The Norman Transcript

Headlines

October 4, 2013

Electric cars face safety challenges

NORMAN — When debris on a Seattle-area freeway pierced the battery of a $70,000-plus Tesla Model S and touched off a raging fire, it raised new safety concerns for electric-vehicle owners.

It also caused rare jitters among investors, who of late have viewed Tesla as nearly invincible.

Electric vehicles have scored well in government tests of front and side crashes — the Model S earned the highest score possible. But Tuesday’s incident demonstrates that real-world driving could reveal some vulnerabilities that don’t show up in laboratory testing.

“The safety challenges related to electric cars are still in the early stages of being tested and addressed,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

Tesla said the Seattle-area driver hit a large metal object in the road, which damaged a battery cell and caused a fire. The company said the car acted as designed by containing the blaze in the front of the car.

Still, experts said Thursday that while incidents like this will happen again, they are rare. And electric cars still are safer than those with gasoline engines that haul around a tank full of flammable petroleum.

The Tesla fire also shows that automakers need to bolster the shields around batteries and that firefighters need more training to deal with electric car blazes.

Of the estimated 194,000 vehicle fires in the U.S. each year, the vast majority are in cars and trucks with gasoline or diesel engines. Electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of the cars sold in the U.S.

Tesla said this is the only fire ever to happen in one of its batteries. Although a Chevrolet Volt made by General Motors caught fire two years ago after a government crash test, neither GM nor Nissan, which make the top-selling electric cars in the nation, know of any real-world blazes in their vehicles.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Headlines
  • Body 1 Police identify woman found dead Monday

    Norman police have identified a woman found dead in her home at 2202 Donna Drive Monday afternoon. Police responded at 1:25 p.m. to the residence of Cassandra Thompson, 30, after receiving a report that she had not shown up for work ...

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Residents speak out about document regarding shelter photos

    Norman and metro-area residents showed up in overwhelming numbers, many in red shirts, for an Animal Shelter Oversight Board meeting Monday night demanding for their opinions to be heard....

    July 29, 2014

  • Mixon’s attorney says athlete acted in self-defense

    The attorney for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon says the incident that left a 20-year-old female OU student with multiple facial fractures was a case of self-defense. “This past Friday morning, Joe Mixon found himself in a situation ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Police rule out homicide in Norman woman’s death

    Norman Police Capt. Todd Gibson said Tuesday they have eliminated the theory of homicide after a Norman woman was found dead in her home Monday afternoon. “We’re moving in a different direction with the investigation,” Gibson said. “It’s ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Moore resident lands in new home 14 months after tornado

    Moore — She crawled from the rubble of what used to be her home. The neighborhood was destroyed. It was the afternoon of May 20, 2013, and Jamie Baker was homeless....

    July 30, 2014

  • Additional details come to light in Campus Corner incident involving Sooner recruit

    The 911 call from Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe early Friday morning brought forth more details from the incident that has Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon under investigation for an alleged assault....

    July 30, 2014

  • Senate approves new VA secretary

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Tampering accusations surface in OKC bombing case

    SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawyer suing the FBI over his public records request for surveillance videos from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing said Tuesday that one of his witnesses backed out after being visited by government officials last ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Shelter construction ongoing; residents voice concerns

    A regular quarterly meeting of the Animal Shelter Oversight Board prompted Norman residents to speak up about more than just a photo release issue Monday night involving Friends of the Animals of Norman volunteers and the city of Norman. ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Senate passes highway bill, sends it to House

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday voted to change the funding and timing of a House bill to keep federal highway funds flowing to states in an effort to force Congress to come to grips with chronic funding problems that have plagued ...

    July 30, 2014