When the latest wave of electric cars started showing up on the streets about a decade ago, there was a lot of speculation and concern about the safety of the battery packs. However, now that we have records from a decade of EVs on the roads, the data seems to be demonstrating that EVs do not pose a greater fire risk than ICE vehicles, and may actually even be safer.
In the video above Bjorn Nyland looks into the case of a Tesla Model S that caught fire and burned while parked, yet the battery pack remained intact. The owner believes arson may have been at play, as it does appear as if the fire started inside the passenger cabin.
Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, has on many occasions touted that Tesla's are far less likely to have a fire than fossil-fuel-burning vehicles, and Tesla's website also makes that claim.
From Tesla's website:
From 2012 – 2019, there has been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 175 million miles traveled. By comparison, data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation shows that in the United States there is a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles traveled.
In order to provide an apt comparison to NFPA data, Tesla’s data set includes instances of vehicle fires caused by structure fires, arson, and other things unrelated to the vehicle, which account for some of the Tesla vehicle fires over this time period.
The interesting thing that Bjorn points out in the video is that although the vehicle is severely burned, the fire didn't ignite the battery pack. Bjorn notes that he suspects that part of the reason the battery pack was spared was that it's under the vehicle and the majority of flames were above that point.
Still, it seems to be a testament to Tesla's engineering that the pack didn't catch fire under what must have been intensely hot conditions. The aluminum literally melted away from the body and the melting point for aluminum is over 1,200° F.
Bjorn even suggests that Rich Rebuilds may be interested in picking up the pack and using it for one of his projects. I don't pretend to be an engineer or a battery expert, but I'd be surprised if the battery wasn't damaged by the extreme heat. Just because the pack didn't catch fire doesn't mean it wasn't destroyed. I'd be interested in seeing if it were indeed salvageable, but I certainly wouldn't pay anything for it.
Take a look at the video and let us know if you think the battery pack is salvageable. Perhaps one of our readers has experience with batteries and extreme heat and can comment from experience. Let us know in the comment section below.