NHTSA Issues Legally Enforceable Request to Tesla for ALL Model S Specific Information


The NHTSA has issued a formal, official request to Tesla Motors.

Tesla Model S Under Formal NHTSA Investigation - This Request Relates to 2 US Model S Fires

Tesla Model S Under Formal NHTSA Investigation – This Request Relates to 2 US Model S Fires

The request, which is directly related to the recent Tesla Model S fires, is legally enforceable.  This means that Tesla will have no choice but to honor the NHTSA’s request.

The NHTSA is seeking specific battery and under-body deformation information from Tesla Motors.  Most of this information is not known to any individual outside of Tesla Motors.  Additionally, the NHTSA seeks what amounts to almost everything Tesla has ever done in regards to the Model S’ (memos, notes, design changes, conversations, engineering details and the list goes on and on and on…) battery pack, under-body area and so on.

The NHTSA will use this detailed information as part of its preliminary investigation into the Model S fire/safety.

Tesla Motors has until January 14, 2014 to fulfill the NHTSA’s request.

The automaker has almost no out in this situation.  It either submits all of the documentation or faces daily fines so stiff that it could be hit with up to $35 million in penalties.

The request, in its 9-page entirety, is found below:

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Category: Battery TechTesla

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74 responses to "NHTSA Issues Legally Enforceable Request to Tesla for ALL Model S Specific Information"
  1. EVMD says:

    What about Porsche? any news of NHTSA looking in to it?

    1. Taser54 says:

      Yes because hitting a utility pole while racing = running over road debris.

      1. JakeY says:

        First of all, there was no racing in the Porsche incident according to local reports and speeds were 45mph. Second of all, the second Model S fire involved crashing through two concrete walls and into a tree.

        1. Mark says:

          of course not. the car split in half for no reason.

          1. JakeY says:

            The car crashed but there was no racing involved and the car was going the posted speed limit of 45mph (at least according to NBC).

            1. sven says:

              Racing isn’t required to drive down a public street at speeds that should only be reached on a racetrack. In the following link, Paul Walker openly admits to hitting a speed of 185 MPH on a public highway in the US!!!


              1. JakeY says:

                I’m responding directly in context to Taser54’s comments where he claimed racing was involved. What speeds he had previous gone on a freeway does not tell us what speeds he had gone in this case (a residential area). And according to NBC police sources on the case, it was 40-45mph.

                1. sven says:

                  See my comment below. The NBC story did NOT say at what speed the Porsche was going when the driver lost control. It was going 45 MPH at the start of the curve and lost control “IN THAT VICINITY.” The Porsche Carrera GT goes 0-40 MPH in 2.0 seconds, 0-70 in 4.3, 0-80 in 5.1, 0-90 in 6.3, and 0-100 in 7.3. So accelerating from 40 to 70 MPH takes just 2.3 seconds!

                  FYI, Paul Walker wasn’t driving, his friend was. His friend was driving like he was in a Fast and Furious Movie.


        2. sven says:

          “. . . speeds were 45mph.”

          Put down the crack pipe. The Tesla fan boy is strong in this one, it is.

          45mph? The Porsche wasn’t made out of paper machete. The Porsche completely took out a light post then wrapped itself around a tree and practically knocked the tree over.

          1. JakeY says:

            That’s what NBC says, not me:

            There was a lot of speculation over at Jalopnik about how it’s not possible for the crash to be 45mph, but people pointed out the carbon fiber construction (which does not break down in the same way as a typical steel car), that the car had been on fire (which makes actual crash damage harder to judge). Many people also pointed there had been a similar accident where a car was split in half and everyone speculated it was going over 100mph, but when the video came out clearly looked like it was going half that.

            1. sven says:

              Reading comprehension is not your forte. The NBC story did NOT say the Porsche was going 45 MPH when it lost control and crashed. It was going 45 MPH at the start of the curve and lost control “IN THAT VICINITY.” Nowhere does it say at what speed it was traveling at the point in the curve where the driver lost control.

              This is what the NBC story actually said: “The Porsche . . . was traveling at approximately 40 to 45 mph WHEN IT CAME TO A BEND IN THE ROAD where the speed limit drops to about 15 mph . . . . IT WAS IN THAT VICINITY where the driver, Roger Rodas, apparently lost control of the vehicle, ending in the fiery solo accident, the source said.” (Emphasis added.)
              “. . . speed may have been a factor, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office said. The car knocked over a tree and a concrete lamppost.”

              A Porsche Carrera GT can go from 50 to 75 MPH (80 to 120 km/h) in scant 4.0 seconds. The Porsche could have easily accelerated to 75 MPH from the start of the curve to where it lost control and crashed.


              1. sven says:

                Actually the Wikipedia 4.3 second 50 to 70 MPH acceleration time for the Porsche Carrera GT seemed slow. I checked and Wikipedia was wrong. These are the acceleration times according to Motor Trend:

                0-40 MPH in 2.0 seconds
                0-70 MPH in 4.3 seconds
                0-80 MPH in 5.1 seconds
                0-90 MPH in 6.3 seconds
                0-100 MPH in 7.3 seconds


                Using the above acceleration figures above,I came up with the following figures:

                40-70 MPH in 2.3 seconds
                40-80 MPH in 3.1 seconds
                40-90 MPH in 4.3 seconds
                40-100 MPH in 5.3 seconds

              2. JakeY says:

                Now you are stretching. It’s pretty clear to me that “in that vicinity” refers to the location, not the car! The article writer on Jalopnik has the same interpretation as me: “NBC News reports that the Carrera GT was traveling 40 to 45 mph when it came to a bend in the road where the speed limit drops to about 15 mph. That’s where Rodas apparently lost control of the car, sources told the news network.”

                The fact remains is that the only reference to speed is 40-45 mph. If there is evidence of higher speeds, I don’t see why it won’t be mentioned.

                1. sven says:

                  Of course “in the vicinity” refers to location, the location were the driver lost control of the car, which is different than the location were the bend in the road starts and the Porsche was allegedly traveling at 45 MPH. Maybe you should look up the definition of vicinity.

                  No, you’re the one who’s “stretching” by quoting a blogger on Jalopnik to bolster your argument! Jalopnik is not exactly the epitome of journalism.

                  Likewise, the main-stream media including NBC often gets the news story and the facts wrong. Just watch most any main-stream media story about EVs reported on by clueless reporters.

                  Look at the picture in the following post on TMZ. It shows the beginning of the bend in the road and the crash site is down road and out of site, yet still in the vicinity. On a side note, hitting those numerous reflectors protruding from the roadway at high speed could very easily cause the Porsche to lose traction and crash.


                  Finally, look at the pictures of the wreck. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. It’s impossible do that much damage by crashing at only 40 to 45 MPH! The law of physics apply to everyone.

        3. MrEnergyCzar says:

          It was going 45 mph after it stopped….

      2. JakeY says:

        Forgot to mention, in all cases for the Model S the people walked from the accidents.

    2. David says:

      Because clearly, if one Porsche out of 250,000,000 vehicles on the road has a fire thats exactly the same issue as two fires out of 18,000 Teslas.

      1. JakeY says:

        They well made less than 2000 of the Carrera GTs that crashed. And there’s been multiple quotes of famed racing drivers who said the car was dangerous.

      2. Marcus says:

        Read the black swan or fooled by randomness. Rare even odds are never about the probability, but the consequence. I got rear ended by some teen in a 2001 Jeep. I walked away, sans 30k damage, and the teen got arrested.

      3. Brian H says:

        Many more Porsches have burned, just not in the news because of celebrity fatalities. Get real

  2. Christian says:

    So stupid. The automotive lobby in US fears Tesla, so now Tesla has to disclose their engineering secrets to NHTSA, which means, no more secrets.

    I think this is a good example of the not existing proportionality in US, sorry. Interesting that the German KBA made their point faster and without any additional informations.

    I have no doubt that this procedure is pushed by lobbying or corruption.

    1. Anin says:

      Yup. Clearly this is a highly political issue. On the other hand, asking for additional information during an investigstion *IS* pretty normal.

      No big deal for Tesla. 🙂

      1. Christian says:

        I hope that this won’t have negative influence of the development of Tesla, in terms of engineering advantages.

        On the other side, I think the biggest barrier for the other to succeed are their attitude. All the engineering working on powertrain issues face a dark future. So it will be very hard for companies like GM to change thinking and competence.

        I very sure that Tesla will have a bright future and I hope our German manufacterers will be ready for Tesla X and E.

    2. Marcus says:

      Welcome to our dsytopian present. Trains don’t run, when they run, they derail.
      We leave our friends confused and our enemies grow stronger. We have our oil and gas from fracking, but dirty water. We attempt to kill our hopes, bring down our hero’s, only after we allow them to tease of a better future.

      1. Alan says:

        Atlas dose shrug…it seems.

    3. Brian H says:

      “disclose their engineering secrets to NHTSA, which means, no more secrets.”
      Silly. Do you think NHTSA files are open to the competition?

    4. sven says:

      What engineering secrets are you talking about? Are you referring to Tesla using quarter-inch thick soft aluminum for the bottom of its battery case instead of harder high-strength steel?

      1. Mint says:

        First of all, we don’t know what kind of alloy Tesla is using, so it’s presumptuous for you to call it soft.
        It most certainly is not pure aluminum, because that’s very cost ineffective.

        Most cars use 18 gauge steel for floorboards, which is about 1/16th of an inch. For a plate, displacement is proportional to F/ET^3, where F is the applied force, E is Young’s modulus, and T is thickness, so 1/4″ will be orders of magnitude stiffer. Maximum stress under a bending moment will bring the thickness factor down to T^2, but that’s still a factor of 16. Even if the alloy Tesla is using is 3x softer than typical automotive steel, it will take 5x the force to puncture this “soft” aluminum plate than the steel protecting everyone’s feet from road debris in regular cars, and there’s another plate on the other side, too.

        For I-beams and tubes,1kg of steel can be as strong as 1kg of aluminum, and possibly stronger. For plates and sheets, however, steel doesn’t stand a chance on a lb-for-lb basis.

        1. sven says:

          “Most cars use 18 gauge steel for floorboards, which is about 1/16th of an inch.”

          I said Tesla should have used high strength steel, not the mild steel used in floorboards in most cars. Also, I never said Tesla should use thin 18 gauge (1/16″) steel. In fact, I didn’t say how thick the high strength steel should be. A quarter inch thick 1.2 GPa ultra high strength steel plate at the bottom of the battery case would be exponentially harder, stronger, and more puncture resistant than the quarter inch thick aluminum or aluminum alloy plate that Tesla uses on the Model S battery pack. But a steel plate this thick would weigh much more than an aluminum plate. A thinner high steel plate would save weight. It’s a engineering compromise (strength vs. weight) that Tesla has to make to get the right balance of puncture protection and light weight. Plus Tesla must also factor in cost, otherwise Titanium would be the metal of choice: high strength, low weight, but high cost.

          Pound for pound, high strength steel is harder, stronger, and more puncture resistant than aluminum and aluminum alloy. Therefore, the aluminum alloy that Tesla uses in the bottom of its battery pack is softer (not as hard) as high strength steel.

          1. Mint says:

            First of all, there is no justification for Tesla needing exponentially higher puncture resistance for its battery pack than regular cars have in their floorboard.

            Secondly, you’re wrong about high strength steel having higher pound for pound strength than aluminum in this application. Yes, HSS can be stronger per pound in an extruded shape, like I-beams or tubes, if it has equal dimensions (aside from wall thickness).

            But for equal mass in a PLATE, aluminum will be stronger, because it will be ~2.9x thicker and have 24x the second moment of area. That means steel will need 8.4x the yields stress to be stronger than aluminum. There exists no steel alloy with 8x higher yield stress than that of the common 6111 aluminum alloy used for panels.

            This is why aluminum body panels are lighter than steel ones for a given deformation resistance. Spaceframes are a different story.

  3. Alaa says:

    This is a stark proof that the NHTSA has no idea how these batteries are done. I think it is a shame that they are poorly educated and even a bigger shame to ask Tesla to reveal its secrets. The NHTSA is hiding behind its legal position in the country and not backed by educated people who can do this investigation.

    1. b says:


      Tesla is not revealing any secrets. Get off the conspiracy crack pipe. To learn something Google 18 U.S.C. 1905

  4. Bob hodgen says:

    Gas cars are expected to catch fire and burn after a crash. That’s not news. If an EV catches fire, then it’s newsworthy–even if everyone walks away.

  5. Nelson says:

    Looks like someone in the upper echelon of the NHTSA will be getting paid off by an OPEC or oil industry crook.
    Time for the FBI to take a close look at the NHTSA employee’s financial transactions.

    Conspiracy theory? Sure why not the world is full of crooks and criminals, thus the overcrowding conditions in prisons.


    1. kdawg says:

      Where’s Issa LOL

    2. Open-Mind says:

      Your conspiracy theory seem plausible considering the NHTSA is part of the most scandal-ridden executive branch in US history. However, this scandal would be small-potatoes compared to the rest, plus this administration has proven to be mostly untouchable. So probably not worth pursuing.

    3. sven says:

      Conspiracy theory? OPEC paid off the upper echelon of the NHTSA? Oy veh!

      I hope that on Cyber Monday you bought yourself a big supply of tin foil hats! 😉

  6. Jon Hall says:

    Hey, if you guys think it’s ridiculous that Tesla should have to hand over all of it’s proprietary information to an agency that can keep NOTHING a secret, then join me in sending will.godfrey@dot.gov an email or phone call at (202) 366-0139.

  7. Anthony says:

    I don’t have a problem with Tesla having to hand over confidential or proprietary information to government investigators, but it all should be kept confidential. And once the report is issued at the end of the investigation, then all confidential or sensitive information in the possession of the NHTSA should be destroyed. The report and supporting documents (e.g. footnotes/endnotes) should be the only thing left in the government’s files.

    1. b says:

      1) 18 USC 1905 google it

      2) There isn’t anything proprietary in a Tesla Model S that GM, Nissan, Toyota, … doesn’t already know.

  8. Open-Mind says:

    This news sounds mostly negative, yet TSLA is up $18 today. Go figure.

    1. Eric Loveday says:

      Nobody else has posted on this news yet. Tesla is likely up today from that German “news.”

  9. GeorgeS says:

    This so totally pisses me off.

    So Tesla is supposed to jump through hoops and hurry up and give the *ucking Federal government sensitive documents or be held liable??.

    The federal government didn’t have to jump thru any hoops to get the healthcare dot gov website done. They took 3 years and 100 million dollars and still botched it so bad it makes me sick…..but are Obama and Sebelius held accountable. Hell no. If a *uck up this big happened in private industry Obama and Sebelius would be in an unemployment line.

    How could I have been so stupid to think that the feds could find their ass with two hands.

    1. kdawg says:

      George; regarding ACA, watch this video. Double standards for private sector vs. ACA.
      (get’s interesting at 2:15)

      And here’s the opening of the episode talking about the website up & running now.

    2. CSS says:

      Hey, at least now there is an accountability trail! Prior to the Affordable Care Act the health care for Americans consisted of all the different companies that made up the industry- no oversight, no accountability. Who did you rant about and call names when rates went up every year across the board in every area of health care. Or when US citizens were dropped from a program or denied coverage??
      Our country did not choose to join the civilized world and create an actual health care system just for the fun of it. A for-profit system with no checks and balances by it’s very nature will not support the needs of all of our fellow citizens. Love or hate it but we need the ACA :/
      Meanwhile back on topic- why is there an investigation into Tesla S when there hasn’t even been a single fatality like which occurs with ICE vehicle fires every day on average??

      1. GeorgeS says:

        “Who did you rant about and call names when rates went up every year across the board in every area of health care. Or when US citizens were dropped from a program or denied coverage??”

        I have been buying my own insurance from Blue Cross for the last twenty years. What about you? Do you buy your own health insurance? I doubt it. I have every right to rant. As I said I was FOR AHC act. I can’t believe it is possible for something this important to be botched so bad. Heads need to roll……..but Nooooo.

        It makes me furious (is it hard to tell).

        1. kdawg says:

          Check the vid’s I sent, it’s working now. Yes, they should have had a smoother start-up up, but if I had a $ for every private sector website that crashed, I could buy a Tesla. And those private sites weren’t dealing with nearly the traffic the ACA’s site is.

          At this point, I think its just another avenue to try generate news for a certain demographic.

        2. CSS says:

          I hear ya George. Mine’s been covered under each of my companies I’ve worked for. However, I am accutely aware of the impact the cost increases with decreasing coverage has had on the companies and myself.
          Sadly you are right about the botch up and the fact that no real consequenses will come to anyone as a result. Although far worse gov screw ups have occured with the same nill outcome- ugh!!
          An important question is will the ACA system be made functional enough and in short enough time.?
          Meanwhile with Tesla… I’m still wondering why an investigation for only two incidents neither of which even resulted in a fire related injury??? With other investigations don’t we hear of a good number of cases occuring before they step in i.e. sudden unexpected acceleration, rear end explosions and the like??
          Agreeing with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison I stongly feel that EV’s are the best thing for us as citizens of the America and the planet. The thought of this being a witch hunt to delay the inevitable acceptance of EV’s is upsetting too.

        3. JakeY says:

          Well I don’t know whose fault it really is for ACA’s current state, but I do know the Republicans are doing everything in their power to make sure it fails (or give the impression it has).

          Personally, I think true universal healthcare would be single payer (not the half-hearted effort right now), but that did not pass.

          1. kdawg says:

            I’m for single payer too. Have you seen the salaries hospital administrators make.. ridiculous. Capitalism at it’s finest, and when someone is sick.. they aren’t going to bargain shop. They have you between a rock and a hard place.

            It still doesn’t make sense to me why the GOP isn’t a fan of the ACA, now that it forces people who previously paid no $ for healthcare to pay into the system for the free services they were getting.

            1. Mint says:

              One thing conservatives ignore with their blind faith behind free markets is that you need customers to make informed decisions for them to be efficient.

              Most of the time, that’s a given, i.e. “the customer is always right”. If people like how a TV looks and can get it for a good price, then markets work to efficiently serve that purpose.

              The problem with healthcare is that it takes 10 years of study *after high school graduation* to evaluate the product you’re receiving. The private sector is rewarded for making you *feel* like you’re taken care of with excessive tests and drugs, expensive procedures, nice-looking offices, etc. It has little incentive to care about outcomes or cost.

              For this reason, it’s one of the few areas of the economy where single payer makes tons of sense.

          2. CSS says:

            Agreed on both points Jake.
            As George Washington pointed out a long time ago about the two party system, it inherently cannot provide the most efficient means of bettering our country as whole. Each party as a majority will be working towards what is best for them which may not always be what is best for our country. Today’s situation represents a perfect example.
            Yes, single payer would have been the best outcome but impossible in the current political (and massive corporate influences) climate.

        4. Mark H says:

          George, tell us what you really think. lol I hear ya though. Been buying my own BCBS for about 10 years and I have rung the $10,000 deductible bell twice. I generally agree with Elon’s handling of the media when others do not, but I think he might have pushed unnecessary buttons here. Still it does have to make you a bit mad.

      2. Alan says:

        The rising health care cost was Because of a compromised and monopolized free enterprise system…thanks(for the most part) to Democratic legislation. The rise in Medicare cost and its constant bail-outs are going to be small in comparison to the cost and loss of individual rights the “Affordable Health Care act” will inflict on the middle class of America.Your two-faced complaining about the NHTSA is a contradiction and intellectually dishonest when you champion for bigger,more intrusive Government bureaucracy’s. Your will-full ignorance concerning economics is sad,and you should remember these predictions when you are praying to your God of Centralized Government and its disciples like the NHTSA.

        1. Open-Mind says:

          Well said!!

          On the bright side, soon Republicans will be back in control, then they can use the IRS and ACA to deny healthcare to all registered democrat voters.

          1. GeorgeS says:

            well said?
            I have no idea what he said.

            1. GeorgeS says:

              @ Alan,
              do you buy your owm health insurance?
              How much do you pay for it?
              I suspect you are just running off at the mouth.

              WTF does:
              “The rising health care cost was Because of a compromised and monopolized free enterprise system”
              that’s a very profound and totally generalized statement LOL

              1. Open-Mind says:

                Let’s see…

                “The rising health care cost was Because of a compromised and monopolized free enterprise system”

                Monopolized because health insurance companies cannot compete across state lines. And often health insurance is tied to your employer, also reducing competition.

                Compromised because the medical industry is mostly controlled by politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats instead of doctors and other medical professionals. The latter have become the work-horses of a corrupt crony system that makes it very risky and difficult to run a private practice.


                The ACA only makes these and other core problems worse.

    3. b says:

      So its ok for their existence to be paid for by the federal government, but not for the NHTSA to investigate fires?

  10. vdiv says:

    Sounds like a fishing expedition to me. Too bad the taxpayer is footing the bill. The National HIGHWAY Transportation Safety Administration should be investigating the safety of the national highways and enforcing safety regulations on those as they impact everyone.

    Structurally deficient bridges anyone?

    It is in Tesla’s interest to have this over with as soon as possible, yet they are going to be dragged through the mud now for months.

    1. CherylG says:

      A fishing expedition? Hardly. The request is very specific and is centered around the “alleged defect”.

      Why did Tesla “invite” NHTSA to conduct the investigation if they weren’t going to hand over relevant information?

      1. sven says:

        Good point about Tesla “inviting” NHTSA! The indignity exhibited by Tesla fan boys in this thread to NHTSA’s request for relevant information is quite humorous. What were they expecting, a whitewash?

        1. Priusmaniac says:

          On the other hand what is the meaning of requesting articles, opinions, news articles?
          By the way, will they request all insideevs comments as well?
          This seems to be way out in the sky and disproportionate.
          In a sense, this makes it less worrisome because obviously exaggerated.

          1. CherylG says:

            That is normal boilerplate information requested. The letter posted above is a typical form-type letter that is modified for each investigation.

  11. FastCharge says:

    Has anyone looked into if this a common type request to auto manufactures? If they ask Ford, GM, etc to provide this level of detail than it is hard to complain. If this is a new level of documentation than we should be emailing/calling the DOT.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Usually, there is a lot of generic/common verbage and terminology used from the NHTSA to OEMs, but given the nature of the request in regards to the HV battery and other BEV systems – which have probably never been formally investigated by the NHTSA as past precedent, there is quite likely a lot more unique requests being sent out for the first time.

  12. The Truth says:

    And so the TSLA hype bubble deflates just a little bit more…

    The Q for serious investors has always been how to play the inevitable pop.

    1. Anon says:

      You sound a lot like “CherylG” …

    2. GeorgeS says:

      Oh wow.

      So maybe you can enlighten us.

      I love listening to children talk about how much money they will make playing the stock market.

      “how to play the inevitable pop”

      Spoken like a pro. LOL

    3. CS says:

      Funny TT Troll! (which I am about to feed- sorry)
      By their very nature “investors” are in it for the long haul. Tesla has one model car out to the public. So far it has received the highest Consumers Report rating, highest safety rating and now the highest customer satisfaction rating. Of all auto-manufacturers…on Tesla’s first full car.
      Two years from today any owner of one will be able to drive non-stop all over the entire US of freakN A….for free…till they or the car completely expire.
      Personal vehicular transportation is being stood on its head by Tesla and ” serious investors” aren’t selling TSLA now because they realize that.
      Have a nice day.

  13. CherylG says:

    People seem to forget that Musk told us it was Tesla who requested this investigation.

    NHTSA is doing this investigation at the personal request of Tesla.

  14. Steven says:

    I wonder where Ralph Nader is weighing in on this… After all, he does have some history on the topic.

  15. CherylG says:

    Hopefully we will finally get to see the formal request Tesla made inviting NHTSA to conduct this investigation.

    1. sven says:

      I sincerely hope Elon Musk’s Twitter post isn’t Tesla’s formal request. Elon likes to play fast and loose with the facts. That would just make Tesla look bad in the eyes of the public.