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Tesla Sending New Wall-Charger Adapters After Garage Fire 195

JoeyRox writes "Tesla is sending its customers new home charging connectors after recent reports of chargers overheating in garages and one instance of a fire inside a wall socket that held one of the chargers. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the new charging adapter will contain a thermal fuse capable of terminating the charging process if it gets too hot. 'These are very rare events, but occasionally the wiring isn't done right. We want people to have absolute comfort, so we're going to be providing them with an upgraded adapter.' The company also issued a software update in December to address the overheating issue."
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Tesla Sending New Wall-Charger Adapters After Garage Fire

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  • Bravo, Tesla (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fnj ( 64210 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @05:51PM (#45921389)

    I'll get in before the nutjob Tesla detractors.

    This is a very responsible move by Tesla which takes guts. They are changing the charger design to ameliorate a problem that has nothing to do with the car and nothing to do with the charger and everything to do with the house wiring. Obviously the nutjobs will point their skinny little fingers and accuse Tesla of papering over their own flaw, which is a lie.

    • Re:Bravo, Tesla (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:25PM (#45921729) Journal

      This is the upside of new technologies being marketed first to the wealthy. Low-end products don't do fixes or recalls unless the lawsuits are expected to exceed the cost of the fix, which makes progress slow. High-end products must care more about reputation than that, so things get improved even when the company's not at fault, because sales are so tied to "good overall experience". That makes progress fast.

      If Tesla does start selling a 30-40k car, it will benefit from all these "lessons learned", which might well have been ignored for years if they had started with a low-end product.

    • Im sort of at a loss for why theres so much media hate for Tesla. Musk is a VERY successful businessman (which appeals to people who tend to be on the right), but his business is also a huge "cause" for people who tend to be on the left; he makes a car thats environmentally friendly, but its also sporty.

      Im really not clear what the angle is that makes Tesla such a problem.

      • Tribalism applied; it's actually basic Freud the same kind of stuff that gave birth to modern propaganda.

        The tribal appeals work extremely well on primitive tribal minded people and is still somewhat effective on normal people. I would think the more extreme ones are the haters in these edge cases. It is not all that well hidden that there was an intentional strategy to attach traits to the tribal identity; denying global warming for example was actually planned. It is quite a brilliant way to control peo

    • by Onuma ( 947856 )
      Good point. Most home owners don't even know the condition of the wiring in their homes. I recently purchased and found out that the wiring in my place is all sorts of wacky...while I don't have the cash to fix it all now, I make sure to not overload any one circuit in the meanwhile.

      If this thing were hooked up to my house, it'd probably be in cinders (the house, not necessarily the charger).
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @05:51PM (#45921395) Homepage

    Tesla cars are really expensive, but they keep doing things like this. "Worried about the battery catching on fire? Okay, we will insure you against that for no additional charge. Worried about your garage charger catching on fire? Okay, we will give you an upgraded charger for free."

    Anyone with a Tesla car is an early adopter, and paying a lot for the privilege. But Tesla really is doing their part to take care of the early adopter customers.

    And this is why their overall strategy is brilliant. Start at the high end of the market, make money while building technology and infrastructure, and then come out with a new-gen car that costs less. Meanwhile they have fewer customers to take care of when issues like this pop up, and they have the money to just deal with it.

    I can't wait until Tesla hits the Ford/Honda price level.

    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:31PM (#45921805)

      Will that be anytime soon though?

      My impression is that the most expensive part of the car are the batteries (probably costing more alone than a low end Honda) and from the charts I've seen, we've barely double energy density since 1990, despite all the rage portable computing and phones and other devices that have undoubtedly poured money into this market. []

      I think a series hybrid built off of the same concepts as a diesel electric train is feasible and worthwhile, bringing to the table the ability to have a small battery and small generator ICE to overcome all the limitations of a low battery energy density, ability to fuel fast, and the need to size an ICE to maximum acceleration load rather than average load.

      • by steveha ( 103154 )

        My impression is that the most expensive part of the car are the batteries (probably costing more alone than a low end Honda)

        As I understand it, yeah, the most expensive part is the battery. Electric motors are not that expensive.

        I'm pretty confident that battery costs will come down significantly. Even if no significant technology advances come along to help, battery costs should come down as demand picks up and production scales up. []

        An electri

      • Will that be anytime soon though?

        It doesn't have to be soon. Because other companies will start offering electric cars at lower prices until they are on parity with internal combustion cars.

        Already, hybrids have become barely more expensive than old-fashioned cars.

        And there are some bad-ass hybrids out there, including offerings from Ferrari, McLaren, BMW (the i8...WOW!) and Porsche (918).

        Whether you go low-end or high, there are hybrids and plug-in hybrids all across the spectrum. They're not doing this

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        Currently the highest cost of the car is the design and the people behind it. There have only been maybe 5000 of them made and the development is at what now over 5 years? Paying 10 executives and 100's of designers and engineers (these aren't minimum wage line jobs) in one of the most expensive parts of the country for 5 years. Plus they have a bunch of things that they have invested in way in the beginning that didn't work on. I can remember them licensing Honda for the batteries and Lotus for their Elise

        • There have only been maybe 5000 of them made and the development is at what now over 5 years?

          25k as of December [], actually.

          25k@$100k per gives you $2.5B in sales. Plus I just read an article about Tesla selling ZEV credits [] to the other manufacturers...

          I can remember them licensing Honda for the batteries and Lotus for their Elise design both of which basically weren't good enough for their requirements.

          The Elise frame was a deliberate design decision - it allowed them to release a car without having to design a body, allowing them to concentrate on the drive train, battery packs, etc... Also, I thought it was the opposite way round [] on the batteries?

          Step 1: motor, battery pack, controller, interior (Roadster)
          Step 2: As step 1 but the frame too, s

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        The key to selling cheaper cars is more charging stations, due to some extremely strong tax incentives here in Norway last year electric cars had a 5.5% market share, 1.3% of that is Tesla though they only delivered from September to December but the really big winner around here is Nissan Leaf. They're half the price of the base model Tesla and a third of the top model, they have much shorter range but because there's so many and so many chargers they can do commutes and the occasional longer trips even th

        • by AaronW ( 33736 )

          They've been pretty good about fixing the early problems. They've gone back and fixed all of the issues I've had with my 5K VIN number with their current cars and now offer a few features that were not available when I got mine (i.e. parking sensors). They've also raised their prices and a lot of options on my car now cost extra (i.e. $500 for fog lights).

    • Compare and contrast with Ford and their defective cruise control switches which WERE their fault and to which design they clung to for many years despite losing many vehicles to fire.

      Good for Tesla. This response is to their credit. A 50-amp outlet is sufficient to run high-draw items such as welders, let alone a car charger, but bad shit can happen if they aren't done properly. Tesla are going over the top to protect their customers from the consequence of improper wiring by third parties.

  • the real Tesla would have charged cars from remote [], without sending the customer a mains charger!
  • The charger itself resides in the car. The connector is simply a 240V, high current (30 Amp or more) special purpose plug.

    Plugs overheat due to bad (high resistance) connections. And when they do so, they tend to draw less current, not more (like a short circuit would). A standard fuse is not what you want. A thermal sensor that would drop the charger load would seem to be more appropriate here. Possibly with arc fault sensing as well. If the fault was in the wall receptacle, it sounds like the electrician

  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:00PM (#45923027) Homepage

    I own a Tesla model S and was never very fond of how the adapters connect to the UMC cable. The UMC cable has a 5-pin connector on the end that plugs into the wall where it plugs into one of numerous adapters. The adapters contain pins for ground and the two 240V legs (not neutral) or the hot, neutral and ground for the 115V adapters. There's also a resistor in it that signals the amount of current that can be drawn between one of the pins and ground. I don't recall what the last pin is for.

    The connector between the adapter and the cable is a weak link. I myself have had intermittent issues with my NEMA 14-30 adapter and the cable where just wiggling it causes a fault to show up. The adapter connector is not all that tight nor is it particularly secure. The pins are also rather small considering how much current they can be carrying (up to 40A).

    A number of owners have reported that this connection between the UMC cable and the plug adapter has overheated or melted. While it sounds like in the case of the garage fire it was likely the fault of substandard wiring of the NEMA 14-50 outlet the UMC cables have been a known problem.

    About a foot from this adapter cable is a small box that has a relay, GFI and some signalling circuitry to interface with the Model S.

    I've only used the NEMA 14-50 adapter a couple of times since I have a separate high power wall connector that's hard-wired into my home (100A feed). I'm a lot more comfortable using that over the UMC cable but Tesla has to fix the early HPWCs as well. The resettable fuses are too sensitive so they recommend not charging at the full 80A. I myself have not had any problems at 80A but normally they reduce it to 60 until they send someone out to replace the fuses.

    I don't think this will be a major setback for Tesla. The retail price of the UMC is $600 which means it probably costs a lot less to manufacture. I just hope that if they change that connector that they replace all of my adapters since I bought a number of additional ones (at $45 each) to handle NEMA 14-30, 10-30, 6-50 and 120v/20A.

    The UMC is basically the equivalent of a normal J1772 EV charger but with a switchable plug and in a much smaller form factor. Hell, my HPWC charger is a fraction the size of most J1772 EV chargers yet it handles a lot more power than most J1772 adapters (and it doesn't even get warm when pumping 80A through it).

    The UMC is nice since it means I can charge my car at any RV park that has a 240V hookup or that an owner just needs to install a NEMA 14-50 outlet which is a lot less expensive than either a high-power wall connector ($1200) or a standard EV charger.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller