Third Tesla Model S Fire Raises Battery Concerns Again


third-tesla-fireWhile critics were dismissive of the first fire involving a Tesla Model S, and drunken speeding was to blame for the second fire, reports of a third fire involving the electric luxury sedan have hurt Tesla’s stock value and have raised safety concerns. Does Elon have a major problem on his hands?

This latest fire happened in Tennessee, and was apparently caused when the driver of the Tesla Model S drove over a discarded tow hitch in the road. As with the previous fires, the tow hitch pierced the armored battery pack, causing a fire to catch and spread in the front trunk area. As in the other two fire incidents, the driver was able to escape unharmed, and credited the Tesla with saving his life.

However, this being the third fire in just over a month, and the second fire that resulted from road debris, some critics are invariably going to start questioning whether the Tesla’s design is at fault. The Nissan Leaf has been on the market for three years now, and there has not been a single battery fire incident. While the Chevy Volt had a brush with an inferno scandal, the fire broke out weeks after the car was tested and then left sitting on its roof. There haven’t been any on-road fire issues with either car in almost three years.

With Tesla facing plenty of scrutiny over three high-profile fires that have to be literally and figuratively put out, the electric automaker’s stock plunged to below $150 per share before recovering slightly. For its part, Tesla says it is investigating matters, and it could be that the large battery pack requires either more armor than previously thought. While Musk’s statement that conventional cars catch fire all the time rings true, it generally takes some egregious maintenance issues or engine problems for a gas-powered car to ignite while in motion, whereas the Telsa Model S is brand new and touted as the safest car ever.

Or perhaps these is something more sinister at work here? I don’t mean to sound all conspiracy theory, but what are the chances that a relatively low-volume vehicle like the Tesla Model S twice running over road debris on the highway, resulting in a fiery demise? All it takes is a few big mouths to begin an investigation and to order a sales-stop on this promising automaker…and what then?

Is this a Tesla design flaw, a secret conspiracy, or just a bout of bad luck? Whatever the cause, it seems like Tesla Motors and Elon Musk are about to face their first real test.

Source: Reuters | Image: NASHVILLIAN

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Jason Carpp

    Those sound like serious charges against Tesla. Some legitimate concerns that Tesla and Elon need to look into before continuing to sell cars to the public. I only hope no one was hurt or killed in this fire.

    • egogg

      If you’d just do a modicum of research, you’d find that the drivers in all three of the recent crashes, the drivers (even the drunken sot in Mexico) walked away uninjured.

      Tesla’s are supremely safe cars from the perspective of the occupant. It is designed to warn the driver to calmly pull over and exit the car. Now as for preserving the car itself: sometimes, when the battery pack is punctured, a lithium fire starts slowly, and then goes out of control. Typically, the car will be totaled. This makes for bad news coverage, but It’s not like they just randomly burst into flames.

      • Jason Carpp

        I’m sure. That sounds like a safe car. If only all cars were this safe.

        • egogg


    • OMG! Look! A commercial van fire LAST NIGHT! Sounds like a serious charge against all van makers, no? Some legitimate concerns Ford and Alan Mullally need to look into before continuing to sell cars to the public. I only hope no one was hurt trying to think too hard.

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  • t_

    Musk should put more armor for those batteries. All know, that the lithium batteries can catch fire, if their integrity is harmed, so it should be no surprise. That the car is well – built, we all know. This problem seems different though. In all of the accidents, the battery pack was damaged, so better protection for it should be enough.

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