Prius A123 Battery Fire Report

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by cstaszak, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. cstaszak

    cstaszak Junior Member

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    [​IMG]

    Randomly stumbled onto this: Toyota Prius A123 car fire investigation report 2008 - Wikileaks

    It's a very interesting report with many photos and worth taking the time to look through. The moral of the story is to make sure any aftermarket battery is installed properly!

     

    Attached Files:

  2. jammin012

    jammin012 The man behind The Man

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    VERY INTERESTING. Firefighter friend of mine would love to see this.
     
  3. Scummer

    Scummer Eh?

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    Interesting... wrong assembly caused the fire. Human error.
     
  4. sorka

    sorka Active Member

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    I'm stunned that the conversion system didn't employ multiple temperature monitoring points along with a warning system should any part of the battery exceed a safe temperature. These are Li-Ion batteries for christ sake! They need to have auxillary cooling and monitoring systems to ensure safety. Tesla has gone through great expense engineering these safety systems. Obvioulsy the company that made this batter didn't. Very sloppy.
     
  5. jelloslug

    jelloslug It buffed right out!

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    I have seen terminal stud damage like that on fork lift motors with poor connections. You also get the same results.
     
  6. efusco

    efusco Moderator Emeritus
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    Wow, impressive write up and fire.
    The thoughts of a DIY PHEV conversion have just taken a few steps backward for me...one loose connection can cause a catastrophic failure like that...yikes. And a DIY project would have none of the above mentioned protections such as temp sensors and all.

    I hope the new Hymotion conversion has taken this situation into account in the new design.
     
  7. miscrms

    miscrms Plug Envious Member

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    Very interesting report, thanks for posting!

    Rob
     
  8. sparkyAZ

    sparkyAZ übergeek

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    From the investigation, there were a number of obvious problems in the Hybrids Plus conversion battery design:
    1.) clamshell plastic in compression without appropriate load distributing washer (incorrect mechanical assembly)
    2.) parallel batteries built with full sheet nickel buss bar instead of individual fuseable links.
    3.) known flammable foam used in the pack construction.
    4.) lack of a safety mechanism to prevent conductive ejected battery material from breaching the electrical isolation between the battery pack and the vehicle chassis.
    5.) marginal thermal sensing design.

    This underscores the amount of Engineering and upfront failure analysis that has to go into proper battery pack design. The DIY projects may or may not incorporate the appropriate safeguards.

    It's important to remember that Hybrids Plus and Hymotion are two very different companies. Both companies use the A123 LiIon cells in their pack design, but Hymotion is a wholly owned subsidiary of A123 systems while Hybrids Plus is not.
    I have a feeling that Hymotion would not violate their parent companies own design guidlines with regard to pack design. However, the internal construction of their conversion unit seems to be a closely guarded secret at this point. Aside from the high up-front cost at this time, I think I'm going to wait until I can see a complete teardown or at least get a look at the electrical construction inside the Hymotion unit.
     
  9. Flying White Dutchman

    Flying White Dutchman Senior Member

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    maybe because 123 is a company from GM ( if i am not mistaking or is it chevron )
    this fire did the electric car deal no good..
     
  10. snakeman

    snakeman New Member

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    Yes, and they shot Kennedy too. :eek:

    Seriously, not everything is a grand conspiracy. I'll grant you that if I were the Ford dealership that the car was towed to originally, I'd probably be taking lots of pictures to show my customers what happens when you buy those spooky foreign cars, now let me show you a Taurus.....

    However, the report seems to clearly point to a sloppy mechanic doing the final assembly that was the 'straw that broke the camel's back' to a design that had a few problems in it that are perfectly clear in hindsight but probably weren't during original design. The good thing is that it looks like they did a good job of trying to learn from their mistakes and show that they had done so with this report. Also, the report was a really good insight into the conversion that I found interesting to read. Thanks to the OP for sharing it.
     
  11. hill

    hill High Fiber Member

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    Conversion vs OEM really isn't the main deal. Lest we forget, this happens to the most technical groups as it does to shade tree mechanics/electricians. NASA's 'Challenger' Shuttle blew up because a known O ring problem finally failed under the very conditions they knew it would failed. They failed to re-design. They failed to order new parts. They robbed used parts from Peter to pay Paul. They ignored engineers when they waved red flags about the known issues. Lack of integrity ... arrogance ... sloppy ... lazy work ethics. So legislators will have to make laws to prevent it. Sadly, most laws are written in the blood of others.
     
  12. Godiva

    Godiva AmeriKan Citizen

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    Well, I hope Hymotion is looking at this carefully and doing any redesign indicated.

    I saw two Hymotion A123s installed on two fleet cars for SDGE. Hymotion requires that one of their trained installers do it. These guys were flown down from San Francisco to do it.
     
  13. Danny

    Danny Admin/Founder
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    This is news... moving it to the News forum.

    I extracted a picture from the report and the summary and included it in the original post. Thanks for posting this, cstaszak!
     
  14. Stefx

    Stefx Member

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    I wonder if the insurance refused to compensate the owner of the car?
     
  15. dmckinstry

    dmckinstry New Member

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    Actually, there's no reason you couldn't put in temperature sensors.

    What disturbs me is that Hymotion is supposed to have authorized installers.

    I would think they'd be taking more care in being sure all connections are tight and locked. And I'm confused. Were the washers/spacers actually placed under the bolt head, rather than under the nut?


    Dave M.
     
  16. miscrms

    miscrms Plug Envious Member

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    This is not a Hymotion conversion.

    Rob
     
  17. burritos

    burritos Senior Member

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    Any chance the owner would dare try to have the toyota warranty enforced?
     
  18. Godiva

    Godiva AmeriKan Citizen

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    I expect it will be a finger-pointing blame game between Hybrids Plus and the installer with the poor Prius owner caught in the middle.

    Whether insurance company will pay anything will depend on the exact policy the owner has.

    I expect with the information available in this post, the owner will be looking to sue both installer and Hybrids Plus. I hope there's no fine print in anything he signed absolving them of anything that happens no matter what.
     
  19. efusco

    efusco Moderator Emeritus
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    Unquestionably true...but I have to tell you that this shade-tree modder is MUCH more likely to make a critical mistake out of ignorance and lack of formal training that it is likely that a systematic tested and checked OEM install or even a well researched and professionally installed after-market product. I don't expect the world to be perfect...but I'm aware that my deficiencies in a matter like this are much greater than a large company with trained professionals.

    Also, a DIY job is much more likely to fail...i know of at least 3 people who've had battery failures/melt-downs on their DIY PHEV conversions on the Prius...and many of them were much better equipt than I to do the job. I simply couldn't be sure to have enough temp sensors, or confidence that I was using the right bus bars...maybe I'd forget a washer and the tight nut would vibrate loose, maybe I don't really know how to test and balance my batteries properly...more importantly, there are potential errors I could make that I'm not even aware of making them all the more likely.

    The bottom line for me is that the expected benefit of a DIY job is far far less than the potential for costly mistakes on my part b/c of my ignorance and lack of training and it just makes more sense to respect my own deficiencies and the deficiencies inherent in a DIY project than to just do it for fun.
     
  20. PriusSport

    PriusSport senior member

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    A123 is a company owned by an MIT professor, which has invented a new Li ion cell based on lithium iron phosphate. I don't think GM owns them. Their batteries are being used by a lot of companies, including Black & Decker. Toyota is looking at them for the next generation Prius.

    The fire here appears to be unrelated to the battery technology--due rather to faulty assembly.
     
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