Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Lispian
Stupidity Truly Knows No Bounds

I’ve been reading about the Chevrolet Volt fire risk the last few days. It seems to me to be the perfect arbiter of intelligence. If you figure the Volt’s risk is high and you’re utterly panicked by the potential of the battery catching fire, you’re an utter moron. The rest of you can continue on with your day.

Why do I claim those worrying about the battery are morons? Simple, really. Each test done wherein a fire, sparking or smoke emerged from the battery pack happened many hours, days or even weeks after the crash. The most recent tests performed by the NHTSA and GM have been done on the battery packs by themselves, wherein they have done some very serious damage to them and then waited to see if something amiss happens. It took months of testing before they could replicate a scenario wherein hours, days or weeks later the pack would ignite.

To appreciate the type of damage that is being applied to the packs you must read the original NHTSA report wherein they say the car must suffer a serious side impact followed by an impact into a low diameter object, like a rigid pole, followed by the car flipping over. After all that, maybe a few hours or days or weeks later, maybe, the pack might catch fire if it’s not discharged and just left in a junkyard. Honestly, talk about an edge case!

But, aha, some of you might claim. The packs do catch fire. Yeah, but so do gasoline powered cars. The difference is that if you smash a gasoline powered car with sufficient severity you may well rupture the tank or fuel lines and an errand spark can set the vehicle on fire. This happens tens of thousands of times per year in the US alone. 25,000 car fires result in injuries. Those fires are immediate. Not weeks later.

If you’re not extricated from your car immediately after a crash of sufficient severity to damage the Volt’s battery, which is in the middle of the car, you will most probably bleed out or have died on impact. And if the car has been in such an accident that the battery pack is damaged, that means the car has been written off and thus won’t be in your garage. And much as with gasoline powered cars, electric cars should have their energy source removed. In the case of an electric car, that means discharging the battery.

It totally amazes me that so many people are going on and on about this when gasoline powered cars are not put to the same test. When the NHTSA or the IIHS or any other institution crashes a gasoline powered car they do so with the fuel tanks empty, so as to ensure there is no fire. That would be especially bad within a test facility. But the Volt’s batteries were charged. To what level is unknown — the NHTSA isn’t saying — but if they got the car from GM it was most probably at least 1/2 charged.

And it’s not just this that drives me nuts. It’s all the idiots for so many things. From creationists, to conspiracy nuts, to left/right/whatever wing nuts. They all seem incapable of applying logic and reason to a situation. The internet isn’t helping here, allowing morons to collude and congregate lowering their collective intelligence more than anyone could imagine. It’s why I’ve listened to people in university tell me about conspiracy upon conspiracy upon conspiracy. You’d have to wonder how any work gets done anywhere when everyone seems to be in on a conspiracy. Except me. Somehow I was left out of the conspiracies.

The only good that will come out of the NHTSA is that there will be protocols put in place to handle the batteries of electric cars. There will be a document forthcoming in the next few months that will indicate that the Volt is safe and that a danger may exist, but that the danger is so far post accident as to be immaterial. After all, millions of people the world over get into gas powered cars without a worry. In other words, people will have to be told that they will have to accept the risk. Much as they do when they get into their own cars at the moment. And if they are, God forbid, in an accident, to get out of the car if possible. Never stay within a damaged car. Why take a chance yours might be one of those 300,000 that opt to ignite.

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December 2011
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