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This is the third fire in under a two-month period

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has decided to look into the latest fire involving Tesla Motors' Model S. 

According to The Detroit News, NHTSA will review what is now the third Model S to catch fire in under a two-month period. This most recent incident took place near Smyrna, Tennessee. 

The Tennessee fire took place when a Model S driver hit a tow hitch on Interstate 24, which damaged the car’s undercarriage and caused a fire. The driver was able to exit the vehicle safely.

“NHTSA is in close communication with Tesla and local authorities gathering information about the incident to determine if additional action is necessary,” said NHTSA.

Special focus is being placed on the fact that the Model S' battery is located near the underside, making the battery an easy target when striking debris or hitting pavement -- thus increasing the risk of a fire.

This could lead to stronger methods of protecting the EV's battery pack. 

NHTSA has not opened a formal investigation on the Tesla crashes yet, likely because this is the first incident it's addressing.

Model S fire in Smyrna, Tenn. [Image Source: Associated Press]

But this isn't the first Tesla fire to occur. In early October, a Model S driver in Kent, Washington was traveling southbound on state Route 167 when he hit a piece of metal debris on the freeway. He then exited the freeway, and the car became disabled right before he smelled something burning. The car caught fire.
Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean said the fire was caused by a large metallic object hitting one of the battery pack’s modules. NHTSA did not investigate the fire at the time because of the partial government shutdown, which suspended such activity. 

Another Model S fire occurred shortly after in Mexico, but that's out of NHTSA's jurisdiction. 

Tesla said all three fires were caused by crashes; not spontaneous events.

Tesla and its Model S have been in the spotlight a lot this year after the company successfully paid off its government loans nine years early, pulled a profit, unveiled new tech for its electric car and the Model S even snagged the highest safety rating from the NHTSA. But it's unclear if this hiccup will further heighten the fear surrounding lithium ion batteries for cars, and possibly even take a toll on Model S sales. 

Source: The Detroit News

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By alpha754293 on 11/11/2013 12:49:40 PM , Rating: 1
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here are solely that of my own and are not representative of Ford Motor Company or its affiliates.

As someone who used to do crash safety simulations/engineering, it would be interesting to see how they hit the tow hitch. I guess that's what happens when you don't have a large chunk of metal (a.k.a. the engine) between the front and the leading edge of the battery pack even if it's behind the front axle.

Normally, I would have said that they need to put that thing behind the front axle, but running a google image search for pictures of the chassis, it's already like that, which would tend to indicate that it's because they don't have energy absorbing structures (like an engine) so a lot of these semi-point contacts (or where you get very concentrated loading conditions) end up penetrating and protruding into the vehicle very easily.

It'll definitely be something for all of Tesla's crash safety engineering people to look at and to change their engineering technical specification and testing/simulation procedure and to add a whole bunch of new loadcases for them to run through and simulate and design/engineer for. (I had to do something similar when I was working on designing/engineering a CNG cover for one of the trucks. 16 loadcases in total). And these new loadcases won't be mandated by US or European NCAP assessments, and they also won't have this like massive distributed loading condition either that you get with an actual crash test.

VERRRYYY interesting. (I'm a geek. I can't help it. And it helps that cuz this is what I used to do, so to me, this kinda stuff is REALLLY interesting to me.)

RE: hmmm....
By melgross on 11/11/2013 3:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
Will you stop with the disclaimer already? Nobody cares where you may have worked. Few people may even believe it. Just state your case.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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