NHTSA is “Gathering Data” on Tesla Model S Fire

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 24

Model S Fire Investigated by NHTSA

NHTSA Gathers Data on Tesla Model S Fire

It was bound to happen, though we’ll say right away that the NHTSA is wasting its time and our precious dollars on this one.

The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, David Strickland, tells the Detroit News that the Agency is “gathering data” on the Tesla Model S fire.

NHTSA officials are apparently in contact with Tesla to find out what it can in regards to the Model S that was engulfed in flames after an object impaled the battery pack with 25 tons of force.

As of right now, it’s not clear if the NHTA will open a formal investigation into the Model S fire.

Why the delay?  The government shutdown meant that the NHTSA was without funds and that it couldn’t function.  With the government back in action, the NHTSA is now racing to catch up on a backlog of complaints and issues filed with it in the 16 days it was out of business.

For what it’s worth, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says this:

“For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.”

Source: Detroit News

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24 responses to "NHTSA is “Gathering Data” on Tesla Model S Fire"

  1. taser54 says:

    Forgive the NHTSA if it doesn’t take a corporation at its word. If safety is its primary mission, it can never waste time and taxpayer’s money by collecting data about incidents like what occured when the Tesla caught fire after running over road debris.

    1. Richard Joash Tan says:

      which comes from an 18 wheeler that is left on the road

    2. Rick Danger says:

      It wasn’t just any “road debris”. It wasn’t a cardboard box or a shredded tire. It was a piece of curved metal that when hit, was directed up into the battery pack. Knowing how smooth, quiet and fast Teslas are, he was probably hauling butt when he hit it, and maybe not paying attention to the road ahead.

      In a regular car, it could have come right through the floorboard, maybe taking off a foot in the process.

      Just sayin’.

      1. taser54 says:

        I don’t see the reason to elaborate what the “road debris” was, but since you felt the need, I will point out that metal objects are very common road debris and should not result the the destruction of an entire vechicle.

        1. Foo says:

          But, metal objects large enough to puncture a vehicle are not. As was pointed out, almost any car could expect serious damage in such a case, and perhaps even serious occupant injury (possibly resulting in perhaps a subsequent accident with additional consequences).

          Simple “road debris” sounds innocuous. We’re just making the point that this case likely wasn’t caused by just “any old” road debris. It seems it was an unusually-shaped and fairly robust piece of metal that ended up in just the right place at just the right time… and would have been dangerous to any vehicle.

          1. taser54 says:

            I disagree, metal objects cause a large number of crashes (many fatal) and it is the third most prevalant type of debris on the road (behind tires and wood).

            In Ohio for example, metal is deemed to cause 10% of the Vehicle-related road debris accidents and this percentage excludes debris like tools (6% more) and vehicle parts (additional 8%). Tools (hardened steel) and vehicle parts (YMMV) can easily cause severe damage to a battery pack case.

            Based on data from 2001, “it can be estimated that VRRD
            causes over 25,000 crashes per year and claims 81 to 90 lives per year.” Now some corporate bean counter would love to write this off and take their chance in court. Would you (presuming you weren’t one of the fatal accidents)?

            Linked is a study of road debris and accidents.

            https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/VRRD.pdf,

        2. Mint says:

          And how much do you want to bet that none of the 10+ million car accidents from non-Teslas per year got destroyed from road debris?

          https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/VRRD.pdf
          “If the VRRD crash rates of 0.2 percent for fatal crashes and 0.4 percent
          for all other crashes are applied to North American crash statistics for 2001,
          VRRD can be estimated to cause over 25,000 crashes per year, claiming 81 to 90 lives.”

          1. taser54 says:

            What you are advocating is ignoring a problem because it might happen to another vehicle, Here, we know that metal road debris pierces the battery case of a Tesla. Rather than address this, you seek to point out possible problems with other, “lesser” cars.

            Rather than be so defensive, you should simply expect more from a tesla.

            1. kdawg says:

              I think what he’s saying is, it would not be fair to hold Tesla to a higher standard than you would any other car.

              1. Taser54 says:

                I understand, but Tesla announced that they had set the bar higher with this car. I see no reason to lower it once adversity strikes on a design decision.

                It’s a great car, but ignoring inconvenient truths is simply not the path to take.

        3. Steven says:

          A small piece of metal caused a Concorde to crash. I say let the NTSB take their time, get all the data they need. It can only help the industry.

      2. Marc Lee says:

        “In a regular car, it could have come right through the floorboard, maybe taking off a foot in the process.”

        Some may think this an exaggeration, but actually this happens more often than you would think. And it doesn’t have to be a curved pieced of metal. Flat objects can be upended by being run over. It is not unheard of for driver’s to be impaled through the seat. The floor boards in most vehicles are quite thin and offer almost no protection from this kind of event.

        In this regard, Tesla’s reinforced battery back does offer substantially more protection.

        “metal objects are very common road debris and should not result the the destruction of an entire vechicle.”

        As was pointed out by Tesla, a punctured gas line or gas tank could easily have caused such a fire. And if reports are correct, the fire in the Model S could have been substantially less destructive if proper techniques had been employed.

        Based on the fire rate in ICE vehicles we would have expected dozens perhaps hundred of fires in EVs at this point. The statistics on this point are very clear. EVs are substantially less prone to fire.

        1. kdawg says:

          Especially in BC times 🙂

    3. io says:

      Amen. This is the first occurrence of an EV fire on US roads, something so far unique. Unlike yet-another ICE mishap, there is ton the NHTSA can learn from this incident.

      What caused it, how it progressed and why, the impact of the driver and firefighters responses, etc, are all key to avoid or mitigate future occurrences — and that’s exactly this agency’s job.

      Claiming that it would be a waste to even just look at this is irresponsible.

      1. martinwinlow says:

        Um, I doubt *very* much that this is the first ‘EV fire on US roads’. They were the most common form of ‘horseless carriage’ a hundred years ago, you know! MW

  2. CS says:

    Besides, the actual danger was from debris falling off of a truck- not the car itself. Hopefully that will be part of the data gathering and a fair amount of the safety focus.

  3. Sensibility says:

    Instead of necessarily saying the Tesla failed, why not blame or “investigate” why the part fell off the truck in the first place? ie, why was the curved metal not secured properly or perhaps it was a design flaw of the truck carrying the load which had the curved metal. Maybe the NHTSA should investigate the design and manufacturing of the suspect truck?!?!?! (This is said with a note of sarcasm.)

    Many of the comments I am reading who are against the Tesla, I believe, are misinformed or ignorant. Objectively speaking, the curved metal could have punctured and damaged any vehicle–beit a Tesla, Leaf, Volt or any other EV, a car/truck with an ICE or even a large commercial truck–with potentially more catastrophic results, but this would depend on a variety of factors. Would any of these other vehicles other than Tesla have sustained a similar, lesser, or greater level of damage? I think this would be difficult to determine.
    The Tesla is not indestructible (what is???) but the fact that in this instance damage was localized and the safety systems in place worked to save and keep the driver safe speaks to the engineering that went into this vehicle.

    There are so many factors to consider regarding this incident including the driver, vehicle, and road conditions so one can not solely say “it was the Tesla that failed or is no longer a safe vehicle”. In this accident, the large metal object is an unusual instance and not just generic “road debris”.

    I do not own a Tesla or own stock in the company, but from what I have read and researched about this car it was thoroughly engineered…which is more that what can be said about a number of other vehicles out in the market that tout their “high level of safety and engineering”.

    Every car can be improved, and I would hope and think the engineers at Tesla can only make improvements to this vehicle to make it even safer.

    1. sven says:

      Nobody in this thread said the “Tesla failed” or made any comments “against the Tesla.” Don’t be such a Tesla fan boy. There is no need to defend Tesla’s honor just because NHTSA is looking into the Tesla fire.

  4. kdawg says:

    I wonder if a collision avoidance system could detect something this size of the object the Tesla hit, or how small can they go with sensors.

  5. qwerty says:

    A perfect storm scenario. How do you protect against it. Not possible. The next thing an EV will get hit by Lightening and expect the auto industry to protect against it.
    I call Bullshit!

    Whatever the NHTSA deems to be the fix should be applied to all vehicles and not just an EV, or Tesla!

  6. Angelo says:

    I wonder if Tesla’s sharp stock price decline is related to this one unfortunate accident.

  7. winfield100 says:

    driven 1.2 million miles. hit a 1/2 sheet of sheetrock, missed a recliner chair that fell of a truck going 70 (car that passed me going 80 hit it) dodged giant metal wheels that bounced off a low-boy trailer in texas, dodged 2 wheel barrows that blew off a truck, hit a beam abt 12ft long and cross section abt 3x10inch or so at 70 mph on I-81 at Steeles tavern and skidded down road with flat rear tires.
    stuff falls off trucks, surviving is optional

  8. jon doe says:

    Of course if it’s Tesla the NHTSA is wasting it’s time in investigating. After all we know Tesla can do no wrong, but if this had been GM or any other, that would be ok. LOL I have never seen such lop sided reporting. For many people Tesla is bigger, better, than all the other car companies put together.
    Folks, this company has made less than 30k cars this year and all they make are EV’s. This a company that has not faced the competition head-on yet. Elon Musk and his followers are in for a rude awakening when the competition wipes them out! The stocks declined over ten points yesterday….so watch your money!

    1. MDEV says:

      jon doe- Sarah Palin is calling you have a meeting tomorrow with FOX news