NPR Story
1:56 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Tesla Fire Investigation Launched

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is taking a proactive approach addressing concerns about safety for his company's luxury electric vehicle, the Model S, after three recent car fires. On his company’s blog, Musk writes,

“While we believe the evidence is clear that there is no safer car on the road than the Model S, we are taking three specific actions ... "

Those three actions include a software update that will allow more highway ground clearance for the underbody of the vehicle (this will make sense more later), a request for a "full investigation" by the government on the fire incidents and an addition to the vehicle's warranty to include fire damage.

The New York Times reports the federal government announced Tuesday that they will investigate two recent battery fires in Tesla’s Model S:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s decision came amid public speculation over the electric car’s safety and the battery pack’s design after reports of three fires in six weeks.

According to the Times report, the NHTSA has not confirmed that the investigation was prompted by Musk’s request.

The drama all started in October when a video of a Model S on fire was posted on a popular car website. It happened again two weeks later. Then in early November, another fiery crash was reported. The fires each had the same problem: the cars ran over metal debris, which punctured their batteries, causing the fires.

With each incident, Tesla’s shares fell. And with each incident Model S owners and other electric vehicle advocates came to Tesla’s defense, noting that gas-powered cars catch fire pretty regularly. (It’s true. According to a recent report from the U.S. Fire Administration, “From 2008 to 2010, an estimated 194,000 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States each year." And that’s just highway vehicle fires.)

Quartz actually has a helpful rundown on the timeline of how things have unfolded for Tesla.

-- Toni Tabora-Roberts

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