineer for a competitor) I was disgusted by the way he handled the reports of the fires as they arose but I have to give him some credit for these changes. We all, and by all I mean anyone mechanically inclined in this field, knew that there's no way their battery would be protected in real world driving conditions. It could have been their simulation models or maybe they were trying to stretch the boundaries of what determines a "safe" vehicle, mo

  • I doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rollgunner (630808) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:23PM (#46715865)
    I don't think any number of technical improvements can fix a problem that only exists in people's heads.

    Hysteria, superstition, preconception and failure to understand statistics are the *real* problems that Tesla faces in marketing their product.
  • by Dan East (318230)

    Do these updates look like they'll solve Tesla's problems?

    No, because Tesla never had a problem in the first place, so this improvement wasn't really necessary.

  • Right before this announcement, there were stories of California fire officials asking golfers to be careful when using the now rather common titanium clubs in the rough, as the sparks generated when duffers hit rocks with them can last long enough to start a dry brush fire.

    So again; what happens when such sparks encounter spilled fuel from a conventional car involved in an accident with a Tesla? (Here come the downvotes).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm guessing the same thing that would happen when steel sparks encounter spilled fuel from a conventional car.

    • by JeffAtl (1737988)

      So again; what happens when such sparks encounter spilled fuel from a conventional car involved in an accident with a Tesla?

      Probably not that much. Spilled gasoline is a lot harder to ignite than the movies portray it.

  • by clovis (4684) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:06PM (#46716401)

    I was really hoping they would have gone for us reactive armor for the battery shield.

  • But I will never EVER willingly buy a car that reports back everywhere it is.
  • by stewsters (1406737) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:42PM (#46716807)
    This is Slashdot, please explain this article with a car metaphor.
    • The devs are rolling out a patch for an issue where an external hardware crash caused a loss of system integrity. While no personal data has been lost to date, the vendor apparently wants to reduce the recovery time and inconvenience for early adopters.

      Fanbois coo admiringly. Critics snipe cynically. Nihilists whine about the story appearing at all.

      And the beat goes on...

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