May 13, 2022
  • May 13, 2022

Tesla crashing on highway shows EVs have a problem

By on September 24, 2021 0
Image of the article titled Tesla Crashes on Freeway Reminds Electric Cars Must Solve Their Neutral Problem

Picture: Tesla / JDT

Cars break down. We all know this to be true. As someone with decades of experience driving barely usable shitboxes, I have lived this truth many times. One of the advantages of dealing with broken down cars is that they are almost always able to drive, the absolute bare minimum that you would expect from a car, and as such they have at least been able to be put out of the way. danger. This is not the case with electric cars, however, and I think it is a real problem. A recent scary incident with a Tesla on the highway reminded me why.

Here is the incident with the Tesla, recounted via tweets by the owner:

If you haven’t read the thread, I’ll sum it up here: The Tesla owner was driving his Model S P85D on the highway, when the car starts beeping and warning that it has to stop immediately due to a power problem. Immediately after the warning, all controls lock up and the car comes to a stop, in the middle of a six-lane freeway, leaving no time to try to steer the car onto the shoulder, out of traffic .

The car will not move from this point; it will not shift into neutral, the parking brake will not release. It’s no longer a vehicle, it’s a motionless sculpture flashing its hazard lights in the middle of the highway.

Fortunately, the driver was able to get to the shoulder and, thanks to Caltrans employees nearby, was able to pull the car into a cone to help direct traffic around, which was extremely lucky.

About 45 minutes later, a tow truck finally arrived. It’s also worth noting that Teslas (and almost every other EV) requires a flat-type tow truck, so it’s not like any tow truck would have done the job.

Additionally, from this tweet, it looks like the driver of the tow truck also didn’t roll the car and just pulled it, with the rear wheels still locked, onto the bed:

This particular incident involved a Tesla, but it’s really an industry-wide issue with electric vehicles. Every EV has a way of bringing the car to a standstill, but based on the research I’ve done so far, all major EVs sold require the car to be at least partially functional to access controls and tow or free-drive mode, as these are usually accessible via the touchscreen of the cars central stack.

For Ford and Tesla, the procedures absolutely require that the touchscreen be functional, which means that at least part of the 12V power supply or the main battery must be accessible:

Image of the article titled Tesla Crashes on Freeway Reminds Electric Cars Must Solve Their Neutral Problem

Screenshot: Tesla, Ford

For the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt, it seems that when these cars lose both main battery power and / or 12V battery power, the cars automatically go into neutral, at least according to this. that the owner’s manuals seem to say:

Image of the article titled Tesla Crashes on Freeway Reminds Electric Cars Must Solve Their Neutral Problem

Screenshot: Chevrolet, Nissan

This seems like a better solution, even if it requires locking the wheels, but looking around forums for leaf owners and Bolt owners there also seem to be problems putting cars in neutral, especially if the 12V battery is dead.

A car’s ability to run freely seems like an important maintenance and safety feature, and from what I can tell, it’s not at all something that the current state of electric vehicles handles well.

All electric vehicles should have a mechanical, unpowered, easily accessible emergency means to disconnect the transmission from the wheels so that the car can be moved if it is dead. I don’t necessarily think it’s easy to design – if it was, I suspect at least a few EVs would have such a setup – but I think it’s important.

The incident with the Tesla driver is a perfect and alarming example of the importance of this. If something breaks down on your car, you should at least be able to get it to a safe place where it’s safe for you or other drivers.

With combustion cars, there is almost always a way to bring the car to a standstill. Sure, it’s possible to have a drivetrain so bad that it locks up the wheels, or a brake issue where the wheels get stuck, but compared to all the other reasons a combustion car might choose to fall into failure, they are relatively rare.

In addition, EVs like that Tesla will crash intentionally; the way they design is why they don’t default to neutral and instead park and apply the brakes. The fact that the sheet and the bolt not seem to do this (at least not by default) suggests that it is possible to switch to a neutral state.

I think that might be important enough to deserve some sort of mandatory requirement, a regulation that says all electric vehicles must have some mechanical means to enter a freewheel state, regardless of the condition of the battery or of transmission.

While we’re at it, we should demand that all doors and chests and anything that can be opened from the outside, even if the main and 12V batteries are discharged. Tesla model 3 do not have emergency releases for the rear doors, for example.

These requirements seem to be the absolute basis: if your car dies, you should be able to push it safely, or even tow it, at least for short distances without causing major damage. And, you should be able to open the damn doors and the hood.

Electric vehicles are definitely going to be on the road more and more from now on. Now is the time for us as owners and operators to clarify what our minimum requirements are for these machines, and I think a guaranteed way to come to a standstill has to be one of them.

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