Another Tesla Up In Flames

No accident required. New Tesla Fire Manifests in Belgium.

A Tesla Model S suffered a total meltdown after being connected to one of the company’s proprietary Supercharger stations in Antwerp, Belgium. While details are scant, local reports state the driver simply went to charge his automobile and returned to a burning wreck a short time later.

Considering the fire department had to totally submerge the ruined vehicle in a pool of water to ensure the car didn’t reignite, the odds of uncovering exactly what went wrong appear slim.

The odds of a fire are not better or worse right now for Tesla vs gas-powered cars, but the lithium-ion tendency to ignite needs to be addressed. Some folks are looking at nickle-metal hydride, but they aren’t quite ready for prime-time either. The string of bad press in Tesla’s corner however, isn’t to be sneezed at.

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Tesla and SolarCity

The Tesla fanboys were so sure that this merger was going to change the face of power generation. Didn’t really work out that way. MIT Technology Review: Tesla’s trumpeted solar shingles are a flop.

But then I’ve always believed that Tesla (and Musk) were “all hat and no cattle” when it came to solar. For a couple of reasons.

The first is tied up with the reality of what has happened since the merger.

In the more than two years since Tesla acquired SolarCity, its overall solar installations have plummeted by more than 76%.

A Tesla spokesperson told Reuters it’s “actively installing” the Solar Roof product in eight states but declined to discuss its purchases from Panasonic or provide overall installation numbers.

At least they seem to have learned the lesson from the SEC: Don’t embellish the truth.

Those numbers aren’t really a surprise, given the state of SolarCity before the merger. Elon Musk just kicked his shareholders in the teeth. (This is from Business Insider in 2016.)

Now, in case you haven’t been following the SolarCity story, it’s the company that, a few minutes before this deal was announced, Goldman Sachs said was the “worst positioned” for growth in its sector.

So why would someone with no real experience in a business-turnaround capacity, buy such a company? It may only be a coincidence…

It’s also a company that is helmed by Elon Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive. Go figure.

Though the stock was down 60% in the year before the merger was announced. Maybe he thought it looked cheap.

Back to the MIT article linked at the top. It looks like Tesla won’t meet the employment numbers it committed to at its “gigafactory” to avoid the penalties inherent in that deal. Though they have another year to get there.

Last year, Tesla ended its months-old retail partnership with Home Depot, and shuttered a number of solar installation facilities. It’s reportedly cut thousands of workers in its solar division since the acquisition. The team also faced difficulties with the appearance and performance of the Solar Roof tiles.

A Bloomberg article late last year said Tesla was operating just one production line at the Buffalo factory, rather than the multiple lines that were supposed to be running at that stage.

And then there is the little issue of actually having a product to sell.

The team also faced difficulties with the appearance and performance of the Solar Roof tiles.

The other reason I always thought Tesla’s move into solar was a joke? (This is not covered in either article.) Musk talked about using his very expensive, lightweight lithium-ion battery technology in homes and businesses. In your phone you want a light battery. In a car you also want to reduce weight. In a building that doesn’t move, why is weight an issue? (Hint: It’s NOT.) In a building that doesn’t move, the issues are cost, life-span, and durability. Long-lasting, cheap batteries, that don’t have a tendency to catch on fire are most desirable. Most homes that rely on solar get by with good old-fashioned lead acid batteries. (Invest in the automatic watering setup!) Want to take a step up? Then there are Nickel-iron batteries. There are also Lithium-iron batteries, which are not lightweight, and not sold by Tesla, that some industrial applications use for backup. (Think cellphone towers in remote locations.) None of those examples move, so weight – critical in applications that specify lithium ion batteries – is basically ignored.

Remember When Tesla Was Going to Sell Solar Stuff at Home Depot?

Someone (aside from me) used the term “liquidation.” Tesla’s Firesale Of Its Solar Inventory Begins.

Back in February 2018, the company said it would sell panels in 800 Home Depot stores – that idea lasted until June, only 4 months later, when they ended the partnership.

There there was other bit of marketing hype.

The solar roof shingles that Tesla pitched to the public about 2 years ago have also not come to fruition yet.

Maybe

I’ve said it many times. We pay for expensive, lightweight batteries for your home. Your home doesn’t move. For your car, weight is important, or your phone Lithium ion batteries make sense. When they don’t need to move, or fit in your pocket, not so much. For a fixed installation, you want them to be relatively cheap, reliable.

Tesla Motors, Hackers and “Autopilot”

Calling it “Autopilot” was probably a marketing overreach. Tesla Stock Drops after Chinese Hackers Expose Alarming Vulnerability.

This isn’t the most informative of the articles, but it has enough info to be going on with.

China hackers set their sights on Tesla to expose just how easy it was to manipulate the Model S. Not only were they able to trick the autopilot systems of the luxury vehicles, but they’ve been able to access them remotely.

The cars can be in driving or parking mode.

“successfully implemented remote, aka none physical contact, control on Tesla Model S in both parking and driving modes.”

Tesla’s Entertainment System Hacked

I was sort of hoping that the Tesla’s main system would have been hacked as well. Tesla Model 3 Hacked on the Last Day of Pwn2Own. But the team working on that withdrew on the last day.

During the last day, Fluoroacetate’s Amat Cama and Richard Zhu successfully targeted and successfully hacked their way into a Tesla Model 3’s Chromium-based infotainment system as part of their automotive category demo, using “a JIT bug in the renderer to display their message.”

That won them 35,000 dollars and the Tesla 3 they were hacking.

Day three was also supposed to be the day when Team KunnaPwn playing field, with an attempt at hacking the “VCSEC component of the Tesla Model 3 in the automotive category” but they withdrew from the competition.

That doesn’t mean the car can’t be hacked, it just means that 3 days was not enough time. Though it may mean that the car is secure. (Any bets?)

Is Tesla Seeing an Increase in Workplace Accidents?

I couldn’t find anything about this in the US media. Krankenstand unter Tesla-Mitarbeitern hat sich binnen Jahresfrist verdreifacht – OR – sick leave among Tesla employees has tripled within a year.

And yes, it is in German, but Google Translate will do a fair job with German. (Chrome will – or can anyway – invoke it automatically.)

The sharp increase in absenteeism indicates that more serious accidents are occurring, says Deborah Berkowitz. She headed the [OSHA] under President Barack Obama and calls the number “alarming”. It is worrying that the average absence has risen from 35 to 66 days.

Tesla denies the conclusion, and to their credit, while employment and hours have increased, the number of accidents per hour-worked has remained fairly constant. Which isn’t great, but isn’t horrible. And considering they are spending millions on “safety” really isn’t good.

I, for one, welcome our self-driving overlords

Ain’t technology wonderful. (The title to this post is stolen shamelessly from Small Dead Animals, a link can be found in the sidebar.) ‘Autopilot’-ed Tesla Crashes Off NJ Highway, Driver Reportedly Unable To Regain Control Of Vehicle.

Yet another example came to light on Monday when a driver in North Brunswick, New Jersey wrecked his Tesla on a highway while the vehicle was in Autopilot mode. According to a report published by News 12 New Jersey, the driver said that the vehicle “got confused due to the lane markings” at a point where the driver could have stayed on the highway or taken an exit. The driver claims that Autopilot split the difference and went down “the middle”, between the exit and staying on the highway.

The car then drove off the road and collided with several objects before coming to a stop. The driver claims that he tried to regain control of the vehicle but that “it would not let him”.

This crash reminds me of the one that happened in Mountain View, California in March of last year. (Hat tip to Borepatch.)