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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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  • by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:06PM (#45921525) Homepage

    People haven't stopped beta testing. Either in hardware or software. They have been quicker to release because the vast majority of software nowadays are done inside a sandbox (mobile apps, cloud servers, etc) rather than from scratch.

    It's not like software or hardware back then was any more reliable. Office, OS9, Windows (all versions) have always been plagued with problems and one can argue they have fewer obvious bugs now than they did before - When's the last time you got a BSOD?

    The counterbalance is that the consumer base is far far far larger now. Some of us who were at Intel at the height of the Pentium 4 were happy to have sold 40M units in a year. Mobile phone processors at qualcomm nowadays clear 400M/quarter.

    If it seems like hardware and software bugs show up faster, it is because the userbase that uses and report such bugs (easy to do now via social media) is much much much larger.

  • Re:Bravo, Tesla (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:22PM (#45921709)

    This move is the result of lawyers at tesla. It's in stark contrast to musk shooting his mouth off that everything is completely fine and it's not teslas fault at all because tesla is perfect and there's nothing wrong anywhere with it.

    Elon needs to start talking to the legal department and marketing people BEFORE he opens his mouth. This will help tesla greatly.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Modus Operandi (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @06:32PM (#45921809)

    The math has been done in every previous thread. The fire rate for Teslas is something like 5x lower than normal cars -- but we'll see if that changes once they age.

  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:43PM (#45922907) Homepage

    There have been a number of problems with the UMC (cable in question). The cable has an adapter on the end to choose from a variety of plugs, i.e. NUMA 14-50, NUMA 14-30 standard 120v, NEMA 10-30, 6-50, etc.

    I myself have seen issues where my NEMA 14-30 adapter would give a fault if the cable was bumped. The connection between the adapter and the cable is not all that solid and a number of owners have had issues with this.

    About a foot away from this connector is a control box that contains a GFI and a relay and the circuitry to interface to the car.

    The adapter has 5 pins on it. One for ground, one for each 240V leg (neutral is not used) and a pin that appears to go to a resistor to signal the amount of current supported by the adapter. I don't remember what the last pin does. Anyway, for the amount of current the NEMA 14-50 and 6-50 adapters carry the pins are rather small. The adapter also doesn't always securely latch to the cable which can lead to a bad connection causing the adapter and/or cable to melt.

    I don't think this will be a big setback for Tesla. Tesla's retail price for this cable is $600.

  • 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.

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

    by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:13PM (#45923433) Homepage

    Actually as the owner of a Tesla, Tesla has been very proactive at fixing problems and treating their customers well. Unlike a lot of car manufacturers, Tesla tends to be proactive about things. I had a number of minor issues due to my car being one of the earlier VINs and they have always fixed the issues without giving me the run-around like I've gotten at other dealerships.

    The fact that Elon talks before consulting his lawyers is a breath of fresh air.

  • by Internetuser1248 ( 1787630 ) on Saturday January 11, 2014 @06:49AM (#45925341)
    It is also worth mentioning, with all this Tesla fire hype: Recalling parts for safety reasons in the automotive industry is the rule not the exception. Almost every model from every car manufacturer has had some parts or systems recalled. Fire is the cause of a significant percentage of recalls. It is hard to get exact numbers as each country has it's own database. I looked at the US one [] quickly for an example. Selected a random model and year (Aluma 2009), and sure enough there were three recalls for that year alone. The first one i clicked had the text "THIS DEFECT COULD RESULT IN A FIRE.".

    Given the percentage of the vehicle fleet that is made of Teslas, this is not really relevant news.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.