Tesla CEO: Car fire could have been far worse in a gas-powered car

Tesla Model S, image courtesy of Tesla.

As expected, Tesla has responded in an official blog post from CEO Elon Musk about the car fire that was captured on video earlier this week. Musk writes that if an internal combustion engine car (you, know a regular gas powered car) hit the same metal object on the highway at that speed there could have been far more damage and fire.

Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.

Turns out that the impact with the metal object and the car was particularly unusual and extreme, according to Tesla. Musk says because of the shape of the object and because of the way it was hit, there was a “powerful level action” that punched the metal object up into the bottom of the car (where the battery is) with a force of 25 tons.

And because Musk knows that Tesla is under a microscope and their every move could effect the future of the electric vehicle industry, he adds:

For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.

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