Third Tesla Model S Fire Prompts NHTSA Review
November 11, 2013 10:50 AM
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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
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.
The Detroit News
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Missing from this discussion
11/11/2013 5:52:30 PM
First, 3 events in 2 months is just the Poisson distribution of randomness. That's why you need to consider the number of events vs. total miles for these cars from introduction, as above. I think the number of miles driven represents a valid sample size. Three events falls into 'noise', even though we all know that since the cars are destroyed, something should be fixed here. I'm not going to buy one until something is fixed.
Second, the real measure of this is not what remedial steps will surely be taken (whether for perception or safety reasons). The real question is, how much more does it/ will it cost to insure one of these cars?
"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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