Tesla Model S Fire Explosion Raises New Concerns About the Safety of Electric Batteries
According to a news report from dallasnews.com, a Tesla Model S burst into flames igniting new fears that older Tesla batteries might be unsafe, leading to injuries, property damage, and fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has already initiated an investigation into allegations that some Tesla batteries have defects that may cause older Tesla SUVs and sedans to suddenly catch on fire.
This most recent battery fire incident happened in Frisco, Texas, and nearly killed its owner. Just moments after the Tesla owner from Frisco, Texas, hear some “metallic bangs” coming from his Tesla Model S, the man pulled over to the side of a busy Frisco thoroughfare to investigate the noise. Suddenly, flames began to shoot out of his five-year-old Tesla Model S. The Tesla owner described the noise as being similar to the sound of “an axle of a normal car” falling onto the ground. According to the owner’s statement about the incident, he witnessed flames shooting out around the passenger-side wheel well area. The Tesla owner stated that the flames were “shooting out like a flamethrower.”
This identical battery combustion problem is becoming a more frequent safety risk and seems to affect older Tesla Model X and S electric vehicles. Safety experts are beginning to raising important questions about the reliability, stability, and safety of electric vehicles as they mature.
According to Sean Rushton, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s spokesperson, the NHTSA is assessing the battery fire incident involving the Frisco Tesla owner, and the NHTSA has communicated with Tesla about the incident. In 2019, the NHTSA began a formal investigation into alleged battery defects that might start fires in earlier Tesla SUV and sedan models.
After a defect petition and lawsuit alleged that Tesla manipulated the battery software found in older model cars and SUVs to reduce the fire risk, the NHTSA probe was initiated. The software increased the charge time and diminished the power range while Tesla attempted to resolve the undisclosed defect. The lawsuit asserts that the defect caused an “alarming number of car fires” last year that seemed to be spontaneous.
In 2019, there were approximately 189,500 highway vehicle fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Electric car battery fires are much more dangerous than other car fires because of the fires’ intensity and duration, fueled by extreme heat buildup and the chemicals in lithium-ion battery systems.
Electric car battery fires are also more difficult to extinguish. According to Tesla’s emergency response guide for its Model S, these battery fires might take up to 24 hours to extinguish.” Tesla also stated in its emergency response guide to “Consider allowing the battery to burn while protecting exposures.”
A report provided to the NHTSA states that electric vehicle battery fires can start from a single overheating cell and then spiraling out of control as pressure and temperatures rise, creating a “thermal runaway.”
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Tesla when a Tesla Model S trapped its owner inside as the car burst into flames. Tesla’s electronic door handles did not retract after a fiery accident, and the man’s death was caused by the defective door handle design features rather and not the accident. The car’s battery reignited three times while sitting in the impound lot.
In the Frisco Tesla’s owner’s fire incident, firefighters asked the owner how to get inside of the car’s cabin to douse the flames. The Model S has retractable door handles. The door handles are controlled electronically and pop out when the handles detect the car’s key fob close by. The firefighter told the man, you are lucky you exited your vehicle at the time you did, or you would have been trapped inside the burning car. This concern has been raised in many complaints and lawsuits.
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