NTSB to Investigate Tesla Model S Fire in California
【Summary】The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending a technical specialist to oversee Tesla’s examination of a Model S that caught fire while driving in slow moving traffic in Santa Monica, California last Friday, the agency said in a statement Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending a technical specialist to oversee Tesla's examination of a Model S that caught fire while driving in slow moving traffic in Santa Monica, California last Friday, the agency said in a statement Monday.
The incident, captured on video, shows the parked Tesla Model S after the driver pulled over with flames coming out of the car's battery pack. It is one of the few cases of a spontaneous electrical fire involving a Tesla vehicle not caused by an accident, which prompted the investigation.
Although the action is not a formal probe of how the lithium ion battery pack caught fire without being involved a crash, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said. NTSB's participation in Tesla's review "will provide the agency with an opportunity to learn more about fires in all types of battery-powered vehicles," he said.
In addition to this latest investigation, the agency is investigating three separate incidents involving post-crash lithium ion battery fires in Tesla vehicles, including fatal crashes that occurred in California and Florida.
In an emailed statement, a Tesla spokeswoman called the fire an "extraordinarily unusual occurrence" and said the company is investigating to determine the cause. The Model S driver was able safely exit the vehicle, she said.
Video of the fire was posted on Twitter on Friday by actress Mary McCormack, who was in the cast of "The West Wing" series among other roles.
Lithium-ion battery electrical fires are rare, but they frequently attract much attention when they occur in a Tesla vehicle. However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says electric cars are much safer than their gasoline powered counterparts.
About 174,000 vehicle fires were reported in the United States in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the National Fire Protection Association. The majority of these fires involved gasoline powered cars.
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.
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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