It's hard to imagine a world where a few batteries strapped together is more dangerous than an internal combustion engine, but with the recent publicity exploding laptop batteries have been getting, lithium-ion-based electric cars aren't looking so much like the "safe alternative" anymore. According to U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than 300 cell phone and laptops batteries overheated or caught fire from 2003 to 2005, with plenty of personal injury thrown into the mix. Car battery packs just compound the problem. That new Tesla roadster, for instance, packs in nearly 7,000 batteries behind the passenger compartment. Tesla's CEO says they've done much more than the average consumer electronics manufacturer to keep their system safe, including liquid cooling, overcharge protection, three layers of fuses, and sensors to automatically disconnect the batteries in case of high-temperatures or if the car rashes. The individual batteries are also each protected in their own steel case to isolate them from the other ticking time-bombs power units. Unfortunately, even with the best engineered safety precautions, an accidentally faulty manufacture is out of the designer's hands, and if one batter explodes violently enough to effect neighboring cells and start a chain reaction. Even with a failure rate of one in ten million, the odds are still pretty high for failure with 7,000 batteries in every car. As per usual, we will attempt to avoid reality, glue our cellphone to our skull, keep our MacBook in our lap, and drag race our Tesla roadster like there's no tomorrow. 'Cause just like Alphaville said -- do you really want to live forever?

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Are lithium-ion cars the next great source of violent camphone pics?