Tesla’s Electric “brick” problem

Image from Tesla's website

Jalopnik reports:

“Tesla Motors’ lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle.

If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street.

The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery. Unlike practically every other modern car problem, neither Tesla’s warranty nor typical car insurance policies provide any protection from this major financial loss. “

The article continues:

How To Brick An Electric Car

A Tesla Roadster that is simply parked without being plugged in will eventually become a “brick”. The parasitic load from the car’s always-on subsystems continually drains the battery and if the battery’s charge is ever totally depleted, it is essentially destroyed. Complete discharge can happen even when the car is plugged in if it isn’t receiving sufficient current to charge, which can be caused by something as simple as using an extension cord. After battery death, the car is completely inoperable. At least in the case of the Tesla Roadster, it’s not even possible to enable tow mode, meaning the wheels will not turn and the vehicle cannot be pushed nor transported to a repair facility by traditional means.

The amount of time it takes an unplugged Tesla to die varies. Tesla’s Roadster Owners Manual [Full Zipped PDF] states that the battery should take approximately 11 weeks of inactivity to completely discharge [Page 5-2, Column 3: PDF]. However, that is from a full 100% charge. If the car has been driven first, say to be parked at an airport for a long trip, that time can be substantially reduced. If the car is driven to nearly its maximum range and then left unplugged, it could potentially “brick” in about one week.[1] Many other scenarios are possible: for example, the car becomes unplugged by accident, or is unwittingly plugged into an extension cord that is defective or too long.

Source:

http://jalopnik.com/5887265/tesla-motors-devastating-design-problem

h/t to Popular Technology

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This seems to be a problem exclusive to lithium-ion battery technology, not lead-acid systems. Seems to me that all that is needed is a master kill switch for the mains. I’d rather reprogram my radio and other gadgets than spend $40k on a new battery pack.

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116 Responses to Tesla’s Electric “brick” problem

  1. Latitude says:

    So now we know there’s a $40,000 up charge….for the brick

    Wonder if a 250 chev block will fit in one?

  2. Clavius says:

    How about a 9-volt to keep the radio alive and have a full kill switch to preserve the battery.

  3. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Dang … seems to me they would have put in a low-charge sensor connected to a kill switch the first week. But hey, it’s greenies, I guess no one wanted to make bad vibes …

    w.

  4. GeoLurking says:

    Dunno…. but you would probably get the same performance as the 327 equipped Chevy Monza.

  5. Dave says:

    I have my doubts about the accuracy of the story Jalopnik is (re-)reporting. I can’t imagine any consumer having trouble winning a case against Tesla for selling an unfit product if this is a real problem. It’s obvious that they should have included a protective system of some kind.

  6. Bill says:

    When people need to buy new batteries that is $40K of STIMULUS!

    (you know, just like when some punk breaks your window)

  7. Gary Hladik says:

    Just what I always wanted: a $100,000 Tamagotchi pet!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamagotchi

  8. GogogoStopSTOP says:

    I’ve been involve in a few incidents in the corporate world where a high failure rate in the customer’s environment was projected by engineering experimentation & calculations. When the customer failure rate is high, when the engineers say it’s high for a certain condition, that cannot be ameliorated, the “failure rate problems” quickly turns into a financial exercise.

    When the failures make a material impact on profit, i.e., when they get significant enough to have to put excess material aside & dedicate significant production time to the replacement of the failed parts, an accounting must be accrued. This ‘reserve’ must be disclosed to stockholders. If the company is small, like Tesla, this could spell disaster.

    My suspicion is that they have to “ignore” this problem inside Tesla. If they address the problem & if the engineers say it’s really large, then the accountants will have to move for a reserve against current earnings.

    If the above scenario were to happen, Tesla has two brick problems: 1) dead car batteries & 2) a dead corporation.

  9. Lew Skannen says:

    And to think that I once used to laugh at some of the weirder inventions of history.

    Reminds me of some of the ideas my technogeek friends came up with at work.
    1. WOM – write only memory. For stuff you want to save but never want to read again.
    2. Mouse Tremble Pad – Put your mouse on it while you are away from your desk and it keeps the mouse moving thereby preventing the screen saver coming on and forcing you to laboriously log in again.

  10. It would never sell in Australia – everything here runs off powerboards and extension cords.

  11. Zac says:

    But surely they can put in a device that cuts off the battery at a certain voltage?

  12. sped says:

    Even if you have a master kill,you have to shut down early like at 15% charge.so you give up. A good portion of your range.

    It is a hazard, like reving an engine past redline til it ‘bricks’. Just another failure mode to be aware of.

  13. Doug Proctor says:

    Holy crap, one might say. Lots of us leave our vehicle sitting for more than a couple of weeks – I see vehicles, nice vehicles, covered in snowfall after snowfall on our Calgary streets. It always amazes me how many people have vehicles they clearly only sporatically use. And in the well-to-do neighbourhoods, where people go to Mexico for a month …

    A Testla left standing for a few weeks that dies and cannot be returned to life. What a concept.

  14. Chris Edwards says:

    How about a 2 stroke back up generator that cust on when the battery reaches a certain point??

  15. Zac says:

    Instead of charging up a battery overnight would it not be better to wind up a clockwork spring or even a hydraulic accumulator?

  16. John Cooper says:

    Zac says: “But surely they can put in a device that cuts off the battery at a certain voltage?”

    Well think about that for a moment. That would require some kind of a relay that would handle…what?…1000 Amps or something? You’re talking big bucks there.

  17. Nerd says:

    Tesla? LOL. Maybe they forgot to build Tesla coil power plants to help keep the batteries repleted?

  18. RockyRoad says:

    All electric vehicles run essentially on coal. And remember what Obama said? “Electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket”. So who of you would buy a car where they’re basically guaranteed the “fuel” price is going to skyrocket?

    It makes no sense whatsoever.

  19. George Steiner says:

    Even if you disconnect a battery, it will discharge through its internal resistance.

  20. GogogoStopSTOP says:

    For those with proposals for engineering “fixes:” it’s like breathing. If humans don’t breath every so often, we die. If Teslas go too long, without being charged, they die, i.e., “brick.” There’s plenty of failsafe ideas, they just cost money & highlight the problem to everyone concerned.

    They should have disclosed this as a material event to investors. But… it they did, their IPO would have been… you guessed it… a BRICK!

  21. polistra says:

    Seems like an old-fashioned electromechanical voltage regulator could firmly disconnect the battery when its voltage drops below threshold. Ten dollars.

    This is exactly what happens when you let theory-minded pure-digital people design a machine that needs to be mostly analog.

  22. Sam Hall says:

    This happens with lead acid batteries used in telecommunications. The answer is called a “Low Voltage Disconnect” Google that term and you will find lots of people selling them. Clearly, the car should have one.

  23. David Falkner says:

    Good Lord. Fat chance the average person will buy one with that sort of guillotine hanging over their head. And who could blame them? A $40,000 battery?

  24. Then there’s the fun event where the 400 volt wiring to the two 250 hp rear electric motors get cut in an accident. Think MEGA arc welder going off in the back seat. The Prius is no prince either. Their Nickel Hydride pack are good for 400 recharge cycles. Then the pack costs $8,000 to replace. So….you save $1,000 per year on elec home charges over gas prices on the Tesla and every eight years you got a battery bill for $40k. The Prius saves $1,000 on gas every year and you kick in 8 large every 8 years. If this is not sounding like a practicle green solution, then read “Green Prince of Darkness” and figure out the solar cell erosion trick.

  25. Olen says:

    The car commits ritual hari kari and goes totally green.

  26. GogogoStopSTOP says:

    Hey, you engineering marvels with $10, easy fixes. There’s one fix… CHARGE THE BATTERY

    A low “anything” sensor wouldn’t work, you must CHARGE THE BATTERY before it goes dead.

    There’s only one fix, even when you know the battery is going low… CHARGE THE BATTERY.

  27. david70 says:

    Considering the hefty price tag of this car, I think these cars will become bricks more often than you would think. I’m guessing the typical customer for one of these things as more money than they know what to do with. If that’s the case, a Tesla will often be just one of several fancy cars in the garage. I could see a guy returning to his summer residence in Nantucket only to find his Tesla was “bricked” over the winter. At least the 40k repair won’t hurt that guy as much.

  28. flicka47 says:

    So…the Tesla is kind of like the super “heavy duty” battery for my smart phone with it’s supposed 10 hours+ of use? Only problem is every app on the phone is designed to stay on, so unless the phone is plugged in every 5 hours, I end up with a dead phone….

    Of course, at least that battery isn’t $40,000…and can be recharged!

  29. John F. Hultquist says:

    Assuming this is true, while wondering why it does not seem to have happened (Did someone suspend Murphy’s Law?):
    In places, buyers of such cars have received large subsidies –
    Article here:
    http://www.luxist.com/tag/tesla+rebate/

    WUWT post and comments here:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/14/friday-funny-the-guilt-of-tesla/

    If the owner allows this “brick” thing to happen [a reverse story is titled “How to brick a camel.”], should said owner be required to return the $40-$50K to the issuing authority?

    REPLY: read the Jalopnik article – 5 incidents so far – Anthony

  30. Alex Heyworth says:

    Faux Science Slayer wrote

    “The Prius is no prince either. Their Nickel Hydride pack are good for 400 recharge cycles. ”

    That might be the theory, but there are Priuses in Australia being used as taxis that have done over 500,000 kilometres without needing a new battery pack.

  31. Tom Murphy says:

    There should be no shock here; the vehicle (including the battery) is working precisely as intended:

    “Electric vehicles will play a key role in weaning our nation away from its oil addiction,” – Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA 14th District)

    “The electrification of transportation is the most efficient solution for ending our nation’s dangerous dependence on petroleum. Because electrification is a transformative technology, it will require some amount of new infrastructure. To provide consumers with the confidence and flexibility they need, vehicle chargers are nearly as crucial as electric cars and trucks themselves,” – Robbie Diamond, Executive Director, Electrification Coalition

    “The Obama Administration has set significant and considerable goals for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the coming years… These charging stations will build upon our already growing and established network of infrastructure and will accelerate the deployment of public and private charging infrastructure which will in turn encourage consumers to buy electric vehicles. Our Department of Energy grant was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill, to provide jobs for Americans. Our products are built and installed with American labor. Every time we ship a ChargePoint charging station, three Americans go to work for a day,” – Richard Lowenthal, Founder and CTO, Company X

    “As vehicle electrification emerges as a top priority, we are fortunate that [Company X] already has a fully operational charging network… ChargePoint America is a huge step forward. Along with efforts by other companies, it shows that no matter how rapidly we accelerate the transition to plug-in vehicles, the charging infrastructure won’t hold us back,” – Felix Kramer, Founder of The California Cars Initiative

    What better way to speed up the installation of charging stations (and subsequent transition to a “clean” transportation technology) than condoning the bricking of a vehicle that only an affluent individual can afford? If such a person is willing to pay a hefty premium for a vehicle, I suspect they’re already passionate about EVs (and their eco-sensitive “cleanliness” – increased need for power generation notwithstanding). Presuming this suspicion is true, I think it far more likely that such an individual would blame the lack of accessible charging stations as the cause of the bricking rather than the (far more true and appropriate) fatally-flawed design from the manufacturer.

  32. DirkH says:

    At least once it’s bricked, it can’t self-immolate.

    Can a bricked Tesla be recycled?

  33. David Davidovics says:

    Not a problem with my LiFePO4 powered EV. I’ve lefted it parked for months at a time before it was my daily driver and barely lost any measurable charge. The cells used in the tesla can store more energy (longer range) and slam out more power, but it comes at a price.

  34. jorgekafkazar says:

    Sam Hall says: “This happens with lead acid batteries used in telecommunications. The answer is called a “Low Voltage Disconnect” Google that term and you will find lots of people selling them. Clearly, the car should have one.”

    If you’d read the entire thread, above, you’d realize that telecom batteries aren’t putting out 50 hp when the disconnect disconnects.

  35. Curiousgeorge says:

    Batteries suck. Get a horse. At least when it dies you can eat it.

  36. JohnB says:

    The killer is that if you are in an accident with an electric car, emergency services are trained to drain the battery as an electronic fault could cause a fire thanks to the Chevy Volt. So if you get into an accident with this car not only will you be paying for any physical or mechanical repairs but you will be replacing that battery also.

  37. jack morrow says:

    The car is like my out of date cell phone-if I ‘m not careful and let the battery go dead, I’m out of communication for quite some time. But, the phone didn’t cost thousands and the taxpayer paid nothing for it.

  38. KevinK says:

    I once restored a small railroad locomotive that was abandoned in a field (next to a WWII shipbuilding facility) for about 3-4 decades. It had a gasoline ICE and after cleaning out all the varmint urine and replacing hoses and wires it RAN. So, now we are expected to swap things that can run after DECADES of neglect with “MODERN” designs that need attention every few days……………….

    But heck, your neighbors will subsdize you if you buy one.

    Cheers, Kevin.

  39. Bob Diaz says:

    I find it hard to believe that something as basic as a low power cut-off system ins NOT included in the car. A control system, using a PIC Micro-controller can detect the condition and act accordingly. The PIC in power saving mode can run for about 6 months off a set of AA Batteries. So the detection system won’t really drain the battery dry.

    It would take a portable generator to charge the battery and get the car to be able to run far enough to tow or drive the car to a charging place.

    Maybe the article is wrong and the engineers were smart enough to consider this in the design. It’s not rocket science, just basic electronics.

  40. DGH says:

    I assure you that nobody who loves cars and has driven the Tesla Roadster would allow it to sit until its batteries are fully discharged. My bet is that the 5 people who have bricked their batteries would have seized their gas engines for a lack of oil.

    The brand has serious business model deficiencies and some less serious product quality issues. Battery bricking is not among either set of issues.

  41. u.k.(us) says:

    Not that I care what happens to anyone foolish and rich enough to buy a Tesla, but I think the stories are probably only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to servicing said brick.

  42. KenB says:

    I guess that puts paid to getting insurance for theft and fire. How else could you deal with a dead Tesla brick…………

  43. Brian H says:

    There’s some doubt whether those 5 incidents are for real. They required fairly significant neglect. E.g., parking unattended for a week with 4% battery charge is beyond stupid.

    IMO, the one thing TM has to do is be very explicit to buyers: “NEVER let the battery discharge fully, as this will permanently disable it. Not covered by warranty.”

  44. Brian H says:

    One version of the “original” Murphy’s Law sez, “You can’t make anything foolproof, because fools are so ingenious.”
    ;)

  45. u.k.(us) says:

    Thing I found:

    http://www.autoblog.com/2011/09/26/tesla-reportedly-asks-for-another-loan-from-the-feds/

    Thing it said:
    “We haven’t heard much from Tesla of late, but that may be because the upstart electric car maker is hard at work getting the Model S to market, as promised, before the end of 2012. The Model S itself is the product of a $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, but that’s not the last round of loans Tesla has its sights set on.”
    —–
    Date of thing 9/26/2011

  46. Steve C says:

    Now, that’s quite a ‘design feature’ not to mention in the ads. The plain truth is that battery technology, with the best will in the world, still isn’t really up to the job yet, and from the sound of this the high-tech lithium-ion actually manages to do worse than the old-school lead-acid jobs.

    Some years ago now, I test-drove an electric minibus for the school I was at. It drove OK, but (a) it was basically a 30cwt vehicle which weighed 3 tons + with its (lead-acid) battery, which made it rather sluggish, (b) its range was pathetic, but the main reason it stayed at the dealers was (c) you needed to buy a whole new battery for about 3500 UKP (about 15 yrs ago) every couple of years. Anyone who really wants to drive electric would be very well advised to work out something involving a lawnmower motor and a modest generator, or maybe a big solar panel on the roof.

    What battery does your electric car use, Anthony? How does it pan out in practice? (Sorry if you’ve already told us elsewhere, I have a memory like a colander.)

  47. MrV says:

    In desert climates it might be worth making some of the bodywork solar panels to feed a trickle charge to offset the drain.
    In the long term replace the battery with a small nuclear generator or fusion power device is clearly whats needed here. I wonder if a RTG would work.

  48. Jeff D says:

    There has to be a low charge sensor. I would guess that circuit might need some tweaking/ beefing up. Hard to think that $5 in parts could trash 40K of battery.

    Ouch!

  49. Richard Patton says:

    RockyRoad says: February 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    All electric vehicles run essentially on coal. And remember what Obama said? “Electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket”. So who of you would buy a car where they’re basically guaranteed the “fuel” price is going to skyrocket?
    It makes no sense whatsoever.

    Because, the states are providing free charging stations. I can go to the local colleges or downtown or even Walgreens and the State of Oregon has put in "Free" charging stations. Not only do the rest of us tax payers get to help pay the purchase price of those cars we get to pay for their "fuel." A case of robbing the poor to give to the rich (only the rich can afford the subsidized cost of those cars.)

  50. Eric Simpson says:

    What a waste. The Tesla. The 10k Volt subsidies. Solyndra. Windmills that are good for nothing but culling Bald Eagles. On and on.
    Actually, green schemes are worse than a waste. Look at Europe. The costly, inept, grid destabilizing green schemes have played a major role in the massive debt and brink of bankruptcy. You can’t just pour trillions of Euros down the drain in economically unproductive subsidies.
    Look specifically at the tale behind the disaster looming for Germany. A good read: http://notrickszone.com/2012/01/25/energy-expert-germanys-renewable-energy-transition-will-fail-spectacularly-heavily-damaging-the-economy/

  51. Dave Wendt says:

    There’s a reason that new,successful car companies haven’t been a feature of the economy for many many years. Imagining, designing, and bringing to market a new from the ground up vehicle is one of the most complex engineering exercises that exists, outside of the aerospace industry. The manpower and experience necessary to pull it off are seldom, almost never, available in any startup company. Even the giant auto corps, like Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, etc. have recall problems when introducing new vehicles. The difference being that they the financial and customer goodwill resources to weather the financial and PR hit that big recalls deliver. That Tesla and Fisker are running into these problems was always entirely predictable. It would be completely amazing if they weren’t, although for Tesla to have missed something this obvious is not the way I would have projected their downfall to transpire.

  52. Atomic Hairdryer says:

    There’s a simple solution. Some cars have pop-up spoilers that operate above a certain speed. So sell Tesla owners an after-market boost pack. Pop-up wind turbines that deploy once the car’s battery hits 15%. Yours for $9,995. For an extra $9,995 we’ll add roof mounted solar PV. Less than half the price of a replacement battery, so greens, you know it makes sense.

  53. greenalina says:

    I would still drive this car even if BRAKES didn’t work. That’s how much I love it!
    I fell in love with it on Valentine’s day, when I went to dealership here is LA.
    Sitting inside of it makes you feel like superhero, that’s why I wrote review about it on my blog. I have never seen car more beautiful…Of course it’s a new technology so some problems are normal but Electric cars are the future I embrase! Love this planet! Go green!

  54. Cassandra King says:

    The answer of course is easy, just carry a high output diesel generator in the boot and every time you park you get the generator out and connect it to the battery pack. Oh you will of course need to tow a 500 hundred gallon diesel tank connected to the generator and hope someone doesnt steal it and you cant park in an enclosed space of course but with those slight difficulties aside its easy isnt it?

  55. Brian Johnson uk says:

    Best bet to avoid a bricked Tesla is to rip out the electric drive and fit a big lusty V8. Probably cost less than the $40,000 brick replacement! ;-)

    Our Merc CL500 has a low battery voltage warning system but it doesn’t work but the on board electronics still cancel the startup once below a preset voltage so you don’t need a Tesla Roadster to have an immobile car! Even unsubsidised gas guzzler cars do it……

  56. Grant says:

    My crap detector is going off, just don’t believe this story…..

  57. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/02/bricked-tesla-roadsters/

    Tesla Dismisses Report of ‘Bricked’ Roadsters
    February 22, 2012

    In what is sure to become another rallying cry for critics of electric vehicles, a report published by Michael Degusta of The Understatement claims fully discharging the Roadster’s massive 53-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack effectively kills the battery, rendering the car inoperable. This, he claims, can happen even if the car isn’t being driven.

    Degusta claimed, without offering proof, the forthcoming Model S sedan could experience the same problem. He notes in the post that he interviewed an unnamed Tesla regional service manager who identified five unnamed Roadster owners who have experienced the problem in a variety of circumstances, including using a 100-foot extension cord to charge a Roadster. One owner, Max Drucker, provided Wired.com with an email he sent to Telsa Motors CEO Elon Musk saying his battery was rendered “dead and unrecoverable” after he left the unplugged car in storage for six weeks.

    “I had no idea I could be putting my car at risk,” Drucker told Wired.com by phone. “This was an accident. I didn’t know.”

    Tesla Motors downplayed Degusta’s report, arguing the issue he raises isn’t a technical problem so much as an issue of properly maintaining the vehicle. The company likens the need to maintain a minimal charge to ensuring there is sufficient oil in a conventional engine.

    Drucker, first identified by Green Car Reports, took delivery of Roadster No. 340 in May 2009, more than a year after placing a $50,000 deposit for the vehicle. He said he has driven the car 13,000 miles and followed Tesla’s service guidelines. He moved into a rental house while his home was being renovated and parked his Roadster in the garage, leaving it with a 25 percent state of charge. He didn’t touch it for six weeks and found it dead when he attempted to start it earlier this month.

    “It wouldn’t do anything,” he said. “It wouldn’t even unlock. It took four guys two hours to get the car out of my garage and onto a flatbed truck. The car wouldn’t even roll.”

    He sent the car to the Tesla store in Los Angeles. Three days later, Drucker said, Tesla told him the battery must be replaced at a cost of $32,000 plus tax and labor. He said Tesla told him the warranty will not cover the repair, and his car remains at the Tesla store.

    “I’m going to sell the car for salvage,” Drucker said. “I’m done with this Roadster.”

    Tesla Motors spokesman Ricardo Reyes would not comment beyond the company’s statement, but Tesla’s point that batteries require a minimum level of maintenance by owners was echoed by EV advocates and Thilo Koslowski, an auto analyst with Gartner.

    “This isn’t all that surprising,” Koslowski said. “This is what you’d expect with batteries. The same thing will happen with the battery used by your internal combustion engine. If you don’t maintain it, it will go dead. The issue here for Tesla is the battery is of course a significant part of the drivetrain. It is very expensive, and there are liability issues.”

    Koslowski and others said the simplest solution for any EV owner is to plug the car in whenever possible, particularly if it’s going to be sitting for an extended period. This is akin to putting a trickle charger on the battery under your hood.

    Indeed, this is just what owners’ manuals suggest. Tesla, for example, warns that “over-discharge can permanently damage the battery” and “if storing for more than 15 days, it is strongly recommended that you keep it plugged in.” The Tesla manual warns that a fully charged Roadster pack will drop as much as 50 percent in the first week, then lose about 5 percent per week thereafter. Tesla says a fully charged battery would require about 11 weeks to fully discharge if the vehicle were not used.

    According to Green Car Reports, Tesla has buyers sign a document acknowledging their responsibility to maintain a charge in the pack and stating that any damage caused by failing to do so is not covered by the warranty. The Tesla Motors “Disclosures and Acknowledgements” form specifically states, “Note, your Roadster warranty as it relates to the battery does not cover damage caused by exposing an unplugged vehicle to ambient temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit for over 24 hours, storing an unplugged vehicle in temperatures below -40 degrees Fahrenheit for over seven days or leaving your vehicle unplugged where it discharges that battery to at or near zero state of charge.”

    “The company likens the need to maintain a minimal charge to ensuring there is sufficient oil in a conventional engine.”
    What are these people smoking? I know lots of people who were driving around a quart low before noticing it, myself included. These days with included service on new vehicles, I’d wager a lot of people do it as we’re getting trained to wait for the Check Engine light, which in my experience doesn’t come on until about two quarts down, some people can’t even find the oil dipstick to check the level, and we’re being passively dissuaded from even looking under the hood to check stuff as “that should be left to the professionals.” Plus many people who notice an oil leak, or said light, will drive the vehicle to where it can be serviced. Insufficient oil does not auto-brick an engine.

    ““This is what you’d expect with batteries. The same thing will happen with the battery used by your internal combustion engine. If you don’t maintain it, it will go dead.”
    I’ve had vehicles, like my current one, that have had the battery go dead, from annoying things like the trunk latch not closing fully thus not shutting off the trunk light switch (bring back the mercury switches!). I put the charger or booster pack on, the battery recovers, with most likely a shorter total lifespan and possibly a lower maximum charge. It does not auto-brick.

    “The Tesla manual warns that a fully charged Roadster pack will drop as much as 50 percent in the first week, then lose about 5 percent per week thereafter.”
    50%! Just how much electricity does a plugged-in Tesla waste while just being parked? I want to see that amount figured in to those otherwise-imaginary “e-mileage” figures. Who would drive a conventional vehicle that would lose half of a full tank of fuel while parked?

    “Koslowski and others said the simplest solution for any EV owner is to plug the car in whenever possible, particularly if it’s going to be sitting for an extended period. This is akin to putting a trickle charger on the battery under your hood.”
    Imagine being told that for your gasoline-powered vehicle it is recommended to plug in a “gasoline drip” whenever you park to keep the tank topped off.

    “The Tesla Motors “Disclosures and Acknowledgements” form specifically states, “Note, your Roadster warranty as it relates to the battery does not cover damage caused by exposing an unplugged vehicle to ambient temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit for over 24 hours, storing an unplugged vehicle in temperatures below -40 degrees Fahrenheit for over seven days or leaving your vehicle unplugged where it discharges that battery to at or near zero state of charge.””
    Is that cumulative? 24 hours over 120°F could be two days in Texas, Nevada, etc. Heck, with a detached shut-up garage or a steel storage unit and enough summer sunlight, you might be able to hit that anywhere in the US, even Alaska. So what happens if you plug it in? Some form of air conditioning comes on to cool the battery pack, expelling the heat to the closed-in storage space?

    Is it just me, or would Tesla have been far better off designing a vehicle that kills the big lithium battery when the car is not in use, and uses a common lead-acid battery to keep the standby electronics running?

  58. David says:

    kakatoa says:
    February 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm
    The Leaf doesn’t have this issue.
    ———————————–
    From what I have seen of him with regard to solar issues he is ever fully charged. (oops, sorry, a different Leif. (-;

  59. David says:

    GogogoStopSTOP says:
    February 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm
    Hey, you engineering marvels with $10, easy fixes. There’s one fix… CHARGE THE BATTERY

    A low “anything” sensor wouldn’t work, you must CHARGE THE BATTERY before it goes dead.

    There’s only one fix, even when you know the battery is going low… CHARGE THE BATTERY.
    =======================================
    Yep, thats what the CAGW enthusiast said to himself as he drove from the lot. One week later, after driving the car to the brink on a long work commute, he got home late just in time to leave with the wife on that promised vacation. He plugged the car in, took a shower, jumped into the back of the RV while his wife drove. There was a power outage in his neighborhood shortly after he left. When the power was turned on the surge tripped his breaker. He came home finding out that his trip cost him forty grand more then planned. (Murphy’s law will get you)

  60. MAVukcevic says:

    This is a DC (battery) powered vehicle, it should have been named ‘Edison’, Tesla was genius of the AC (alternative currents) and the high frequencies.
    Is it a price worth paying to bring Nikola Tesla’s name to attention of many?
    As long as few school kids are fascinated by his inventions and ideas, I sure it is even if the car is a ‘brick’.
    For the grown ups there are some other aspects of Tesla’s life mentioned here:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/Nikola%20Tesla.htm
    As a young student I lived just around corner of his museum, and often went in to marvel at the modest but fascinating selection of exhibits.

  61. DirkH says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    February 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm
    “The Tesla manual warns that a fully charged Roadster pack will drop as much as 50 percent in the first week, then lose about 5 percent per week thereafter.”
    50%! Just how much electricity does a plugged-in Tesla waste while just being parked? I want to see that amount figured in to those otherwise-imaginary “e-mileage” figures.

    Interesting. The average German car owner drives 10,000 km a year; I was astonished – my insurance asked me
    how much I drive, I told them 25k km a year, they told me that that’s a lot.

    So, the average car will stand still for 23 hours a day. Assuming it has a 50 kWh battery, it will lose
    23/24.0*0.05*50 kWh a week just by standing there; that’s 2.4 kWh a week or, when we express it as
    constant power dissipation averaged over time, 0.014 kW. A million electric cars of this kind will
    lose 14260 kW or 14 MW or the average power output of 28 2.5 MW wind turbines, assuming a 20% capacity factor;
    30 million electric cars (the entirety of the German car park) would therefore lose the output of
    840 such wind turbines constantly.

    And that’s before they’re driving the first kilometer…

  62. MAVukcevic says:

    A commemoration after Nikola Tesla’s death was broadcasted on New York Radio on January 10, 1943. The Mayor of the City of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia delivered a eulogy to Tesla. “Nikola Tesla was a great humanist, a distinguished scientific genius and a poet of science” said Mayor LaGuardia.
    http://www.teslasociety.ch/info/ton/Fiorello_La_Guardia_uber_Tesla.wma

  63. björn says:

    Amazing if true. A normal battery that powers the killswitch and idle electronics would suffice to solve the problem. Cost, virtually peanuts. Main battery should only power traction and reload auxillary battery.

  64. Alan the Brit says:

    Problem solved. What Tesla need to do is invest in some new technology. They could install a series of overhead wire thingies along the roads carried on poles, provide a pick-up rod to the car that could attach to these overhead wire thingies, drawing electricity fed into the wires through the rod to power the car. Mind you steering could be an issue keeping the overhead wires in position, so they may need to invent some special tracks set into the road surface to guide the vehicle along! They may even invent larger versions that could take lots of people all at once, like a sort of trolly vehicle. It should work in theory. ;-) Can I have my million dollars now? Sarc off, there’s always a downside to everything.

  65. richard says:

    what it needs is a trailer towed behind with a vast array of solar panels, that should keep it just about above brickling.

  66. Mike Borgelt says:

    All you wanted to know about the care and feeding of various battery chemistries:
    http://www.batteryuniversity.com
    IIRC if you discharge a Li-ion battery under load the voltage drops and it catches fire. The individual cells are usually fitted with low voltage cutoffs to prevent this.

  67. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    I didn’t know thats what they meant when they said “Charge it”!

  68. Disko Troop says:

    It’s a very pretty car. Do they do one with a proper engine?

  69. John Marshall says:

    So they go for 100 miles, maximum unless you use lights, AC, indicators, ICE systems, then become useless if not charged by a, probably, coal fired power station.

    What a waste of money!!!!

  70. Ian W says:

    After ‘snowmageddon’ in DC there were several streets where cars were snowed in for several weeks. Including cars parked that their owners thought would take them home the next morning.

    Tesla must respond to this and demonstrate that it is not the case their batteries don’t fail – or they go out of business. When a new battery costs the same as relatively high end cars, then not only is it a huge risk that a car could brick – but what happens to the resale value? A second hand Tesla battery going – and you’ll need to shell out more than the car’s worth for a new battery? They may be able to get posers to buy these cars new, but they’ll be worthless second hand.

  71. fredb says:

    A more objective commentary on this: http://tinyurl.com/7r22eqe

  72. crosspatch says:

    No, Disko, only electrics and the current models cost (last time I looked) over $70,000 after state and federal subsidies. So this is not a car the average person will be driving, it is a heavily subsidized (by the taxpayer) toy for the very rich.

  73. DirkH says:

    Alan the Brit says:
    February 23, 2012 at 1:12 am
    “They may even invent larger versions that could take lots of people all at once, like a sort of trolly vehicle. It should work in theory. ;-) Can I have my million dollars now?”

    Trolley systems continue to be used and expanded.
    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/07/trolleytrucks-trolleybuses-cargotrams.html

  74. Mike Borgelt says:

    Disko Troop :

    Look up Lotus Elise.

  75. commieBob says:

    Here’s what Slashdot has on the story:

    “Don’t believe recent claims made by a blogger that non-functioning batteries in the Tesla Roadster cause the electric cars to be bricked, says IDC analyst Sam Jaffe. ‘Here’s the primary fact that the blogger in question doesn’t understand: the Tesla battery pack is not a battery,’ says Jaffe. ‘It’s a collection of more than 8,000 individual batteries. Each of those cells is independently managed. So there’s only two ways for the entire battery pack to fail. The first is if all 8,000 cells individually fail (highly unlikely except in the case of something catastrophic like a fire). The second failure mechanism is if the battery management system tells the pack to shut down because it has detected a dangerous situation, such as an extremely low depth of discharge. If that’s the case, all that needs to be done is to tow the vehicle to a charger, recharge the batteries and then reboot the battery management system. This is the most likely explanation for the five ‘bricks’ that the blogger claims to have heard about.’”

    “Bricking” means that it is uneconomical to restore a device to service. It usually refers to a programmable device of some kind. I know of no device that can be ‘bricked’ and then not re-programmed. It can be a bit expensive though. It cost a couple of hundred bucks to re-program my wife’s Nissan to clear a bogus error condition. It is easy to brick a $100 consumer device because it is much cheaper to buy a new device than to fix the old one.

    If it costs a couple of hundred dollars to reboot a Tesla, then you can’t really say that it is bricked.

  76. Blade says:

    “After battery death, the car is completely inoperable. At least in the case of the Tesla Roadster, it’s not even possible to enable tow mode, meaning the wheels will not turn and the vehicle cannot be pushed nor transported to a repair facility by traditional means.”

    No doubt a flatbed tow truck could winch it even with wheels locked onto the bed. Someone will need to clean up the skid marks on the road though. And the owner will be spending bucks not just on the battery array, but also new rubber and possibly some internal linkage and other parts. Ouch.

    greenalina [February 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm] says:

    “I would still drive this car even if BRAKES didn’t work. That’s how much I love it! I fell in love with it on Valentine’s day, when I went to dealership here is LA. Sitting inside of it makes you feel like superhero, that’s why I wrote review about it on my blog. I have never seen car more beautiful…Of course it’s a new technology so some problems are normal but Electric cars are the future I embrase! Love this planet! Go green!”

    Greenalina, you may have a typo in that paragraph. Shouldn’t you have written ‘Coal Fired Cars‘? Surely you realize that electricity is not an energy source but is actually an energy product. For some reason Gang Green just cannot get their basic Science straight, ever.

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) [February 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm] says:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/02/bricked-tesla-roadsters/

    “Tesla Motors downplayed Degusta’s report, arguing the issue he raises isn’t a technical problem so much as an issue of properly maintaining the vehicle. The company likens the need to maintain a minimal charge to ensuring there is sufficient oil in a conventional engine.”

    This Tesla mouthpiece is pulling the classic apples and oranges nonsense here. In fact it is more like apples and automobiles or whatever is the opposite of apples. When a car is unused for 6 weeks like when you go on a trip or something, you do not need to check the oil. And you don’t even need to start it to trickle charge the battery (well, unless you are in Alaska or something). Normally I would have nothing against these cars or Tesla or those that want to indulge in this pipe dream. But this communication from the Tesla guy is just as deceptive as those that attempt to equate the Climategate whistleblower with Peter ‘Principle’ Gleick.

    I am also not a big fan of helping to subsidize these vehicles and the charging stations without being allowed to use them myself! I propose that all owners of these coal-powered automobiles make a point of thanking us taxpayers in every one of their posts here and elsewhere. Your welcome. ;-)

  77. Pete in Cumbria UK says:

    What happened, how did they world come be so full of dumb people>

    It would be hysterically funny it it wasn’t so potentially serious.

  78. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    I remember seeing some piece on TV about the Tesla Roadster. What I remember is the assembling of a battery pack, where it looked like many flashlight batteries were loaded into long bores in a part of the pack.

    Thanks to Wikipedia, I’ve found out those are 18650 cells, between a AA and C in diameter but slightly longer. They’re used in LED flashlights.

    I remember thinking how stupid that was, due to the problems of keeping good electrical contact between the ends of just two batteries. Anyone else here “fix” a power problem on one of those old “ghetto blaster” stereos with the long stings of D cells, by just spinning those in the middle of a stack to get better contact? Or just shine up the ends of the batteries in a multi-cell flashlight and notice how much brighter the regular or krypton incandescent bulb got?

    And with cells in a stack, there is also a spring on at least one end that keeps pressure on the stack to maintain contact, that can’t press too hard or it will deform the end of the cell it contacts and/or a “button” end will deform the flat end it rests against. Due to the expected deformation of the metal at the ends, you don’t hold together a cell stack with hard mechanical pressure like with a screw, the cells will get loose over time.

    The Tesla Roadster entry says it uses 6,831 of those little batteries. That’s a lot of springs and a lot of surfaces that have to maintain good electrical contact over the stated lifespan of the entire pack.

    From Mike Borgelt on February 23, 2012 at 1:30 am:

    IIRC if you discharge a Li-ion battery under load the voltage drops and it catches fire. The individual cells are usually fitted with low voltage cutoffs to prevent this.

    And the Roadster has 6,831 potential sources of possible calamity. And if only one cell of a stack goes bad then the stack goes bad, if there are other stacks connected in series then the assemblage goes bad, and other stacks that are simply connected in parallel will be affected.

    Also note, as detailed here, the 18650 officially designates an unprotected cell. There’s a slightly larger version with protection circuitry that’s properly designated as a 19670, although it may be called a protected 18650 and improperly listed as a 18650. Going strictly by the info on hand, the Roadster uses the presumably-cheaper unprotected cells.

    Tesla is poking Murphy’s Law with sharp sticks.

  79. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From commieBob on February 23, 2012 at 3:21 am:

    If it costs a couple of hundred dollars to reboot a Tesla, then you can’t really say that it is bricked.

    From the article I linked to:

    Degusta wrote that the only solution is replacing the pack, which can cost more than $30,000. Koslowski said it is possible to revive a “dead” battery. However, it is a complicated, time-consuming process and there’s a risk the battery was damaged by being depleted. This makes it unlikely an automaker would be willing to revive a dead pack.

    McCoy: It’s bricked, Jim.

  80. 1DandyTroll says:

    I betcha the surplus’s never thought they’d find a valid customer base in Hollywood for the 300′ extension cord.

  81. Nippy says:

    Do bear in mind that the batteries in these cars do not store electricity, they store chemicals, and these are a lot nastier than the chemicals put into the petrol tank.

  82. nc says:

    Here is why a low voltage cutoff switch will not work-”Part of Tesla’s secret sauce has been turning the same batteries used in laptops and other devices into reliable and safe energy sources for a vehicle. Tesla designed the battery pack with a series of monitors that balance energy among all of the 6,831 lithium-ion cells so one doesn’t set off a “thermal event” — i.e., catch fire. But doing so requires those systems to be on constantly, which creates a drain on the system that’s far greater than lithium-ion batteries typically suffer if just left alone.”

    Someone mentioned 500,000k on a Prius and no battery issues. Well the duty cycle of a battery affects its longevity, but also its age. One is lucky to get more than 7 years out of a lead acid battery even in a daily driver. If you do get more than 7 years, its borrowed time. I replace my batteries when pushing six and my house hot water heater at 13 years. Don’t like borrowed time which can turn into inconvenient costly time. Speaking from experience.

  83. brc says:

    I’m not a one-eyed electric car lover but the Tesla engineers have come up with a lot of clever stuff. Their battery packs are miles ahead of most of the competition and they were the first to market with a modern electric car with some type of range (it’s still not long enough, but it’s not golf-cart short). That they were able to make a battery pack like this that was even remotely close to affordable, serviceable and crash-proof is a testament to a very good 1.0 design in the roadster.

    I just find it very hard to believe they didn’t think about this up front. It smacks of the Toyota ‘stuck accelerator pedal’ issue, which turned out to be nothing but stupid owners.

    My car has a low voltage cutout that disconnects the electrical system in the event of a door left open or the lights left on. My laptop has a low voltage cutout that stops power in the event of complete battery discharge.

    Colour me very skeptical about this particular claim.

    The other thing I get annoyed with (and Jalopnik is known for Tesla-bashing) is why people have got to come down on the only new American car company to be created in recent years? I’m not American but I would be at least a little bit proud of a bunch of people trying to get a new car company going, particularly when they are at least making some effort towards manufacturing the Model S inside the USA. Sure, they took some DOE loans but they’re still around, and it’s just play money compared to what has been sunk into Government Motors. Give them a chance and let their product succeed or fail on it’s merits. I’m sure the equivalent chinese electric cars will be much, much worse.

  84. klem says:

    “It is a hazard, like reving an engine past redline til it ‘bricks’. Just another failure mode to be aware of.”

    True, but most gas engines have a rev limiter and it sure doesn’t cost $40,000 to replace your bricked chevy engine.

  85. Curiousgeorge says:

    Also keep in mind where these batteries and the lithium itself comes from. Massive surface mining in Asia for the minerals (how’s that for green? ). And the vast majority of manufacturing of the batteries/cells also in Asia (how’s that work for balance of trade?) . What a deal. Feel the burn, greenies.

  86. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Quoted by nc on February 23, 2012 at 5:04 am (got source link?):

    ”Part of Tesla’s secret sauce has been turning the same batteries used in laptops and other devices into reliable and safe energy sources for a vehicle.”

    It sounds innovative to re-purpose a commodity item in such a way, like with the US Air Force building a supercomputer out of Playstation consoles.

    But in this case, it is more like firing off 6831 .22LR shells at once and declaring the result equal to a howitzer blast. Or dispatching 6831 pick-up trucks to a quarry to replace a giant 4000 ton dump truck. There are good reasons to go big, and design big from the start.

    Of course if they had big battery packs, the supplier would charge design and testing costs, startup costs, and want a minimum order. The way Tesla did it, they only have to buy multiple lots of the little batteries off the boat from China. After Tesla crashes, they’ll also be able to sell the leftovers on the regular battery markets at a good-enough price, rather than be forced to scrap whole packs with hazmat costs involved. Makes sense for a startup that might be closed down overnight.

  87. MAVukcevic says:

    OT
    Relativity rules. OK!
    It appears that the faster-than-light neutrino results, announced last September by the OPERA collaboration in Italy, was due to a mistake after all. A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame.
    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/02/breaking-news-error-undoes-faster.html

  88. Tom E. says:

    First of all, I completely disregard the notion of parasitic losses in the electronic systems of the car. I work with an automotive accessory. Our bench mark is sub 1mA when turned off. I’ve measured a few cars, and for example the Dodge Charger, when you shut all of the doors, and allow the uControllers to sleep, take about 30 seconds, the car pulls less than about 10-50 uA from the battery. Further modern uControllers are capable of sleep currents in the low nA range.

    1mA from a 20kWh battery should last decades :-)

    It is the parasitic losses in the battery, and maybe a battery cooling system that chew up the power.

    Further, even a long extension chord is going to be able to give you 110V at 8 to 10A, maybe 100V at 8A worst case. So that would be 800VA or 800 Watts, and this article suggest the 800VA is not sufficient for a trickle, or maintenance charge??? really, I call BS on that as well.

    But I can believe that if the battery does go below a certain point in the charge, it will destroy itself, and without power the “transmission” parking brake can not be turned off with the loss of power.

    Fun, fun. For the most part, I discount EV’s because of the impact of mining and refining of all the materials for the battery, and recycling those materials when they have met the end of their life.

    The only way you could change my mind, is when we start using gen IV reactors for producing the energy to charge these puppies, and all of the industrial steps to manufacture and recycle the batteries. But that’s just me. What do I know.

  89. tty says:

    “DGH says:
    February 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm
    I assure you that nobody who loves cars and has driven the Tesla Roadster would allow it to sit until its batteries are fully discharged. My bet is that the 5 people who have bricked their batteries would have seized their gas engines for a lack of oil.”

    You lose. Read the article and you will find that in at least three of the four cases mentioned the owners had “legitimate” reasons for letting the battery discharge. Additional ones comes easily to mind, sickness for example.

  90. polistra says:

    Here’s a NEAT story that I bumped into while looking for something else…. Edison batteries built in the 1920s, used steadily for 50 years in a lighting system for an Adirondack resort. Left semi-idle for 20 years then refilled with new water. Not bricks. Just perfectly functional batteries after 80 years.

    Boy, I’m glad we’ve advanced beyond this primitive functional stuff. Now we can build super-advanced batteries that explode when you bump them, and fail permanently when you look at them crosseyed.

    http://www.battcon.com/PapersFinal2011/DeMarPaperDONE2011BU_21.pdf

  91. Jay Curtis says:

    What happens to the nickle metal hydride, etc., when the useful life of these conveyances ends and they go off to the junk yard? Isn’t NMH toxic? What kinds of chemical byproducts come from the manufacture of these kinds of vehicles? As the drain on the power grid increases through vehicle charging, what kind of power generation will help supplant what is needed? Wind? Solar? Coal? Oil?

    Do the people who believe that these alternatives will help improve our environment ever completely think these things through? My guess is “no.”

  92. Craig says:

    Why wouldn’t they just program the stupid thing to shut off all systems if the battery drops below some minimum level? Sure maybe you have to tow it, but at lease you don’t have to spend $40K on new batteries…

  93. Tom E. says:

    Craig said:

    Why wouldn’t they just program the stupid thing to shut off all systems if the battery drops below some minimum level? Sure maybe you have to tow it, but at lease you don’t have to spend $40K on new batteries…

    I highly doubt it is the electronic system, the only thing that would be consuming power is a battery cooling system, and that is likely NOT optional :-) What would you rather come home to, a burnt down house, or a dead car. Granted, I guess it depends on what is in the house and your home owners insurance …… Seriously, the car’s electronics should be able to drop down to much less than 1mA when not in use. Leaving a standard car battery (70Ah * 12V -> .84kWh) being able to keep the radio settings for about 8 years. The Telsa’s battery is north of 95kWh, or without parasitic battery losses, or cooling, it should be able to keep the radio settings up for about 894 years.

    The battery loss is likely the parasitic losses in the battery. All batteries self discharge, some more than others :-) Apparently, I am led to believe the Tesla battery is one of those in the “more than others” category :-)

  94. DonS says:

    Reading this post reminded me of the discussion a few years ago on life-cycle energy costs, where a comparison of those costs was made between the Hummer and the Prius. Thinking I would re-familiarize myself with that discussion, I Binged “Prius life cycle energy costs” . The third article on the list was written by Dr. Gleick. http://www.evworld.com/library/pacinst_hummerVprius.pdf
    By the way, those who quote Murphy’s Law should remember that Murphy was an optimist.

  95. TANSTAAFL says:

    So coal powered cars aren’t the answer.

    Whoda thunk it?

  96. Justa Joe says:

    “DGH says:
    February 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm
    I assure you that nobody who loves cars and has driven the Tesla Roadster would allow it to sit until its batteries are fully discharged.
    —————————-

    Gimme a break. There are guys that own cars with performance, which the lil’ Tesla couldn’t dream of aspiring to (Shelbys, 911′s, Vettes, Ferraris), who let their cars sit idly for months and even years at a time. There are even guys that let exotic expensive cars fall into various states of disrepair. Rich guys typically have a lot going on.

    Craig says:
    February 23, 2012 at 8:49 am
    Why wouldn’t they just program the stupid thing to shut off all systems if the battery drops below some minimum level? Sure maybe you have to tow it, but at lease you don’t have to spend $40K on new batteries…
    —————————-
    #1 All batteries self discharge when sitting idly with 0 load. The degree of this self discharge depends on the particular type of battery. #2 Lithium Ion battery packs utilize what is known as protection circuitry. This cannot be disabled. There will always be a net drain on the battery pack.

    commieBob says:
    February 23, 2012 at 3:21 am
    “Don’t believe recent claims made by a blogger that non-functioning batteries in the Tesla Roadster cause the electric cars to be bricked, says IDC analyst Sam Jaffe. ‘Here’s the primary fact that the blogger in question doesn’t understand: the Tesla battery pack is not a battery,’ says Jaffe. ‘It’s a collection of more than 8,000 individual batteries. Each of those cells is independently managed.
    —————————-

    Jaffe is wrong. Just about any battery pack one encounters is a collection of cells even a conventional car battery is 6 lead acid cells in series. The Tesla joke battery pack only needs a small portion of cells to fail in order to be hurt badly. There a lot of things that Jaffe has partially wrong & partially correct, but The main thing is that any battery pack that is discharged below a certain level is a hurt battery pack it will usually never have the same capacity it once had. If it is discharged low enough it can be basically destroyed as a useful battery pack.

  97. Tenuc says:

    It seems that it never rains but what it pours for Tesla Motors at the moment…

    “Judge Throws Out Tesla’s Top Gear Libel Lawsuit”
    http://jalopnik.com/5887611/judge-throws-out-teslas-top-gear-libel-lawsuit

    Shame that such a good concept is having trouble – let’s hope there isn’t a third problem!

  98. Dan says:

    I mainly bought my ford explorer for the sole reason that it would be relatively easy to fix just about anything myself without having to go shell out money for a “professional” to look at it with a diag tool that’s almost as expensive as the vehicle itself! That’s the big problem with a lot of the overengineered crap out there these days. Something simple leaves you high and dry, and these guys tout it as a feature, not a bug!

  99. Erny72 says:

    Tesla fans everywhere; if you love the Tesla and have the oversized hole in your wallet to prove it, do yourselve a favour and steer a very wide berth of the Lotus Elise that was bastardised to spawn this ‘lecky lump of endulgence.
    Your overweight dodgem car handles as mediocre as it does because it’s architecture is borrowed from the Elise – a lesser car would deliver an appalling experience with all that weight to lug about.
    Since your Tesla roadster is an Elise with an ugly dress and a weight problem (The Elise’s fat ugly sister one could opine – they trundle down the same production line in Hethel until the Dell man comes to install the laptop batteries) it must be gut-wrenching to contemplate that you could buy three Elises for the same money as your Roadster and that the fuel tank will last long after your lithium-ion batteries are contaminating landfill somewhere.
    Should you ever be foolish enough to drive a proper Elise, it will bring tears to your eyes because while a Tesla might be good for one or two drag races away from the lights or a for a smug cruise past the neighbours before being plugged in to charge for the night, the Elise delivers a truly ashtonishing drive, even at modest road speeds, it looks soooo much better and it only takes five minutes to refill the tank. Given the attention given to adding lightness, you will find yourself stopping at the petrol station for five minute refills surprisingly infrequently; a properly ‘green’ sports car, (especially if delivered in a coat of Krypton or Lotus Racing Green ;O)

    A thought; since Li-on batfone batteries and laptop batteries lose their ability to hold charge so quickly even when completely discharged before each charge as recommended, what is the expected life of a Tesla battery (even if the resident ‘passion fingers’ is kept away from the keys)? The Tesla looks like a very expensive indulgence just for the sake of smugly driving past the neighbours with one’s nose in the air.

  100. DirkH says:

    Tom E. says:
    February 23, 2012 at 6:10 am
    “First of all, I completely disregard the notion of parasitic losses in the electronic systems of the car. I work with an automotive accessory. Our bench mark is sub 1mA when turned off. I’ve measured a few cars, and for example the Dodge Charger, when you shut all of the doors, and allow the uControllers to sleep, take about 30 seconds, the car pulls less than about 10-50 uA from the battery. Further modern uControllers are capable of sleep currents in the low nA range.

    1mA from a 20kWh battery should last decades :-)”

    The systems you talk about probably don’t have to do load balancing between different cells. Load balancing a bunch of Li-Ion cells is… creepy. Tolerances in the behaviour of the different cells when charging OR discharging make it necessary to regularly shuffle charge around if you want them to be equally full. Which you want; otherwise some of them age faster than others, which you don’t want.

  101. Justa Joe says:

    brc says:
    February 23, 2012 at 5:44 am
    I’m not a one-eyed electric car lover but the Tesla engineers have come up with a lot of clever stuff. Their battery packs are miles ahead of most of the competition and they were the first to market with a modern electric car … is a testament to a very good 1.0 design in the roadster.
    ———————–

    I’m not quite as impressed. The roadster was already designed for them. A guy takes a Lotus Elise chassis, and puts an electric motor into it and straps together some 7000 cells with off the shelf cell management technology. The battery pack technology is off the shelf tech BTW. Then gets the taxpayer to finance it. I don’t see the purpose for the car. I’m not into gimmickry for the sake of gimmickry. It’s perfomance is totally unimpressive to me. A Corvette ZR1 or Camaro ZL1 (just 2 examples), which costs less and are a lot more practical, will rape a Tesla. I have reservations about refering to Tesla as an American car company. They may be American, but I’m not sure they quite have achieved a level where they can be considered a car company yet maybe a kit-car company.

  102. DirkH says:

    Erny72 says:
    February 23, 2012 at 10:48 am
    “… and it only takes five minutes to refill the tank. ”

    One should add: The Elise does bends.

  103. DirkH says:

    Tom E. says:
    February 23, 2012 at 9:06 am
    “I highly doubt it is the electronic system, the only thing that would be consuming power is a battery cooling system, and that is likely NOT optional :-) What would you rather come home to, a burnt down house, or a dead car. ”

    You can’t affordably cool a Li-Ion accu pack that has decided to vent, that’s what they do when they overheat. You get a stream of 500 deg C hot gas. All you can do is direct the stream somewhere where it doesn’t immediately hurt someone. Can’t tell you whether the gas mixture is acidic; I know it is for certain types of LiPo accus but don’t know for the Tesla. Acidic is extra fun. Did they do penetration tests, BTW? They do it for serious cars when Li-Ion packs are used; they drive large nails with catapults through the packs. Mandatory test in Europe for battery packs used in hybrid cars.

  104. DirkH says:

    Jay Curtis says:
    February 23, 2012 at 8:47 am
    “What happens to the nickle metal hydride, etc., when the useful life of these conveyances ends and they go off to the junk yard? Isn’t NMH toxic? ”

    Less than NiCad. Nickel can be recycled and it is economic to do so with NiMH cells. NiMH packs are also used in some hybrid cars, for instance in the Honda Civic Hybrid.

  105. Robin Hewitt says:

    Why can’t the car GPS ‘phone the owner, or Tesla, 24 hours before bricking so they can send someone with a handy diesel generator to save the battery. A new green service industry is born.

  106. Vince Causey says:

    Brian H,

    “IMO, the one thing TM has to do is be very explicit to buyers: “NEVER let the battery discharge fully, as this will permanently disable it. Not covered by warranty.”

    Yeah, that’ll attract a lot of new buyers.

  107. Big Bob says:

    It is my understanding that all electric cars have the same problem. Even Hybrids. In the case of the Toyota hybrids, if the vehicle is left unused, even if it is plugged in, the battery diconnects itself after a week or so. There is a reset procedure if you are ambitious enough, but most people call the dealer and have the vehicle towed in. if the car is still under warrenty the dealer will send a mechanic out to reset it. for free.
    Also. even lead/acid batteries have the same problem if they are completely discharged. In most industrial and communications applications the use of a “Low Voltage Disconnect’ is essential.

  108. Silver Ralph says:

    Ooooops.

    Actually, this is a common problem with modern cars. My Citroen, which is 100% run by computers, will drain a battery in about 3 weeks of inactivity. Apparently it depends on the computer not shutting down all the systems properly when you take the key out – so it is a ‘fault’, but a very common one if you read the Citroen blogs.

    And like the Tesla, if the battery goes below 11 volts you loose the steering – and that is a real pain in the butt. (Yes, electric power steering – don’t ask me why.)

    The only saving grace is that the battery is lead-acid, and so it is rechargeable.

    .

  109. Silver Ralph says:

    .
    Lots of comments about low-voltage disconnects.

    However, just like my Citroen, in a computerised car you need some services on all the time, like the burglar alarm and the computer itself – and in the Citroen the suspension is always active to stop the car sitting down on a kerb-stone. (Yes, electro-hydraulic suspension – just don’t ask.)

    So if you had a battery disconnect, you would need a standby battery to run the essential systems. Just face facts – batteries just don’t have the power density that modern cars require.

    .

  110. Paritosh Kapadia says:

    so what if one was in an accident and smashed the side that is used to charge the car. Now it goes for repair and is not charged for a week or two. The charge at the time of the accident was 30% and now its a brick. Would the insurance cover the 40K plus repairs?

  111. Big Bob says:

    The car I drive to work is a 2001 Toyota Echo. It’s a Prius without batteries 4-Door, manual trans and Air-cond. Seats 4 adults just fine. Gets an honest 43 MPG. Cost about $12,000 out the door. How much do you really want to spend to improve on that?

  112. Nik says:

    I believe Tesla is made up of people who thought “hey lets just build an awesome electric vehicle” using a neat strategy of plugging in many laptop batteries. its like an ambitious and risky grad school course project. What they did nt realize is that electric vehicles would have to do some basic things without fail and have close to zero possibility of that not happening in a million vehicles. y basic things I mean: Going from place A to B, and if there is a problem in going from A to B like emptying gas tank, you should have an easy fix, Like a gas refill from a can. If Tesla cannot do that, it has serious problems to deal with.

  113. Ari Tai says:

    re: power density. Spot on. Diesel and Gasoline have about 2x the energy of our best high-explosive, gram for gram. Batteries are somewhere between 1/100th to 1/10th the power density (of PETN). We’d have had to invent hydrocarbons if we didn’t find them in fossil fuels – there’s magic in the fact that the engine doesn’t have to carry its own oxidizer – it’s there for the taking in the air. That’s not the case with almost all batteries – and HE (save for fuel-air weapons).

    People say they are scared of neutron burners and we must not build any more – yet they drive around with fuel-tanks that if half empty, its fuel could level a good sized department store, or a five story building. Remember that before Rockefeller’s high tech refineries proved you could trust the “Red Can” not to blow your house down, every city had an ordinance prohibiting attached garages.. Granted, it was unfair of Mr. R. to compete with the mom-and-pop drill-and-bottle-it firms when he said, “ok, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you when your house burns down.” “Unfair competition” seems to always have a large technical component that enables cheaper, faster, better, safer, etc..

  114. DMarshall says:

    Why would Tesla charge $40000 for a replacement (unless a BIG chunk of that is labor)?
    That might have been what the cost was when the Roadsters were first built but Li-on battery cost per kWh have dropped a LOT since then.

    Looking at the pricing options for different battery sizes for the Model S, I’m guessing that Tesla’s cost has dropped to about $400 / kWh.
    Elon Musk said, just last week, that he expects the cost to fall to below $200 / kWh in a couple years.

  115. Brian H says:

    DMarshall;
    Because Roadsters are no longer being built (Lotus closed its assembly lines for the body during a recent factory refit). So the batteries are no longer in production mode, either. Any replacement would have to be from stock, or a special one-off. And the Model S batteries are a completely different form factor (flat skateboard underfloor). So the per-cell cost per kWh is the least of the issues.

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