NTSB Sending Specialist To Oversee Tesla Model S Fire Investigation


The National Transportation Safety Board will have an expert on hand while Tesla investigates the Model S that recently caught fire while in traffic in Santa Monica, California.

This is one of few times that a Tesla vehicle has caught fire with no obvious indication that there was an accident or damage to the vehicle. Actress Mary McCormick’s husband was driving the Model S when it began to smoke. A couple had to alert him that the car was on fire, at which time he safely exited the vehicle.

Spokesman Peter Knudson from the NTSB made it clear that this is not a formal investigation into the situation. The NTSB will simply be a participant in Tesla’s examination of the vehicle. However, the organization is taking the opportunity to see if it can learn more about battery-powered vehicle fires. Meanwhile, the NTSB is already investigating three Tesla vehicles fires, all of which were the result of a collision.

As Tesla has said on numerous occasions, these fires are not common in its vehicles. The automaker had some early problems related to battery pack punctures, but has since added a titanium underbody shield to protect the pack. Such fires that start without a collision are even more rare.

Nonetheless, as the public is just beginning to adopt electric vehicles and Tesla is a major focal point in the industry, all eyes are on these situations. Although there are hundreds of thousands of vehicle fires every day, media attention tends to gravitate toward electric car fires, and more specifically, Tesla fires.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly asserted that his company’s vehicles are safer than gasoline cars in multiple ways. He also insists that Tesla vehicles are, by far, the safest vehicles on the road. According to FutureCar:

Tesla claims that gasoline powered cars are about 11 times more likely to catch fire than a Tesla. It says the best comparison is fires per 1 billion miles driven. Tesla says its 300,000 vehicles on the road have driven a total of 7.5 billion miles, and only about 40 fires have been reported. This works out to five fires for every billion miles traveled, compared to a rate of 55 fires per billion miles traveled in gasoline-powered cars.

Source: FutureCar

Categories: Tesla

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18 Comments on "NTSB Sending Specialist To Oversee Tesla Model S Fire Investigation"

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How scary

Electric Car-B-Q

Glad everyone is okay.

Lucky the car in front didn’t catch fire.

Yes, this is one fire that really needs to be investigated. Was there a manufacturing flaw, or design flaw, possible outside damage? Thats a pretty important question to answer.

Who would downvote David’s reasonable comment?
Well, I already know, but seriously, wtf.

On that question, I would agree.
1st, was it really spontaneous, or was something driven over that flipped up under the cars battery and punctured the 1/4″ thick bottom plate?

2nd, how was it flaring out at both sides, since, internally, modules are separated?

This is a very interesting fire, made more so by the driver reporting that he had no warning message, and had to be notified by other motorists. With the fire shooting like a torch out the drivers side, escaping might have been scary.

I am pretty sure it was Steven…. haha! Just kidding… If I worried about up or down votes, I certainly would not be posting in here. I have a little thicker skin then that. :)~

I’m on the back end of the comments, in the moderation section. This means I don’t get to see the votes and I can’t vote. That’s why you’ll occasionally see me still type “+1.” I rarely see the site from the front end, unless there’s a problem.

Very good, and I hope both sides cooperate and are open to sharing their findings. Experienced and knowledgeable investigators pooling their expertise to uncover the root cause will be of benefit to all. OTOH, if there is a difference in the technical conclusions, there should be room for airing those differences without acrimony. This is not an area for amateur speculation and we should all shut up until the job is done.

Good! These fires don’t happen often but if there’s something for Tesla to improve on they should. Keep investing.

This is quite humorous: “As Tesla has said on numerous occasions, these fires are not common in its vehicles.”

They aren’t at all common. They just happen to get the most press coverage. Tesla fan or not, the facts say that there have been a handful of fires in 300,000 vehicles over the course of some 7.5 BILLION miles. The U.S. alone sees nearly 200,000 car fires a year and almost every last one of them is an ICE car (which makes sense since most cars on the road are ICE cars). Statistically, for every billion miles traveled, there would be 55 ICE car fires and ~5 Tesla car fires. So, I think that warrants a NOT COMMON designation. Nonetheless, there’s an underlying issue that caused the Tesla to start on fire with no signs of a crash or damage, and this needs to be addressed ASAP.

This one needs to be thoroughly investigated, as the circumstances are very different then the other Tesla fires.

Yes for sure. We need to know what caused this.

I would expect ICE cars to catch fire periodically since they run flammable gasoline through their veins and create sparks to explode the gasoline in high pressure cylinders n their super hot engines and channel the hot exhaust out the tailpipe suspiciously right pass the flammable gasoline storage tank!

I don’t expect a battery operated vehicle to ever catch fire which is why this is news.

Can we stop this ridiculous comparison to ICE cars and focus on what is causing Tesla’s to repeatedly burst into flames for no apparent reason?

Well this seemed to be one of the more moderate ‘contained’ Tesla fires.. Usually there are flashes of light from the passenger seat and explosions and projectiles, along with the occasional good bang. This one seemed somewhat borderline out of control due to intermittent flaring visible from the wheel well, but then a leftward directed ‘JET’ away from the driver’s seat. Those nearby the car were probably wondering if this thing was going to stay ‘behaved’ or avalanche out of control – at least that would be my reaction.

Occasionally even Panasonic manufacturers a few bad cells. The flaw does not reveal itself until multiple cycles occur. About a third of 18650 cells with such a defect will undergo thermal runaway. One cell undergoing thermal runaway is enough to ignite adjacent cells.

It is good they are investigating, if there is anything that can be done to stop ANY car fire from any car maker is good.

With that said, if they’ve got Specialists to send around, there are tons of ICE car fires every day that never make the press that could use some expertise too…….

The average age of a private vehicle in the US is over 12 years, with the bulk being betweek 11 and 20 years old. You can’t compare incident rates for vehicles that are mostly old, out of warranty, and questionably maintained with new luxury vehicles that are still in warranty and regularly maintained, no matter WHAT the fuel source.