Tesla likes the fact that its cars are hot, but not this type of hot: a real fire.
The fire happened Wednesday this week to a Tesla Model S in Kent, Wash., about 20 miles south of Seattle.
According to statements made by the driver, Steve Emmert, the Tesla Model S would’ve hit something in the HOV lane of highway 167, which resulted in the car running poorly. The driver opted to exit and a fire started at the end of the off-ramp.
Steve Emmert was driving a black Model S like the one pictured at the top of this article. The day was rainy.
Witnesses of the fire posted a short video of the fire online. It quickly became viral.
The official report says that the car began smoking and took on fire; flames were mostly coming out of the front of the Tesla.
Tesla released on the same day, Wednesday October 2, the following statement about this fire:
“Yesterday, a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did. No one was injured, and the sole occupant had sufficient time to exit the vehicle safely and call the authorities. Subsequently, a fire caused by the substantial damage sustained during the collision was contained to the front of the vehicle thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack. All indications are that the fire never entered the interior cabin of the car. It was extinguished on-site by the fire department.”
It is too early to know exactly where the fire originated, but reading the official report from the Regional Fire Authority of Kent, it looks like firemen had trouble extinguishing the blaze in or around the battery. They ended up drilling holes in the battery and sending water or dry chemicals to completely extinguish the fire.
This raises the question of making sure firemen are properly trained to identify and handle electric vehicles fires.
It is well known that an EV like the Tesla Model S is safe, to the same extent as a well conceived conventional car. But batteries are flammable and are so in a different way compared to gasoline. Neither type of vehicles are immune to a fire or flame-out resulting in an accident.
The National Highway Safety Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that lithium-ion batteries do not pose a greater fire risk than gasoline-powered vehicles.
The Chevrolet Volt was involved in a story late 2011 about some of them possibly catching fire a few weeks after being tested for NHTSA crash tests. Nothing really came out of it and NHTSA released in November 2011 a statement signaling the “NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.”
NHTSA said in the same statement “Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. However, electric vehicles have specific attributes that should be made clear to consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facilities.”