Video: Tesla Model S Goes Up in Flames After a Collision (UPDATE 2: Official Incident Report)

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 88

Warning: Video contains NSFW language.

Model S On Fire

Model S On Fire

Yesterday, a Tesla Model S collided with a “large metallic object.”  This video shows what occurred following the collision.

Tesla Motors issued this statement today on the matter:

“Yesterday, a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did. No one was injured, and the sole occupant had sufficient time to exit the vehicle safely and call the authorities. Subsequently, a fire caused by the substantial damage sustained during the collision was contained to the front of the vehicle thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack. All indications are that the fire never entered the interior cabin of the car. It was extinguished on-site by the fire department.”

Update: Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, says that the fire was the result of a “direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack.”

Shean further states:

“Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle.”

“This was not a spontaneous event.  Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”

Update: An incident report has been released.  In part, it tells this story, according to ABC News:

“In an incident report released under Washington state’s public records law, firefighters wrote that they appeared to have Tuesday’s fire under control, but the flames reignited. Crews found that water seemed to intensify the fire, so they began using a dry chemical extinguisher.”

“After dismantling the front end of the vehicle and puncturing holes in the battery pack, responders used a circular saw to cut an access hole in the front section to apply water to the battery, according to documents. Only then was the fire extinguished.”

“The incident happened as the Tesla’s driver was traveling southbound on state Route 167 through the Seattle suburb of Kent, said Trooper Chris Webb of the Washington State Patrol. The driver said he believed he had struck some metal debris on the freeway, so he exited the highway and the vehicle became disabled.”

“The driver, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, told authorities he began to smell something burning and then the vehicle caught fire.”

“Firefighters arrived within 3 minutes of the first call. It’s not clear from records how long the firefighting lasted, but crews remained on scene for 2 1/2 hours.”

Update 2: Below you’ll see the actual incident report in its entirety:

Incident Report

Incident Report

Hat tip to Taser54!!!

Source: You Tube

More images here.

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88 responses to "Video: Tesla Model S Goes Up in Flames After a Collision (UPDATE 2: Official Incident Report)"

  1. Taser54 says:

    Watching the video, it looks like something flammable in the front end. Something stored in the Frunk? Hydraulic brake fluid?

    I’m sure we’ll find out in the upcoming days. The great thing, no one was injured.

    1. David Kelly says:

      No kidding! It would be hard to throw a couple gallons of gasoline over a car and get it to burn like that. A big piece is missing from this puzzle.

      1. jumpjack says:

        Have you ever seen a car burning?
        I did; i was there when just very little smoke was coming from the front hood. A guy opened it, and I saw a 10-15 cm tall fire plum. Home-extinguisher didn’t obtain any result.
        After 10-15 minutes, whole car was enveloped in fire!
        When firefighters finished extinguishing it, very little of the car remained apart from metal body.

  2. David Murray says:

    The sad part about this is that if this were any gasoline powered vehicle on fire, it would not be newsworthy. But because it is an EV, you know FOX will distort this to make it appear that electric cars are deathtraps.

    1. offib says:

      I think it’s safe to bet that FOX News will milk this story quite a bit and spewing invalid “facts” or opinions. That’s seems very likely in my book.

      1. Open-Mind says:

        I think it’s safe to bet that ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/MSNBC/NYT/Time/Newsweek will milk the next mass shooting, spewing invalid “facts” or opinions about guns. That seems very likely in my book. Oh well … the right has FNC, and the left has the rest of the news media, all the entertainment media, all of education, and all the unions.

        IMHO, this Fox Business report seems pretty positive:

        http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2013/10/02/tesla-shares-fall-on-baird-downgrade/

        1. Steve T says:

          Very true, Open-Mind. Fox has been unfairly hard on GM (Volt, due to government bailout), but let’s be honest…..the rest of the media is guilty on the other side of the spectrum.

          1. Nick says:

            Beware of false equivalence.

            FOX is a uniquely bad propaganda source.

      2. kdawg says:

        I dunno, ever since Tesla’s stock started doing well, Fox mysteriously warmed up to them 🙂 If it had been a Volt, then yes, they would have poo poo’d all over it.

    2. Taser54 says:

      Well, Musk tweaked Boeing for its battery pack fires. If this turns out to be a pack fire, is the Model S now “fundamentally unsafe” as Musk declared Boeing? Would Fox or another network be unfair in using Musk’s own Hubris against him?

      1. David Murray says:

        I’m almost positive it is not a battery fire since the bottom of the vehicle was not on fire, it seemed to be just the front end.

        1. David says:

          It may have started with impact to the front of the battery, i.e. a few cells at the front, but apparently didn’t spread. But it may have been enough to start the fire.

          Not sure if that nuance will be understood by the public and media.

          1. PamZ says:

            I wonder if the object in the road punctured the bottom of the battery?

            That seems like a vulnerability on the Model S battery design, something from the road hits the bottom of the battery.

            1. Rich says:

              I was a passenger in a gasoline (ICE) car that ran over a muffler in the road. It punctured the gas tank and started leaking gas. It’s a miracle there was no fire. I wouldn’t come to the conclusion that the resulting damage from someone driving over an exhaust pipe or muffler in the road is a reason to qualify the vehicle as “unsafe”. In the gas powered car, we didn’t know the gas tank was punctured until the driver behind us got out of their car at a stop light and told us. The fact the Tesla computer warned the driver and provided the time to exit the vehicle is amazing!

              1. TJ1 says:

                “The fact the Tesla computer warned the driver and provided the time to exit the vehicle is amazing!”

                The fact that the battery was punctured, caught on fire, and a heat sensor detects the over-temp condition and notifies the driver is “amazing!” ?

                You are easily impressed.

                The driver reported smelling the smoke before the alert came on. It’s amazing how the nose can smell a fire. Wow!!!

      2. Tesla Fan says:

        its clearly not a batter pack fire hence the battery pack laying flat below the middle and that area is not on fire

        1. TJ1 says:

          The battery extends to the middle of the front wheel.

          The fire is most intense just behind the front wheel, right where debris would kick up and puncture the battery.

          1. James says:

            This isn’t the first severe frontal impact accident in a Model S. TJ1
            seems to have an agenda. With very little information, and certainly
            not enough to make these broad assertions, nobody here should be
            making bold claims as if they know what the situation was.

            With this culture of “get it out while it’s fresh!” news. There is really no news cycle anymore – it’s grab-it-post-it before others do. It’s probably the only thing about this website, which is only doing what many others do – that makes my eyes roll once-in-awhile. The information surrounding this event will be clarified and discussed once all investigations and conclusions are made.

            Sheesh! For all we know the “large metal object” could’ve been a
            gas tank! So everyone chill out and watch for ANTI-EV TROLLS.
            Esp. ones who’ve never showed up here before.

            Look to the fatal frontal crash only months ago of a Model S and
            a Honda Accord. The Accord was demolished and had one fatality, and the Model S driver had a frontal crush zone do what it’s designed to do, and walked away unscathed. The car wouldn’t have the highest safety ratings from unbiased testers if this weren’t
            the case.

    3. Steven says:

      FOX: “And this just in, a Teesa Deathtrap in the middle of the street, on fire, all by itself… See folks, Electro-onic cars are DANGEROUS!!!!!”

  3. Carl says:

    Of course, no ICE vehicles caught on fire the day this happened.

    1. Eric Loveday says:

      I hear that roughly 500 ICE caught fire today.

      1. TJ1 says:

        There’s nothing to see here….move along. LOL

    2. scott moore says:

      If an ICE car goes up in flames, does it become an ECE?

      1. kdawg says:

        If an ICE car goes up in flames, and Fox News doesn’t report it, did it really happen?

  4. James says:

    The lessons here are twofold:

    a) If you drive a Tesla and get in a wreck, there’s a pretty good chance you will walk away.
    b) Filming a video in the vertical position looks funny.

    Don’t worry too much about FOX, as they are busy shoring up the flagging House. Unless the car has an Obamacare badge on it, they don’t have time.

    1. TJ1 says:

      Lesson c) hitting road debris may engulf your Tesla in flames

      1. Foo says:

        And lesson d) people like to jump to conclusions without facts.

        We have no idea what happened yet. There may be a defect with the Model S, or it may have well been a gas can in the middle of the road that fell out the back of some good ol’ boy’s pick-up and ANY car could have been engulfed in flames upon hitting it.

  5. Nelson says:

    “large metallic object”???
    Was the object on the ground?
    Was it an object sticking out the back of another vehicle?
    Sounds like the driver is not being straightforward.
    Looks like we need to see footage of the camera on the traffic pole.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

    1. Tesla Fan says:

      you do realize there are people that own both volts and teslas right? what are you doing, stop

    2. TJ1 says:

      Tesla hits metal debris on highway

      Metal debris tears into underside of Tesla

      Driver smells smoke and pulls off highway

      Tesla then engulfed in fire

      Fire department arrives quickly and extinguishes fire

      Fire starts again

      Fire department puts it out again

      Fire starts again…..

  6. Spec says:

    For reference:
    In 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an average of 480 civilian deaths, 1,525 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage annually.

    http://www.nfpa.org/research/statistical-reports/vehicles/vehicle-fire-trends-and-patterns

    1. kdawg says:

      So 287,000/365 means 786 cars fires today.

  7. Assaf says:

    “Oh, that’s a Tesla dude!”

    I heard this happened on Highway 167 south of Seattle.

    That explains the weather – we’ve already gone dark… early for this year.

    Personally I’d rather know about these incidents. I trust that Tesla is a safe car, but this being a new technology (and driving a Leaf with my family on a regular basis) I prefer knowing more not less about fires and what might cause them.

    1. Nelson says:

      The phone number on the truck that drives by would imply it is Seattle.
      206-255-4385

      NPNS!
      Volt#671

  8. John F says:

    There appears to be some liquid burning on the road. That metallic object on the road may have been a can of fuel or paint thinner or something similar. Also, the front tires may have been set on fire. Black smoke would usually be from a fuel or tire fire. When the investigation is finished, my guess it will show a fire from a fuel can setting the front of the Tesla on fire.

    1. TJ1 says:

      Lol, yeah right

      1. Assaf says:

        Meanwhile we don’t need Fox – Wall Street picked it up directly, TSLA went down a couple of % more, and it’s featured on the front page of CNN Money 😉

        Investigation? Who needs that?

        1. PamZ says:

          USA Today headline “Tesla stock burned by fire video, stock downgrade”

          A stock analyst also downgraded the stock today, even before the fire was reported.

      2. James says:

        TJ1 – I’m calling you out.

        Who are you?

        What is your beef with electric cars?

        You are not being forthwith about your agenda here. I meet tons of folks like
        you every day as an EV advocate. They either get their “facts” from politicians whose campaigns are largely funded by oil companies, or they are just
        plain uninformed, unitiated people who are misguided and believe whatever
        they hear.

        Some folks who go to EV sites to argue are really folks who have true vested
        interests in keeping the status quo. Believe me, the ICE automotive industry is
        a very profitable one for very many. With over 400 parts in the average ICE engine and many more related parts only needed with a gas burning machine –
        the aftermarket/replacement parts industry alone is a many billions $$$ proposition. People who work for Delphi, Motorcraft, you-name-it parts companies
        are seriously starting to fear EVs will prevail. Cars like Model S and Volt
        literally scare them. Add the energy industry and all the folks involved in exploring, extracting, shipping and refining oil and you can count many tens
        of thousands who want EVs gone.

        When somebody gets on a rant on an EV website without ANY data, or ANY
        factual information to dual with – I just sigh and realize someday, that guy or gal
        will most likely be plugging in their chosen transportation device and just
        accept that it’s the best plausible, possible route to a free, energy-independent
        and clean-air society.

        TJ1 is most likely one of those fellows who still bellows the mantra that
        EVs are “coal-powered cars” and forgets to investigate just how much energy
        it takes to get refined gasoline from unfriendly distant lands – refined and
        shipped to your local gasoline station. He’s most likely one who believes anyone
        who drives a hybrid, PHEV or EV is an environmentalist who believes in global
        warming. He probably also make a whole lot of other assumptions that have
        no basis in truth. It’s a fact – these guys are the majority still – and only time
        will either 1) pass them by; 2) Humble them into doing some old-fashioned
        learning.

        1. Aaron says:

          He’s just a troll. Nothing to see here. Move along.

    2. Suprise Cat says:

      Isn’t the frunk paneling of plastic or some synthetic material? And the front bumper? Looks very like just molten plastic burning on the street, because it’s not flowing away even the part of the street isn’t plane.

  9. jaded says:

    someone couldn’t make the payments and needed to bail out

  10. PamZ says:

    “The driver told authorities he began to smell something burning and then the vehicle caught fire. ”

    “Firefighters needed several attempts to extinguish the flames because the blaze kept reigniting,”

    I wonder what kept feeding the fire?

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      Usuaully Li-ion will feed itself during a thermal runaway event…

      Also, Aluminum will burn too under high temperture. The oxygen generated by the Li-ion cells during the fire doesn’t help.

      Tesla choose to use one of those most energy dense battery pack. Compared to the Leaf and Volt, the cell energy density is almost 2x. Its thermal runaway speed is also about 10x or more in degree/min.

      But I thought Tesla did a special packing job to avoid the thermal runaway in order to make it safer. By using a smaller format, it will also slow down the thermal runaway in case there is a short or overloading condition….

      I will be curious to see the true root cause of this event.

      The TSLA is certainly taking a hit on share price….

      1. TJ1 says:

        The Leaf has been out for years and sold many multiples more than the Model S yet I haven’t heard of any fires in the Leaf. The Tesla’s battery is more precariously located than the Leaf battery.

        1. drivin98 says:

          More precariously…what?
          They are both in the same place, in the floor beneath the passenger compartment.

          1. ModernMarvelFan says:

            I don’t think any of the plugin battery is at risk here.

            None of them is as flammable as gasoline.

          2. TJ1 says:

            The Tesla battery is much lower to the road than the Leaf.

            1. Aaron says:

              Much? LEAF ground clearance: 6.3 inches. Tesla ground clearance: 6.1 inches.

              Go away, troll.

          3. io says:

            Not quite. The Model S’ battery extends quite a bit further front (it goes pretty much axle to axle), sits lower, and remains directly exposed underneath the vehicle to allow for swapping.

            By contrast, the Leaf’s pack starts much further back, underneath the seats, and is at least somewhat protected by under-body panels (this also buys another couple cm / an inch or two of clearance).
            http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?p=91580

        2. ModernMarvelFan says:

          But among the top selling plugins (Volt, Leaf, Tesla), only the Leaf is 4-star rated in overall NHTSA’s crash rating…

          1. io says:

            …yet only the Leaf has never caught fire.

            And btw, even though it’s completely unrelated and irrelevant to this discussion, most are rated 5-star http://www.cars.com/nissan/leaf/2012/safety-ratings

            1. Tesla Fan says:

              lol at you praising the ugly leaf

            2. Nate says:

              It is no longer rated 5 stars:
              http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Vehicle-Detail?vehicleId=7286

              ..it looks like it is rated 4 stars across the board. Maybe that is because the tests got tougher or the car changed for the worse. Regardless, unless you expect sales to dwindle to nothing its a matter of months before there 2012 and earlier sales < 2013+, so most will be 4 star rated.

                1. Nate says:

                  My reply to IO was to his outdated 2012 NHTSA results. NHTSA now ranks the 2013 leaf as:

                  -4 star frontal
                  -4 star side
                  -4 star rollover
                  -4 star overall

                  Looks like your link is for a 2012 model as well. Thanks for the outdated information.

                  http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Vehicle-Detail?vehicleId=7286

            3. ModernMarvelFan says:

              It is NOW 4-star rated b/c it only got a 3 star on side impact and front impact test for smaller occupants….

              Nuff said there..

              Sure, you might NOT “burn” in a Leaf, you just die….

              And Leaf is the only one degrading in the AZ heat…..

              1. io says:

                Huh?! Are you now suggesting that a person driving a 2013 Leaf over the same road debris would have been killed?
                And you drew this conclusion from, what… side impact rating for the rear seats, and battery degradation affecting another model year in another state??

                Er… I hope you understand if I tell you I’m not quite convinced yet.

                Your continuous, irrational animosity against anything different than your personal preferences (GM first, Tesla next) really affect your judgment and ability to articulate a sensible argument, you know…

        3. George B says:

          The LEAF uses a more benign battery chemistry. That said, we don’t know what caused this fire. It might not have been the battery.

  11. Turboro says:

    Than now some time for good news from Germany where the ADAC (German Automobile Club) gave the Tesla S the highest rating ever for upper class cars:
    http://translate.google.ch/translate?hl=de&sl=de&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailygreen.de%2F2013%2F10%2F01%2Fadac-ecotest-elektroauto-tesla-model-s-erhalt-funf-sterne-48713.html&anno=2

  12. Tesla Fan says:

    best car ever

    1. TJ1 says:

      So advanced it even has a built in BBQ !

      1. Richard Joash Tan says:

        AND YOU ARE A BULLS**T!!!!!

        MOD EDIT: One of these on a thread is plenty Richard

      2. MDEV says:

        Go and buy your guns toothless Tea Party.

  13. Ed says:

    How did the video guy know the car was brand new, before even looking at it. “Oh, it’s a Tesla, dude.”
    Really, dude?

  14. Foo says:

    It’s clear the battery (under the cabin) was NOT on fire here, NOR the motor (in the back). But, you can be somebody, unaware of how the car is configured, is going to report that a fire occurred “in the electric engine compartment” of a Model S.

    I’m betting either that,
    1) the item run over was flammable or
    2) the item run over got stuck in the wheel well and eventually ignited from friction with the wheels (because the driver, possibly having more money than brains) just kept on driving.

    In either case, there was probably nothing wrong with the Model S.

  15. Bill Howland says:

    Well lets see….

    The Heater and or AC compressor needs 400 volt lines to it. Perhaps they shorted these and the resultant arc caught the power steering/brake fluid on fire.

    Whether the front of the battery ignited is hard to tell at this point.

    So its interesting… The battery in my Roadster is more well protected, but yet the Lotus body on which it is based will fall apart when hit.

    So even though the “S’ battery is much more out in the open than the Roadster, it is, in most cases it seems actually very safe most of the time.

    Its interesting to compare this to the Volt crash that rolled over a few times, the insurance adjuster said they hadn’t ever seen a car so badly mangled without a fatality, and the driver walked away. With one very greatful father.

    1. TJ1 says:

      Yes, the Model S battery seems very vulnerable. The design is that way due to the quick change battery. That might be good from that perspective, but not from a protection perspective.

    2. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “Its interesting to compare this to the Volt crash that rolled over a few times, the insurance adjuster said they hadn’t ever seen a car so badly mangled without a fatality, and the driver walked away. With one very greatful father.”

      Really? Do you have link on that story? I would like to show it to my wife so she will be more confident about our Volt….

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          Thank you very much!.

  16. Independent Observer says:

    ….:It was extinguished on-site by the fire department.” I am glad it was extinguished on-site and that they did not load it on a flatbed to extinguish it at another location. That may have turned out badly.

  17. Rick says:

    Why people do care about Faux news? They broadcast for the toothless masses and theocratics. They hate Tesla because is made in the USA and the Goverment give tax incentives than belong to Oil, agriculture subsides and banks.

    1. Steve T says:

      Wow, wow, wow….I just checked the Fox News website. For all the hate spewed here, I just had to check for myself……guess what?????? No word of this on the main page. Where did all of this hate come from? Was all of this hate just manufactured, assuming that Fox would run the story, or did I miss this story on Fox News?

      Glass houses people, glass houses…..

  18. Investigator! says:

    I think that’s a SET-UP, first
    _ John broader runs out of juice and TOWS the car to get a picture!
    _ the Shorts loose money betting against Tesla & come up with HIT-PIECE journalism
    _ Nothing slows Tesla on the way to $200/share & now…..BURN IT ON VIDEO IN DAYLIGHT!

    Somebody lost more than his shirt SHORTING Tesla, orchestrated this incident …and …surprise surprise,., there is a video from a passerby ( correction…ACCOMPLICE!!!)
    They probably put some flammable thing on the road to pull it off!!!!!!!!!

  19. Bonaire says:

    It was an inside job. 🙂 An A123 sneak attack wanting tesla to consider LiFEPO4 which do not have such thermal runaway.

  20. kdawg says:

    Wonder if the regenerative brakes caught fire.

    Anyone know the exact warning message on the Tesla screen?

    1. Foo says:

      There is no such thing as “regenerative brakes”. The brakes on the Tesla Model S, or any EV, or just normal brakes, like on any other car.

      The phrase “regenerative braking” refers to the electric motor being driven by the forward motion of the car. In this mode, the motor it acts as a generator making current that is used to charge the battery. At the same time, the resulting mechanical resistance slows the car. That’s all regenerative braking is.

      1. kdawg says:

        Jep. Meant to type brakes. Regen happens in the rear. In this pic below you can see not much up front. I’m wondering if a brake locked up and over heated. May have been the burnt rubber smell.

  21. kdawg says:

    So with the government shut down, will there be no NHTSA investigation?

  22. Investigator! says:

    NEW TESLA PLAY – 8 STEPS
    (How to profit from Tesla Stock Trading)

    New Plan:
    1).Buy a TESLA MODEL S
    2).Take out a $100,000 loan,
    3).Buy puts,
    4).Set it on fire,
    5).Release video on YouTube,
    6).Make 10 Times your initial investment
    7).Collect insurance
    8).Call it a day!
    Phew !! that wasn’t hard …….it was pure GENIUS!!!

  23. TJ1 says:

    The latest statements from the Fire Department indicate the battery was on fire. They had to take special measures to extinguish the battery fire.

    Not good news for Tesla.

    Hitting road debris should not result in a nasty Lithium Ion fire.

    The driver was smart enough to jump ship when he smelled smoke. Lucky the Fire Department was right down the street.

    1. Tesla Fan says:

      not true

  24. TJ1 says:

    MOD EDIT: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED, PLEASE SEE BELOW

    1. staff says:

      RE:MOD EDIT — We do not tolerate the use of multiple IDs from one user to reinforce an opinion by making it seem like there are multiple users with the same position, especially in the same thread. W

      All comments made from this occurrence forward have been removed from the site, as we will continue to rigorously defend the integrity of the community here.

      You have been given a 48 hour ban from the website and would ask if you would like to continue to comment here that you respect this policy in the future.

  25. Koz says:

    The most likely scenario is that the TMS or front of the battery pack was damaged by the road debris. The pack is sealed with thick metal plates but the TMS penetrations are from the front to connect the coolant lines to the radiator. This is where the excess heat from a “thermal event” can most easily escape. Not good for the front end of the car but good for the safety of the passengers. There are a lot of EV’s on the road now and it is unrealistic to think these occurrences won’t happen with all makes from time to time. So far they appear to be significantly less frequent, excluding house wiring problem fires. The most truely NEWS worthy story is how relatively infrequently these situations have occurred and how relatively safe plug-ins have been in the real world. This type of story may not be as sensational and it would require a journalist to do some actual work to pull the information together.