Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) recently opened up all of its patents for use by anyone who intends to make electric cars in good faith. Since then, few automakers have taken the bait, but that could change when they realize the full extent to which Tesla has developed safety measures for electric cars.
Tesla deals with thermal runaway
Last year Tesla Motors got a lot of flak for thermal runaway after a pair of fires involving a piece of metal that punctured the battery compartment under the Model S. The automaker has since made some software changes to keep the car riding higher at typical U.S. highway speeds and hasn’t had any issues with thermal runaway again. Thermal runaway occurs when temperatures rise quickly, climbing higher and higher until they result in a fire. As the temperature rises, it kicks off a sort of domino effect as each increase in temperature degree causes yet another increase, and another, and another.
Clearly Tesla studied this problem early on in the development of the Model S. uAutoInsurance.com reviewed the patents released by the automaker recently and discovered that 25 of them relate to fires and thermal runaway.
Tesla describes use of metal-air battery cells
One of the patents focuses on mitigating the effects of thermal events inside battery packs. It basically involves non-metal air cells “absorbing at least a portion of the thermal energy generated during the event before it is released to the ambient environment.” This releases the risks to the car’s passengers, as well as firefighters, first responders, and the car itself.
A second describes “detection of over current in a battery pack.” The patent talks about a controller that is capable of identifies “a hazardous internal short by comparing patterns of series element voltages to the last known balance conditions of the series elements.”
According to uAutoInsurance.com, there are 17 patents referring to minimizing thermal runaway impact, four relating to detection of internal shorts, two relating to low voltage electrolysis and two related to detecting thermal runaway.