A Tesla runs into a tree and the passenger compartment is intact.
(One presumes air bags would deploy).
So what is the result?
Remember that similar luxury overly expensive cars, like Mercedes, can take much more punch and you survive. In the case where Princes Diana died after a 100 MPH+ ramming of a cement pillar, the bodyguard (the only one who wore his seat belt) lived. So we have an existence proof of a much more dramatic event with survival.
So back at the Sparky Car:
To me, looking at the picture, the tree is about at the front wheels. For a front engine well designed gas car, that would leave the entire roll cage intact and just be starting to push the engine under the passenger compartment by a little bit. (Mostly destroying the bumper, grill, radiator, fan, and front parts of the engine – things like alternator, timing belt & pulleys, water pump before reaching the actual front of the engine block, so about a foot of actual engine travel and much of that in a pitch up, rear down pivot)
In short, it ought to be a walk away from it accident.
Yes, back in the 1970s it would be lethal. Few cars had roll cage construction. Air bags didn’t exist. Crumple zones were a dream for the future. Even seat belts were somewhat optional. In fact, I pulled a friend from a car after he had fallen asleep and run into a large walnut tree. The steering wheel removing his top front teeth breaking them off at the gum line, he had a bridge after that. The car and engine were a loss.
Now here’s a very similar accident. Likely at higher speed, and it looks like (from the text about ‘debris field’) the driver may have side swiped a couple of earlier trees before heading into this one. But side swiping trees is also very survivable even if the car is a write off for body work. So when I look at the physical damage to this car, it looks to me like it ought to have been survivable. Were it not for the fire… (and they think gasoline is a fire hazard…)
Two people died in a Tesla Model S in Indianapolis just after 1 a.m. on Thursday morning after the driver lost control at a curve, hit a tree, and crashed. A witness to the single car accident said the vehicle was barreling down the road before it collided with the obstacle and burst into flames.
High speeds are thought to be a contributing factor to the crash.
I have to question just how high the speed was if corners were involved and the tree didn’t make it past the front wheels of a car with 1/2 the motors in the rear. For the S, they added a second motor over the front axle for all wheel drive. It’s about the size of a large differential / axle combo.
“There was one big explosion first, then there were several little small ones, and debris just kept popping up in the air like somebody was at a fireworks display or something,” Alfred Finnell, Jr. related. “It hit that tree, and it bounced around, and all of a sudden it just exploded. I had to accelerate my vehicle because all the car parts went up in the air. I had to accelerate just to get away from it.”
Sounds to me like a violation of the battery compartment, short, and then the lithium fireworks began. What happens when all those K-Whr of electricity are liberated all at once into flammable battery guts.
Now a lot of folks manage to hit trees, or bridge abutments, or other cars, or even just deer, and get the entire front of the car messed up. You don’t expect the car to become a BBQ when that happens.
Firefighters arrived on the scene to find the ablaze and both driver and passenger trapped inside. The impact of the crash left a debris field over 100 yards long. Firefighters had to contend with the car fire and multiple fires in the road left by the small batteries and magnesium strewn about.
It took crews approximately 15 minutes to free the individuals within the Tesla, but, unfortunately, neither person survived.
Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief Rita Reith said electric vehicles pose unique challenges for first responders, who must use special caution when handling materials used in the car batteries. “The car, kind of, for lack of a better term, disintegrated. The batteries and the pieces and parts from the Tesla — all were on fire when firefighters initially arrived.” Reith elaborated on the challenges when firefighters confront an electric car crash. “There’s a lot of volatility in those batteries when they’re exposed unnecessarily. They are pretty well-contained until they get into something like this, where the impact literally made the car just completely blow apart.”
Do did the impact to the tree cause the “disintegration” leading to the explosive fire? Or did the exploding flaming battery pack cause the disintegration?
Do you want to be in one when it hits something or something hits it?