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Tesla: Still A Few (Fire)Bugs In The System

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On: Thu, Oct 3, 2013 at 9:31AM | By: Karen Cook

Tesla: Still A Few (Fire)Bugs In The System

Isn’t it exciting when you watch a movie and there’s a car crash scene? You hold your breath until anyone in the car gets out safely. It’s even more exciting when they don’t. Then there’s an explosion and a fire! Of course, we know that all this was planned and happened exactly as it was meant to. There are really very few reasons for an automobile to burst into flames, even in an accident. A normal vehicle doesn’t do that.

Recently though the Tesla Model S did just that. It was in a collision and caught fire after the impact. The odd thing is that Tesla makes electric cars! So how did this happen? Normally you assume that the fire would be caused by something igniting the gasoline, something that shouldn’t have been able to happen. So what went wrong? That’s the question stock holders were asking themselves and shares dropped 6.2 percent on Wednesday in response.

There’s been investigation by the fire department and Tesla, and the battery itself seems to have been the problem. It is a lithium-ion battery and is relatively new technology in the electric car industry. The driver hit some metal debris in the roadway at which point his car told him to pull over, which he did and was able to get out of the vehicle before it caught fire. The firefighters arrived in response to his phone call and had a difficult time putting the fire out since water seemed only to intensify the flames. They were able to extinguish it only by using a dry chemical extinguisher to gain access to the battery itself, which they were then able to douse with water. Finally the fire went out.

Tesla has stated that the damage caused by the metal debris is what sparked the blaze. Other electric vehicle manufacturers have actually had the same issues, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has deemed these cars no more dangerous or likely to catch fire than a gasoline-powered engine. Tesla’s version was rated significantly safer than others. As a side note these are the same type of battery which recently caused the Boeing Dreamliner airplane to be grounded for four months.


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