Father Blames Tesla’s Lithium-Ion Batteries For Daughter’s Death

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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An Indianapolis man blamed Tesla’s technology for a fiery wreck that killed his daughter and her boss.

Casey Speckman, 27, was driving her boss’s Model S on an early November morning, when they appear to have swerved to avoid a vehicle driving in the wrong direction. The Tesla careened into a tree and exploded on impact.

Toxicology reports later showed Speckman’s blood-alcohol level was 0.21 percent, almost triple Indiana’s 0.08 percent limit. She was killed by the impact, while her boss died because of the explosion and fire.

Casey Speckman’s father, Jon Speckman, is convinced the car played a significant role in his daughter’s death.

“Had she been in another vehicle she would have been alive for me to yell at her for driving after drinking,” he told reporters during an interview last week with the Indianapolis Star. Tesla officials did not respond to a request for comment about the crash, but Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has addressed similar incidents in the past.

“For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid,” Musk wrote in 2013, essentially championing Tesla’s safety measures.

Some tech analysts disagree.

Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, told reporters that a Tesla’s “energy source can be explosive when it gets into a serious enough accident.”

He added: “I don’t know if there’s an answer to the explosive nature of lithium-ion when those batteries are disturbed.”

The automaker has been forced to deal with fiery wrecks in the past.

A Dutchman was killed in September 2016 when his Model S smashed into a tree. It took Dutch firefighters several hours to remove his body for fear of electrocution.

Fire department spokesman Ronald Boer said Netherlands is well-equipped to deal with electric vehicle wrecks. Firefighters were not certain of the severity of the wreck, or the danger posed by the car’s broken battery, so they waited before pulling the man’s body from the wreckage.

Newspaper De Telegraaf reported the car’s battery was so badly damaged that it caught fire. Part of the battery was wedged inside the car.

Physicists worry the problem could get worse as consumers demand more from their electric vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries are much more energy dense than any other battery. The more energy stored, the more dangerous batteries becomes, Jason Croy, a physicist in the Electrochemical Energy Storage department at Argonne National Labs, told reporters after last year’s Samsung phone explosions.

At the same time, consumers are continually demanding more power for their devices.

“They want to do more with their phones, with the laptops, they want to drive 200 miles on a charge in their electric cars,” Croy said.

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