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Summary:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk officially responds to the Model S fire this week.

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.

  1. The stock is already back to 183 after hours. I guess the fire didn’t do much.

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  2. Hmmm. I don’t know what to believe, but it doesn’t really matter – I’m not paying $70,000 for an electric car.

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    1. Well would you pay 70k for a BMW 7 or Mercedes S class?

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      1. No.

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    2. Me either which is why i’m waiting for BlueStar from Tesla which will be around 40k.

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  3. They are not admitting whether a design fault made it more likely to have hit the bottom of the Tesla with its low clearance versus other cars.

    Also giving exams of car fires happening on average does explain why it would happen on a new $70000 car.

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  4. there’s nothing worse than the car you sit in getting fire. Gas-driven cars are safer in that regard, than electric cars. The battery-heat is the key difference here. This is a not-yet fixed, hardly controlled issue of the very most e-vehicle manufacturers. Is it risky? No, as the management systems typically have it under control. But it’s an active control loop, while gas-driven engines and -tanks can’t explode that easy, even if you try hard.

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  5. There was a lot more to the Tesla blog than the author represents here. I encourage everyone to read the whole thing. But the most revealing part was where he compared stastics on car fires per mile driven.

    “The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to 1 vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to 1 fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are 5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla”

    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/model-s-fire

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  6. I think the answer and the timing was pretty well done from a PR point of view.

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