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Third Tesla Fire Means Feds To Begin Review 375

cartechboy writes "In early October, a Tesla caught on fire in Washington state — and that created a little bit of a stir. Then just before Halloween a second Tesla caught fire. Yesterday, a third Model S caught fire in Tennessee. With the third fire in the books, all happening in similar fashion, today federal investigators are saying they are going to take a look at the situation more closely. As electric car maker's stock shares continue to tumble, some are saying the fires aren't a big deal."
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Third Tesla Fire Means Feds To Begin Review

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  • How many Tesla S's have been delivered?


    Best # I can find is 5500 last quarter, from Forbes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:17PM (#45362781)

    In the UK there are only 15,000 car fires per year (discounting arson). Obviously gasoline is safer.


  • by reiserifick ( 2616539 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:18PM (#45362787)
    Model S fires are extremely photogenic, but as far as I can tell, all three of these fires involved debris (or firefighters) puncturing the battery shield and hitting the battery, rather than something spontaneous. I'm not an expert by any means, but I'd hazard a guess that the results would have been similar with a gasoline powered car.
    • by brainboyz ( 114458 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:24PM (#45362873) Homepage

      That's my thinking as well. They've got a 1/4" plate of steel shielding the battery, but there's a lot of force involved in hitting stationary objects at speed. That's like blaming standard car design when debris severs a fuel line and ends up pouring fuel all over the exhaust manifold, or cracking the oil pan to similar effect.

      Hitting things in your car is dangerous, news at 11.

      • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
        apparently they need a stronger plate. preferably with harder steel rather than thicker / heavier. maybe they could use ERA that blows up and destroys an object before it can penetrate
        • Hard steel is brittle. Mild, tough steel is right for this application.

          I'd go double walled 1/8th over 1/4. Design the inner box to pop-up a few inches and disconnect in a bad accident.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            Hard steel is brittle. Mild, tough steel is right for this application.

            Tough steal; with layers of tungsten carbide, and titanium reinforcement.

            • Tough steal

              Couldn't you just buy it legally?

            • What?

              Tungsten carbide is a very hard material useful for cutting tools, tips of armor piercing projectiles etc. It's 'as brittle as glass' but wins most hardness wars.

              Titanium is a queen bitch to work, anything made of titanium will cost more then it should.

              Plain old steel will do the job for most car bodies until carbon fiber costs drop another order of magnitude or three.

      • They've got a 1/4" plate of steel shielding the battery ...

        I'm not 100% sure but isn't such a skid plate protecting a gas tank normally only found in off-road vehicles? Seems like the Tesla offers more protection than a normal gasoline car.

        • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:33PM (#45363625)
          I believe it's actually aluminum, but they've also designed the battery compartment to point any fire forward away from the passenger compartment. If a gas tank ruptures you're in a very dangerous situation and have very good odds of not living let along walking away unharmed. In the case of a Tesla, 3 for 3 have been able to walk out unscathed. The Mexico fire was from a Model S that had blasted through a concrete barricade while exceeding 100MPH and coming to rest smashed against some trees. I challenge you to find any car of any year, any make, gas, electric, etc. perform as well. No one thinks twice about these very common incidents in gas autos.
        • I'm not 100% sure but isn't such a skid plate protecting a gas tank normally only found in off-road vehicles? Seems like the Tesla offers more protection than a normal gasoline car.

          Yeah, I was going to say, "good luck comparing a 1/4" steel plate to a .035" fuel line wall, but there may be a confounding factor - the Model S has an awesome air suspension that allows the car to sink down to (IIRC) 2" above the road surface at highway speeds, to maximize fuel efficiency. That's like a Formula One race car, bu

    • by gutnor ( 872759 )

      Tesla has a lot more surface with batteries so the risk is likely higher. With only few reports it is difficult to say, but apparently the batteries of the Tesla seem to take fire more easily than a regular tank. On the other hand, gazoline cars, when on fire, behave worse than the Tesla.

      In any case, worth investigating. Tesla is a unique design, it is bound to have various design issues and that's really no big deal at this stage. After all, that's a high end car, and all high end cars have their own qu

  • Comment (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Tesla has made a statement (8:49pm):

    “We have been in contact with the driver, who was not injured and believes the car saved his life. Our team is on its way to Tennessee to learn more about what happened. We will provide more information when we’re able to do so.”

    Source: http://insideevs.com/third-tesla-model-s-fire-in-past-5-weeks-breaks-out-after-accident/

    • Re:Comment (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 07, 2013 @10:41PM (#45364219)

      Follow-up statement:

      "I will sue the living fuck out of anybody who publishes this story without extensive and repetitive context regarding the number of fires in gasoline cars. I've beaten the New York Times so I can beat your podunk little rag at a whim. Bow before me for my name is Musk."

  • by tazan ( 652775 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:25PM (#45362877)
    Maybe he can get the Boeing engineers to help him figure it out.
  • Each of these accidents have defined causes, and the resulting fires are not unreasonable based on the cause. Puncturing a battery with tons of force might just cause a fire. These are not spontaneously combusting. No one was hurt, even the guy that crashed in Mexico. Investigate away, but there really is nothing to see here. The upside is that I can afford more stock now.
    • Car fires rarely result in injury, as passengers have time to get out in almost all cases, be it electric or gas. But given the relatively small number of Teslas on the roads, this is a lot of fires. You don't see gas car fires with anything near that frequency, so it is a big deal if they don't make changes to reduce the chances of fire further. People are going to hesitate to buy the car, and insurance will skyrocket.
    • With the latest move the PE ratio should be down to 400 or so. You should borrow money to buy more of that bargain. It's got nowhere to go but up.

  • Just ask anyone that races R/C. You must treat them with respect, charge them carefully, and never puncture them. Once you break any of these rules, they catch on fire. In spite of this, you only rarely see a lithium battery fire in R/C racing because most racers know how to maintain them properly and when to dispose of them (properly).

    Then again, Tesla, in their drive for performance, built these cars with their batteries mere inches from the surface of the road. No gasoline car has their tank that low and

  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:35PM (#45362991)

    Whenever you store a lot of energy in a small space and have the potential for rapid release then there will always be a fire risk.

    Gasoline, electricity, kinetic energy -- it all poses a fire risk in the event of an uncontrolled release of that energy.

    If you want 100% safety then walk.

    Uh-oh, I forgot about the risk of spontaneous human combustion!

    We're stuffed!

    Damn, they even confiscated my asbestos underwear!

    What are we to do now?

  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @08:36PM (#45363003)
    In the U.K., there are 15,000 car fires per year, and ~28.7 million cars on the road. Tesla has had 3 car fires out of 21,500 cars on the road. The fires:car ratio is about 4:1 overall:Model S. That said, most of the Model S's haven't been on the road a full year, but if we assume they've been in service an average of the three months, then the overall rate of combustion is essentially identical.
  • I'm not typically prone to suggesting conspiracies, but we've already seen cartel-like behavior from establishment car manufacturers and dealers as they lobby states to ban direct-from-manufacturer car sales. Considering the bizarre timeline (3 in a couple months, all of a sudden?), the tolerances and safety features surrounding the batteries, and the publicity that all of the victims milked with copious amounts of photos and interviews, could this be an illicit attempt to get Tesla banned?

    • Considering that anti-electric car conspiracies in the past were actually real, you can't start talking about tinfoil hats without pausing to consider the possibility. There's a peculiarly large amount of large heavy metal debris falling in front of Teslas, if you ask me. The only similar thing I've ever seen on the highway was an aluminum ladder, which blew out half a dozen tires before it was pulled off the road. That's the ONLY time I've seen something as big as, say, the towbar that one of the Model

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:04PM (#45363281)

      Considering the bizarre timeline (3 in a couple months, all of a sudden?), the tolerances and safety features surrounding the batteries, and the publicity that all of the victims milked with copious amounts of photos and interviews, could this be an illicit attempt to get Tesla banned?

      The fire rate is basically identical to that of gasoline car fires according to the previous post by ShadowRangerRIT (15k files/year in the UK out of 28.7M cars vs. Tesla's 21,500 cars with 3 fires, but many of those Teslas haven't been on the road a full year).

      And at least two of the "victims" have publicly said they want new Teslas to replace their crashed ones.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      Relax. Shit happens.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @09:14PM (#45363397) Homepage

    The other auto manufacturers did much to interfere and even sabotage the Tucker. While the Tucker had enough of its own problems, some were suspect and other problems came from the outside when it came to resources for materials and a bit of bad press.

    I acknowledge that the fires could very well be from an actual problem in this car, but with as much other crap Tesla has gone through, I wouldn't entirely rule out various forms of sabotage. We've already seen what Texas Auto Dealers Association can do.

  • So far all of these have been caused by the car striking a piece of metal that pierces the battery and viola... fire. Makes sense to me. I don't really like the company and Elan Musk is an arrogant prick but I'm pretty sure that if the same thing happened to my gas car, and metal pierced the gas tank, the resulting fire would be a hell of a lot worse that what I've seen in the Tesla cars.

  • by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Thursday November 07, 2013 @11:40PM (#45364617)
    ...in her Nissan years ago. It shot through the floor and barely missed her, she's lucky she wasn't killed. In a Tesla, the skidplate and battery will protect you. Sure, the car will catch on fire, but you can escape. So a Tesla is actually safer than a conventional car, it will sacrifice itself to protect you. Better have good insurance.
  • by Pr0xY ( 526811 ) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:21AM (#45364875)

    I really don't understand why every fire in a Tesla car is so news worthy. According to the NFPA (http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/vehicles) there were an average of 152,300 car fires between 2006 and 2010. That's the same as 417 per day, and about 17 car fires per hour.

    Cars catch fire. There have been somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 Telsa Model S's on the road. (3/15000) * 100 = 0.02% failure rate.

    Meanwhile there are about 250 million cars on the road in the US last I looked. (152300/250000000) * 100 = 0.06% failure rate for cars on average.

    So even with there being 3 fires, they are below the average. Additionally, there have been zero injuries in the 3 fires so far.

    So... why is this news?

  • Toyota (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Friday November 08, 2013 @01:11AM (#45365131)

    If the feds could investigate Toyota over "unintentional acceleration" and make a year-long farce out of old people hitting the wrong pedal or using cheap aftermarket rugs just in time to help a flailing GM, then the same Detroit money can be used to "investigate" Tesla.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller