Remember the rash of fires in Chevrolet Volts that led to the call-back of essentially the entire production run early last year? It sure seems that a similar fate is in store for the Tesla Model S after the third Tesla invilved in an on-road incident caught fire:
“Our team is on its way to Tennessee to learn more about what happened in the accident,” Tesla spokeswoman Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean said in a statement. “We will provide more information when we’re able to do so.”
The company said the fire was the result of an accident and was not a spontaneous event.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol said the afternoon incident occurred on Interstate 24 in Smyrna when the electric car “ran over a tow hitch” that “hit the undercarriage of the vehicle causing an electrical fire.”
The Model S undercarriage has armor plating that protects the lithium-ion battery pack. Tesla said it did not yet know whether the fire involved the car’s battery.
Tesla’s battery pack is made up of small lithium-ion battery cells that are also used in laptop computers, an approach not used by other automakers. The battery pack stretches across the base of the vehicle. In comparison, General Motors Co uses large-format battery cells in a T-shape in the center of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car.
The first fire, in Seattle on October 1, happened in a similar manner when a driver of a Tesla ran over debris in the road, which punctured the armor plating. The second happened in Mexico later in the month when the car was driven over a roundabout, through a concrete wall, and into a tree.
Three fires may not seem like much, but two of those were after rather minor incidents that gasoline-powered cars would pretty much shrug off. Moreover, that’s out of less than 20,000 vehicles on the road.