Tesla Model S Catches Fire While In Motion – Not Caused By Crash

JUN 16 2018 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 94

A crash doesn’t appear to be the cause of this latest Tesla fire.

While driving down the road, this Model S became engulfed in flames. The driver was alerted by other motorists and pulled over to quickly exit the vehicle unharmed.

Tesla says it is already investigating the incident.

The cause is unknown at this time, though the flames do appear to be coming from the front section of the battery pack.

Actress Mary McCormack, who says her husband was behind the wheel of the Model S when it became engulfed in flames, posted this statement on Twitter:

@Tesla This is what happened to my husband and his car today. No accident,out of the blue, in traffic on Santa Monica Blvd. Thank you to the kind couple who flagged him down and told him to pull over. And thank god my three little girls weren’t in the car with him

Additionally, video of the Model S on fire was posted. You can check out that footage below.

Historically, electric car fires are rare, though it does seem Teslas are more prone to this than other electric cars. Part of this may lie in the cell chemistry, which is considered more volatile than what most other automakers employ. The upside is that Tesla batteries are the most energy dense in the electric car segment.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for additional updates.

via Digg

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94 Comments on "Tesla Model S Catches Fire While In Motion – Not Caused By Crash"

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bro1999

Ugh, more fodder for the anti-EV nuts.

eject

Might not be a general EV problem.

scott

Alas, being more prone to thermal runaway is in the nature of the 18650 cell format, combined with the particular cell chemistry that Panasonic employs.

sola

Why do you think the cell format has anything to do with it?

I understand that the chemistry of the cells are more prone to thermal runaway.

unimpressed

It was Tesla who wanted that chemistry, along with removal of any safety buffer limit on the capacity, stop blaming Panasonic.

Xcat

Aren’t you one of them?

bro1999

I own a Bolt and Volt. Want to try again?

Recoil

Yo bro in your constant anti Tesla rants that have gotten you kicked from every major EV board up to and including your own GM forums along with being warned multiple times on this forum.

The fact that Tesla is the defacto face of the ev movement makes your incessant Cheeto ladened basement bashing indistinguishable from all the other anti ev trolls and shorts that want to hurt the ev movement.

Dimitrij

Let’s remind ourselves that this is a discussion forum and not a Stalin’s Party Congress, so we shouldn’t expect everyone to clap in unison and to vote unanimously 🙂

Also, outside of the EV community Tesla is the not really the face of the EV movement. I would think for “outsiders” Tesla is more like a luxury car that happens to have electric propulsion.

Out of curiosity I have googled and bing-ed “electric vehicle” images. On the first page (24 images) there was exactly 1 (one) Tesla and five Nissans. Which is fair, because it was Nissan who introduced the first mass-produced EV, and has sold the largest number of EV’s up to date .

wavelet

With all respect, Tesla is absolutely not the face of the EV movement outside some parts of California. Both the Leaf and i-MiEV (first commercial series-production electric, which everyone forgets for some reason) were planned long before Tesla’s PR influence (which I’m not discounting).
What is a shame (not Tesla’s or Musk’s fault) is that Tesla servers as an excuse to people who think EVs are anything except a small solution to the world’s environmental and energy problems. An EV is a 10% solution via an ICE car. To solve 50%, people need to give up cars for mass transit and/or 2-wheeled vehicles (pedal- or electric). There’s no justification for the vast majority of household to own >1 car.

Pushmi-Pullyu

“I own a Bolt and Volt. Want to try again?”

No, most definitely not. It’s not merely surprising, it’s astonishing to see you to pass up a chance to bash Tesla. Maybe the staff of this website gave you a warning that you were gonna be kicked off the site if you didn’t stop your FUD campaign, just as you have been kicked off the Bolt EV Facebook page?

Bill Howland
That’s a silly comment – especially since YOU never pass up a chance to insult someone – you who never will have an electric car. I forget the commenter who said it, but it is a very valid point that the typical ICE that catches fire which is over 10 years old and generally not worth much money – only 300 people die per year in such unfortunate occurances – whereas if EVERYONE drove a $75,000 2 year old model “S”, there would be around 15,000 deaths. Tesla is deflecting when it says EV’s are safe. THE TRUTH is that EV’s in GENERAL (namely those that are not “S” ‘s) are VERY safe, and Tesla is using companies like GM’s spectacular safety record to obfuscate their increasingly horrid safety record. There is apparently a VERY BIG problem with Quality Control at Tesla, seeing as the MUNRO breakdown of the ‘3’ found some interior panels installed backwards. Now possibly careless assembly of interior panels is not a big deal, but such a mindset does not bode well with their battery pack assembly construction. Its true that there may be some blame to be placed on Panasonic – but unless things have… Read more »
unimpressed

And let’s not forget the not so-auto-Autopilot that already have resulted in deaths.

Bunny

Wonder how this one compares to the one that caught fire in France.

Hopefully Tesla addresses whatever is going on quickly.

whyhateevs

Perhaps ICEs manufacturers, with their statistical 500% higher rate of catching fire, should be addressed first.

Not to mention when ICEs catch fire like this, they tend not to be tiny little fires like this one.

theflew

This shouldn’t be compared to ICE, but other EV’s that seem t catch fire less often. There is a reason the other manufactures use cell with more cobalt and less energy dense.

Pushmi-Pullyu

I most definitely think Tesla cars should be compared to the 98%+ of passenger vehicles on the road which are gasmobiles, rather than the <2% which are plug-in EVs. It's downright Tesla bashing to refuse to give Tesla credit for being about three times safer from the danger of fire than the overwhelming majority of cars on the road!

Also, not only is the rate of fire significantly lower, you are much more likely to be able to escape from a fire in a Tesla car, because battery pack fires take minutes to spread. Gasmobile car fires often spread much, much faster, especially after an accident.

Rasmus Christensen

Rather have some people exiting a burning Tesla than children dying in the dirty cobalt mines.

dan

Actually, a lithium fire is a lot hotter, slower to build up momentum and takes nearly a day to stop. It is a very different beast from gasoline fires and the regulations and emphasis on safety needs to be extra. If the general public ever lost confidence in its safety, it would be nearly impossible to earn back.

les

I understand this fire was extinguished just minutes after the fire fighters arrived.
I have put out several fires in cars, always petrol, and I can tell you they do NOT burn in a controlled way, as this fire did.

Roger from KY

So let’s just ignore that there is apparently a real problem. It’s one thing when fires result from high speed crashes. But unless something is mechanically wrong (like a repair error or a fuel leak) ICE’s don’t spontaneously tend to catch fire.

Even if this is rare, this needs to be sorted out. The potential of such an incident to, say, burn down someone’s house is a nontrivial issue.

Acting like a Tesla fanboi and denying the issue is no more credible than the anti-EV people who claim EV’s can never work, etc.

james

“ICE’s don’t spontaneously tend to catch fire.”

Sure they do. My mother owned a Ford that did just that… Something leaked onto a hot spot on the engine and then a fire in the engine area.

12345

“something leak onto a hot spot”
bro, that’s not exactly spontaneously catching fire, your car had a mechanical problem.

Rasmus Christensen

Peugeot 308 went out like wildfire a couple of years ago, They burnt down peoples houses too since it was in the garages. It’s not uncommon

Rafael Sabatini

Oh, I’m sure they’ll just do an Over The Air Update to fix it.

Earl

“Engulfed” in flames? overstatement at best. I’ve seen plenty of carbecues in the past. An ICE fire truly does “engulf” a car with flame. This is not that. One can’t even recognize and engulfed ICE car within a few seconds of an ICE car fire starting. This is minimal. I’d like to see whether any of the plastic stuff inside the car even melted since it appears the Tesla design did exactly what it was designed to in the event of a fire — shed the flames away from the passenger compartment.
It also appears that the good pack design prevented the fire from propagating to all the cells in the battery since the fire appeared to be out by the time the fire truck arrived.

MoMac

“since the fire appeared to be out by the time the fire truck arrived.”

I can still see the flame on the right side of the car after the fire truck arrived. The camera angle wasn’t good for seeing the left side of the car, but it had obviously stopped shooting out flames to the degree it had done early. Maybe the flames that was visible on the left was out, or maybe it was just reduced in size. Impossible to tell from that camera angle.

menorman

It also appears that the good pack design prevented the fire from propagating to all the cells in the battery since the fire appeared to be out by the time the fire truck arrived.

Check back in a week to make sure it hasn’t reignited…

Wisconsin

TV news had another angle where the car was clearly on fire and the firemen working to extinguish. Always check multiple sources before posting.

James

Burning and exploding EVs everywhere. God bless ya EV drivers and your kids

whyhateevs

500% less likely to catch fire than your ICE, and when it does catch fire they don’t explode.

Is someone angry over their recent short stock losses?

theflew

The point isn’t to compare it to ICE cars. Why are EV’s and Tesla’s specifically catching on fire.

scott

The cell format, and chemistry, is my guess.

Pushmi-Pullyu

” Why are EV’s and Tesla’s specifically catching on fire.”

No, the correct question is “Why do the extremely rare instances of fires in BEVs get covered as news, when the extremely commonplace instances of fires in gasmobiles almost always get ignored?”

One of the good things about BEVs — including Tesla’s cars — is that they are are considerably less likely than gasmobiles to catch fire, altho you’d never know that from news coverage. Ironically, it’s the very rarity of plug-in EV fires which makes them newsworthy; gasmobile fires are so commonplace that they almost never get covered as news!

Djoni

Well, statiscally, EV are also very a very rare instance. Hopefully that will change as time goes on, but even if EV fire are rare, I would like to see a reliable statistics about incidence of fire in non crash related event compare with same age ICE car and same age any other EV.
This is not an emotional stuff, fire must be avoided and keeping our mind cool is needed.

Until, we have those data, it’s just feeling and not fact.

Prsnep

“500% less likely”… this is hurting my brain. I think it makes more sense to flip it around and say that the opposite is 500% more likely.

Where is this statistic from btw?

zzzzzzzzzz

US statistics for highway capable vehicle fires is here:
https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fire-statistics/Vehicle-fires/Highway-vehicle-fires

500% is just from some Elon worshiper dreams. Or hallucinations.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Trust serial Tesla basher and fool cell fanboy “zzzzzzzzzz” to point entirely irrelevant facts.

According to CNN Money:

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. It says the 300,000 Teslas on the road have been driven a total of 7.5 billion miles, and about 40 fires have been reported. That works out to five fires for every billion miles traveled, compared to a rate of 55 fires per billion miles traveled in gasoline cars.

http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/17/news/companies/electric-car-fire-risk/index.html

agzand

They should be compared with cars with similar age. Comparing a brand new car with a 20 or 30 year old car is meaningless. Also fires with similar circumstances should be compared. How many relatively new ICE cars catch fire under normal operating condition? I don’t now, but Tesla’s statement is not real statistics.

ab13

An understanding of basic statistics and probability show these numbers are not comparable. It’s like averaging the golf scores of everyone at a general high school, even if they rarely played. That’s not anything to do with the people who play regular or are in the golf team. Their score would be compared to the rival school teams.

I.e., the vehicles made in the last few years have active safety systems and modern manufacturing methods and materials that old vehicles don’t have. Being that the average US car is over 11 years old, a tiny fraction have these features.

Benedictus

Maybe they made a mistake in the factory.

Mixed up a Model S battery with a Boring Flamethrower.

Or they are testing the Roadster 2 Rockets.

No biggy. Probably fixed by OTA software update in a couple of weeks..

westcoaster

Love it! Rogue employee that was laid off put a Not-A-Flamethrower in it and some Roaster 2 rockets! Was he parallel parking with the side rockets?

MDEV

And why is that news?

bro1999

A Tesla catching fire isn’t really news anymore. A Tesla not involved in an accident catching fire.is definitely news however.
Question now is WHY?

TeslaInvestors

I’m curious to know the year of manufacture. Electric cars are still relatively new. I wonder if there is any relationship to the age of the battery packs. But it is just a WAG.

It’s possible the car hit some debri on the road but the driver didn’t notice.
Also, we have read news that someone’s Tesla caught fire in his garage many days after a minor collision in a round about. I think there was an Electrek piece about it. That also is rare in ICE cars, I’d think.

TeslaPlease

Do we have any numbers on how many Leafs or Bolts have caught on fire? Have not seen any on the news or reported.

zzzzzzzzzz

Zero Leafs or Bolts got traction battery fire on the road. There were other fires, including electric fires as in any other cars, but not traction battery fires as far as i know.
One crashed Bolt battery caught fire in junkyard after being left upside done. It is another problem by the way, either you store such hazardous waste submerged, or you need to tie firefighters to be ready to extinguish it for a week.

Pushmi-Pullyu

One crashed Bolt battery caught fire in junkyard after being left upside done.

It was actually two Volts, not any Bolt EVs at all.

But by comparison to most statements from this serial FUDster, that’s remarkably close to actually being true! 🙄

CCIE

Definetly looks like the videos I’ve seen of lithium batteries during thermal runaway. My money is on the car having hit something that punctured the battery.

scott

A simple manufacturing process imperfection that causes a short over time is more than sufficient. No impact required.

CCIE

It’s possible, but a short of one cell should be managable. There would have to be a large defect to cause thermal runaway of the pack. Impact damage is more plausible.

MoMac

The cells within a given battery module are right next to each other on each side of the cooling ribbon. If there is a fire with one cell, there is nothing to stop it from spreading to contiguous cells. And the cooling ribbon won’t stop it either.
I am referring to cells within a given battery module.

CCIE

The only way for there to be a fire within one cell (really the electrolyte burning from the cell overheating) is for the cell to short and overheat. The bondwire that Tesla uses is supposed to act like a fuse and melt during a cell short, preventing it from overheating.

scott
Pushmi-Pullyu

“If there is a fire with one cell, there is nothing to stop it from spreading…”

Actually the “intumescent goo” in the Model 3’s pack is supposed to do exactly that. But that goo isn’t found in the Model S.

More to the point: Tesla’s battery packs are designed to prevent any cell from catching on fire in the first place. A certain very small percentage of cells do go bad, and in a pack with thousands of cells, there is a high probability that at least one will go bad over the lifetime of the car. That’s why we almost never see any reports of fires in a Tesla car except when there has been physical damage to the battery pack. It’s not impossible — there was one case of a Model S battery pack overheating while charging at a Supercharger.

But it’s extremely rare for this to happen except when the pack has been penetrated and damaged on the inside, and the reason it’s that rare is because Tesla has designed the pack to prevent it.

scott

When a small amount of foreign material is implanted into a 18650 cell, over time about a third will experience runaway, another third will simply cease functioning, and another third will perform almost normally.

Bad cells due to manufacturing defects are very rare, especially for a company like Panasonic with the highest of standards, and quality controls. However, they do happen. Of the few cells that are defective, a small portion will eventually experience thermal runaway.

scott

One defective cell going into thermal runaway is certainly enough to cause adjacent non-defective cells to do likewise. The article suggested there was no impact.

MoMac

That vehicle has a titanium plate to protect from punctures.

If it is an older Tesla Model S, couldn’t it be caused by a dendrite causing a short?

Elooney Muskey

Older vehicles were retrofitted with the shield via a recall. If this car didn’t have it, Tesla would have said that already. Tesla is super quick in blaming the drivers.

Pushmi-Pullyu

We can’t completely rule out a mathematically improbable (but not impossible) failure of the safety systems in a Tesla pack which are designed to isolate a short-circuiting cell and prevent it from catching fire. But it’s much, much more likely that the pack was punctured by road debris and physically damaged inside, even if the driver didn’t notice that happening.

If the cells in Tesla’s battery packs were prone to overheating and catching fire merely because of dendrite growth, then this sort of thing would be happening all the time. Logically, that can’t be the cause.

MDEV
Rafael Sabatini

Daily Kos? Is that still a thing?

David Green

Wow, that is really something that it self combusted…

TeslaPlease

Wonder why people on the street had to let the driver know about the fire? What diagnostics / warnings does the car provide?

Pushmi-Pullyu

Typically a Tesla car would warn the driver about a fire hazard well in advance of any flames actually shooting out of the car, in the following manner:

“The Model S owner was nonetheless able to exit the highway as instructed by the onboard alert system, bring the car to a stop and depart the vehicle without injury.” (source linked below)

So I find it puzzling that it’s reported here that other motorists had to alert the driver about the fire. Something seems to be missing from this story, or else there were multiple failures in that Tesla car. Given the usual inaccuracy of news reports based on early eyewitness accounts, Occam’s Razor shaves in the direction of it being the former rather than the latter.

https://www.eurekareport.com.au/articles/104735/tesla-s-battery-fire-in-context

Ocean Railroader

This is what I’m worried about killing or hurting Tesla and that is they are in such a rush to build new cars that they turn out to be defective cars. Quality over quantity.

Rasmus christensen

I bet that they were not in a hurry in 2013 when this car was produced.
They reason of the model 3 delay was production of the battery pack , they did not want to sacrifice safety over quantity .

TM

That should shave about 35 pts off the stock price

Jeffrey Songster

A tall high centering driveway… the kind where the car scrapes painfully over… or maybe a tall speed bump bounced over with a thud… or a damn piece of rebar or something on the roadway. Any of these could have set up this situation I would speculate. Glad all exited safely. Also glad my Model X has more ground clearance as this should minimize some causes of these failures. ICE Car B Ques are far more prevalent but also way less novel since we’ve all seen those. High energy cells can be volatile… but compared to fires from the oil burners (ICE),,, I’ll stick to my Tesla thanks!

Bunny

Even Boeing needed to build better containment box for the 777 batteries

But understood, for Tesla , this is like that adorable puppy that just pees on the floor once in awhile. lol it’s still such an adorable Tesla !

Pushmi-Pullyu

No, it’s like Tesla cars are actually much safer regarding the danger of fire than gasmobiles are, but those who see Tesla as a threat to their income or their politics have done a remarkably good job, with their campaign of FUD and Big Lies, of convincing people the opposite is true.

The Boeing 777 Dreamliner battery pack packed large block-shaped cells closely together in a cramped space, with no battery cooling system at all, and none of the safety systems which Tesla puts into its battery packs to actively prevent battery fires from occurring.

What Boeing did is an object lesson in how not to build a li-ion battery pack! They should have let Tesla build it for them.

David Green

The Boeing battery had some design problems, but the biggest issue is the required discharge rate that the Boeing battery has to perform in the ultimate emergency, which drove them to use large cells, and a moody chemistry. In the ultimate emergency in which you lose all electric power from both engines, and the 2 generators on the APU, you have to be able to land the plane which would at that point be a glider. the 787 has ram air turbines which would deploy to give you power as you glide, but at some point your airspeed goes too low to get power from the RAT’s, for the next 30 seconds the 2 LI-Ion batteries have to dump all their energy to power the flight controls, landing gear, but most importantly the electric brakes. This situation has never played out in a commercial airplane, but that is the backup that was required on the 787’s electric flight controls, and brakes driving the decision to use those batteries. Those batteries each cost more then a Model 3 LR…

Rafael Sabatini

Although the 787s are now flying millions of miles a week with no fires.
Boeing’s design fixes clearly resolved the issue.
Meanwhile, the “Tesla fix” clearly didn’t.
So, you’d be incorrect, as usual.

David Green

I am not sure the Boeing fix “solved” the problem but it certainly mitigated it. There have been a few 787 batteries have single cell failures since the fixes went into effect, but the key is the enclosure and burst disk worked as intended and the cell failures did not propagate to other cells, and the batteries continued to operate, albeit at a lower voltage.

Roger from KY

Shouldn’t the triple shield on the bottom of the Model S to prevent battery punctures from accidents have prevented such issues?

Bunny

Or even better, maybe EVANNEX could come out with their Tesla fire surpression system , then all these Tesla fire articles could be written by EVANNEX as a positive thing LOL

William

I think that across the board, Tesla comprehensive insurance rates went up another $ .02 on this latest Model S flamethrower incident.

Maybe an onboard Tesla fire extinguisher, might be the next Boring accessory, to make it to market

Where’s a Ford Pinto when you need one!

Pushmi-Pullyu

WOW! Comparing one of the safest cars on the road, in relation to fire danger… the Tesla Model S… with one of the worst ever?

Exaggerate much, dude? 🙄

And sadly, you got 7 people to give you a “thumbs up” for that B.S.
🙁

James

Anybody else notice that the car appears to be lowered? Even if he had the air suspension at the lowest setting the wheels do not splay out like that in stock form. I also do not see flat tires causing that either.

So if he had his T esla lowered and high centered a driveway or ran over an object, that is not the fault of the vehicle nor Tesla.

Mister G

Fox news is going to be all over this lol

JyChevyVolt
James

Is the car lower than normal?

zzzzzzzzzz

No it is just a problem of one reckless automaker.
“electric car fires are rare, though it does seem Teslas are more prone to this than other electric cars” – the author tries to put it mildly not to offend Teslaboyz nuts, but really, please make some difference. You should not need to smear all electric car reputation to find excuses for Tesla. Other electric car batteries don’t burn. But Teslas seems to burn all over the place, more often than average 11 year old guzzler in fire statistics.

And this guy is very lucky to get alert and escape on time, and don’t have children in the car. Fire looks quite fierce on video, couple more minutes and it may have ended as for these teenagers next to Miami who burned alive and friends driving behind were not able to even get close to the car because of fire.

Pushmi-Pullyu

WOW! How many outright lies did serial Tesla Hater cultist “zzzzzzzzzz” manage to pack into that one comment?

A relevant quote:

Point of fact: over 180,000 vehicles catch fire on average every year in United States. But a few days ago, a car fire near Seattle (in which not one person was injured) got an abnormal amount of attention. Why all the attention to this one? Because this car was a new, shiny Tesla Model S. Disregard the other 180,000 car fires this year — this one was a Tesla.

Well said!

(source: https://www.eurekareport.com.au/articles/104735/tesla-s-battery-fire-in-context )

Pushmi-Pullyu

“Other electric car batteries don’t burn.”

In an ocean full of lies in that one comment, let me single out just this one to be thoroughly and completely refuted. It is certainly true that BEVs are overall much safer than gasmobiles; perhaps as much as 5 times safer overall.

But to claim that no EV other than a Tesla has ever had a battery fire… well, Gentle Readers, one can easily see just how far from the Truth that claim is, from this Tesla Hater cultist.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Several plug-in electric vehicle fire incidents have taken place since the introduction of mass-production plug-in electric vehicles in 2010. Most of them have been thermal runaway incidents related to the lithium-ion batteries and have involved the Zotye M300 EV, Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, Dodge Ram 1500 Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Outlander P-HEV.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_electric_vehicle_fire_incidents

rkhan

The person was lucky he was in a Tesla. No smoke or fire intrusion into the compartment. If it was an ICE, he would have been smoked or fried.

Pushmi-Pullyu

This report is very odd; Tesla cars are built to give audible and visual warnings if a thermal runaway is detected. The driver is warned to safely pull over and exit the vehicle. That’s one of several reasons why death by fire in a Tesla car has almost never happened.

Is there more to this story that is being related here, or did the warning system in that Tesla car malfunction too? I’m guessing it’s the former.

Khalifa

And as usual, Must will blame the driver

Diogene

Another demonstration that actual battery technology is still weak in too many points, instead investing billions in self driving cars can be better idea to invest in research to improve batteries. Until we don’t find a superior technology for batteries, EV cars will never be at theirs full potentials and is a real shame

Michael Merten

Reminds me of the Samsung Note 7. Doesn’t change my stance though. Still getting an EV as my car upgrade.

Viriato

New techs, new risks. But we can’t ignore this things, they must be investigated to improve the safety in the future EVs.

Ziv

This could have been much worse if his 3 kids had been in the car and were of an age that a couple of them were still in car seats.

private

Is it SpaceX Option Package rocket booster alpha version gone wrong?
Those over-the-air update Easter eggs! No risk no fun 🙂

bro1999