How did the warning system work in Tesla? Did it detect the mechanical failure of the armor and infringement into the battery? Or did it detect a "battery over-heating" scenario after the punch was made and detect a possible fire (which I am guessing)? If the warning system is designed to detect infringement of the battery armor, this is incredible.
The last two paragraphs of this post are missing a quotation mark. It's not clear whether the author or Dr. Sadoway offered the opinion that EVs need to cost under $20k. Whoever did, that's an oddly high bar to meet when you consider the drastically reduced operational costs of EVs--fuel less than half the cost of that for a Prius and almost no maintenance required at all. Moreover EVs are smoother and quieter than any ICE on the road at any price, at least as self-generated (immunity to outside noises and suspension being independent of drivetrain). The market has already placed a high cost premium on those qualities. People just need to learn that and need to feel comfortable with adapting to something different. Human nature is against doing that.
In my opinion the technology obstacle is that battery development needs to be improved to allow an honest 200 miles of range with very little degradation over 200k miles or so. It may take a solid state battery or something else more stable. If the masses cannot feel comfortable paying the price of having to recharge overnight after "only" 200 miles in order to rid themselves of the drawbacks of fossil fuels, then our addiction to oil may indeed be fatal to humanity.
The number of fires per mile is not the statistic I think you need to consider. The number of petrol tank penetrations to battery penetrations is what you want to compare.
I'll bet there are many more petrol tank penetrations where gasoline is spilled and there is no fire. Unfortunately where a battery is concerned, most penetrations (where the physical cell is compromised) are likely to self ignite. That is why they had to put the extreme reinforcing on the base and between cells as firewalls.
For EV batteries you need to consider
1. There is a self ignition capability (chemistry or physical pack faults)
2. There is an immediate fire capability if the chemistry/construction is compromised
Tesla, if successful will produce millions of batteries to build into their EV packs, and just like laptop batteries they will have a failure rate above zero. Unfortunately, any failure may result in very large uncontrolled energy discharges almost guaranteed to have an associated fire (or as in the Boeing experience, heat destruction and smoke).
While gasoline tanks are an obvious potential fire hazard, it is not a given that every fault will result in fire. IMHO Hydrogen (metal hydride) storage is probably safer than either gasoline or any of the battery chemistries.
When a video goes viral, a sample size of one takes on an extraordinary weight in the public eye. Scientific explanations (regardless of how accurate) have a tough time competing with an iconic image that is seared into the mind. That said, it was very interesting to read the "rest of the story".
Replay available now: A handful of emerging network technologies are competing to be the preferred wide-area connection for the Internet of Things. All claim lower costs and power use than cellular but none have wide deployment yet. Listen in as proponents of leading contenders make their case to be the metro or national IoT network of the future. Rick Merritt, EE Times Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, moderators this discussion. Join in and ask his guests questions.