Electric Vehicles Tesla Model S on fire

Published on January 1st, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


Tesla Model S Bursts Into Flames While Charging

January 1st, 2016 by  

On New Year’s Day, a Tesla owner in Norway plugged in his Tesla Model S at a SuperCharger station near Kristiansand in the Aust-Agden region and went off to do some shopping while his battery recharged. A few minutes later, his car burst into flames and was destroyed. The duty officer at the campus police office of Jon Kvitnes College told Norway’s VG News, “We received notification at 2.29 pm that a car was on fire near a cafe on Brokelandsheia. We came out with the fire brigade and police, but it turned out that this car was burned out when the emergency services arrived at the scene.” Fortunately, there was no one in the car at the time and there were no injuries.

Tesla Model S on fire

The cause of the fire is unknown. Police say they will conduct an investigation of the vehicle and the charging station to find out what caused the car to burst into flames. For now, the SuperCharger station is closed. “Not possible to fast-charge Tesla on Brokelandsheia until further notice,” Agder police tweeted Friday afternoon.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet spoke with a Tesla representative later in the day and was told the company will investigate the fire and issue a report as soon as possible.

According toLeif Hansen, who lives in Norway, the following statement was made to the local news media by Anders Torbjørnsen, a member of the fire brigade operations center at the college. “It is not possible to extinguish EV fires with water , so the fire department closed the area around the powerful SuperCharger and used a special foam to control the flames. The world renowned electric car has batteries made of lithium, a metal that is highly flammable , and that makes firefighting difficult.

“Electric vehicle fires are fairly new for us at Agder . It is quite rare for an electric car to burn, but once it catches fire,  lithium batteries make it more challenging. After a while the fire brigade brought the flames under control but the car was completely damaged.” That’s quite an understatement.

Tesla Model S on fire

Photo credits: www.igjerstad.no, NTB SCANPIX; VG News

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About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Probably terrorist working for the petroleum industry…..lol

  • Wow, that is one flamed Tesla!

  • Overleaf

    Unlike gas tanks, EVs don’t explode.

    • Sly Cooper

      Yep. This’ll get bad press, but the truth is that EVs are superior in performance, economy and safety.

      But the general population is ignorant and apathetic about most things in their daily lives, so it’s to be expected.

    • Did you notice in the first photo that two wooden outbuildings in close proximity are apparently undamaged. The car is a total loss, but the fire did not spread.

  • Sly Cooper

    Hey do you guys find it worth reporting on all the gasoline and diesel vehicle fires? Not to mention fuel station fire and whatnot as well?


    • hybridbear

      It’s news because it’s such a rare occurrence.

      • dreburch

        I wouldn’t say the rarity of the situation was the motivation for the report. Tesla has been targeted since it’s inception. I believe this report was hand picked.

        • Ezzy

          It’s what news outlets do nowadays – maximize clicks.

    • Steve Hanley

      You don’t think a Tesla bursting into flames while charging is news? Would it be news if the car belonged to Kim Kardashian?

      • Jim@ProComputer

        Good thing Tesla has no fill hole big enough for a gas can nozzle else Kardashian might try to fill her up.

    • James Rowland

      It’s news because it’s a Tesla. A high profile has its downsides.

      Rates of fire incidence have indeed been way lower with Model S than other vehicles, but then our species is notoriously bad at abstract risk assessment.

      • Jim@ProComputer

        Consumer Reports “downgraded” Tesla for reliability but still way better than ICE autos.

    • Bryan

      Petrol powered vehicles outnumber Tesla’s by several orders of magnitude so of course there is going to be more petrol fires.

  • James Rowland

    Some additional details:

    The car had been registered to a new owner two days before the fire.

    There’s a rumour that the car was in the care of another person (not the new owner) at the time of the fire.

    Video from a local news channel appears to show fire predominantly in the passenger compartment; this is not consistent with fire starting in the battery.

    My guess would be either a cigarette/malfunctioning mobile device/fireworks/whatever left in the cabin, or (less likely) overheating HV lines from charge port to battery, was the source of ignition.

    Or it could be arson by a crazed TSLA short wanting to expand their position. 😉

    • Steve Hanley

      Yeah, some of those short sellers must be getting desperate as their predictions of Tesla’s imminent demise never quite pan out!

      I actually have a source who lives in the area. He has promised to keep me up to date on any new developments.

      Occum’s Razor suggests if an electric car bursts into flames while charging, that the two are related somehow. I did a story last summer about a Tesla that went haywire after it got struck by lightning while charging. Last I heard, the battery was shipped back to the factory and the owner was advised not to have any further communication with the press.

      No further information from Tesla has ever materialized, to my knowledge.
      You are right about “high profile.” Elon milks every bit of good news for all its worth as he trots around the globe garnering headlines every time he speaks.

      Live by the sword; die by the sword.

      • imoorenewton

        I tend to leave my mobile devices charging in the passenger seat. I can imagine that a malfunction in the device’s charging system caused this. As for Occum’s Razor, the Tesla may only allow the cigarette or USB ports to draw power when charging or (in motion only in the case of a ICE car) by default as some newer cars do.
        It is also possible that there was a failure in the port power supply.

    • Joe Viocoe

      The DC-DC Converter is located just behind the front passenger wheel well.

      Not part of the charging components, but certainly a possible source too.

      • James Rowland

        I just saw another image from earlier in the fire’s progress. It looks like the fire started in the rear interior of the car.

        Overheating HV junctions close to the charging port are looking more likely.

        • neroden

          This could happen if there was a bad electrical connection which deteriorated over time, *and* the (multiple) automatic detection systems didn’t catch that anything was wrong.

          So far, all other Tesla fires were caused by collisions, except for the one where the car caught fire because the entire garage was on fire.

          So this Norwegian fire is unique and worthy of investigation. It could, of course, have been a fire in the passenger compartment which spread to the electrical system.

    • Overleaf

      It is highly unlikely that the HV lines were overheating. Both the EVSE and the charger were designed and manufactured by Tesla, so it would certainly meet normal conditions. Unless of course something else malfunctioned. The charging system at most will deliver about 250 amperes. Those fat cables I have seen in pictures will not get very hot at 250 amperes.

      • James Rowland

        Most likely cause is something volatile put in the car; I already said that though. 😛

        HV lines would overheat first at defective junctions. I said that already too…

  • Jafafa Hots

    I’ve seen entire gas stations (and the vehicles that were there) on fire, somehow it never makes international news.

  • Ezzy

    The batteries aren’t “made of” lithium.

    • imoorenewton

      Exactly, The batteries use lithium.

      • Mark

        The Li is not consumed. Electrons flow in one direction during discharge and in the opposite direction during charge….like all batteries. Nothing is consumed. The total mass does not change.

        • imoorenewton

          use != consumption

          • Mark

            They do not use Li, they use electrons. And it is not Li metal, it is a Li-based compound.

    • Mark

      What do you mean? Of course they are.

      • Ezzy

        They _contain_ lithium.

        • Mark

          Yes they do. “Contain” vs “made of”….semantics really.

  • One-Of-A-Kind

    Tesla doesn’t like all this news that hover boards are getting, they want in on the action.

  • Robert Bryk

    Curious if the Tesla at least set an alarm of some kind for the occupant to leave!

    This article is extremely short and inconclusive! It looks as if a ufo is disintegrating in the picture and from first glance the fire (special) foam, again 3rd grade English, appears as snow! WOW

    • Steve Hanley

      How utterly provincial of you, Robert. The report was translated from a Norwegian source. Sorry if their English isn’t up to your rigorous standards. By the way, how is your Norwegian?

  • Bryan

    Doesn’t Tesla’s PowerWall use the same cobalt based lithium ion battery chemistry that their EVs use ? Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries would be an inherently safer choice. And they have better power density.

    • Mark

      Easy there, armchair quarterback.

      • Bryan

        What?…….I can’t ask a question ?

  • Alex Paulsen

    “EV fires cannot be extinguished with water”.

    Yes, but that specifically makes uninformed readers think only EV fires. ELECTRICAL fires cannot be extinguished with water, that includes electric cars, but is not limited to electric cars.

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