back to article 'Safest car ever made' Tesla Model S EV crashes and burns. Car 'performed as designed'

Pugnacious electric car maker Tesla Motors is embroiled in another media firestorm today, after one of its new Model S EVs - touted by the firm as being the safest car ever tested by US highway authorities - suffered a serious battery fire following an accident. Youtube Video Tesla has stated that the incident began when the …

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Safety features performed well

Having been in a situation where the car you are in randomly catches fire without hitting anything and you have barely enough time to pull over, grab your sh** and get the flock out of there before the whole thing goes up, including the cabin, in less than five minutes, and leaving a charred shell by the side of a main road in France, I have to say, apart from the whole ‘catching fire’ bit I think (if what the spokesmen said is true) the safety features performed well.

Also on a side note, can we raise awareness of the horribleness that people are inflicting on each other on a day to day basis, namely, filming in the wrong aspect ratio hold your phone sideways FFS! 16:9 not 9:16!

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Re: Safety features performed well

Need camera phones to have square sensors and auto rotate the captured image..

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Made in the U.S. of A. = Made to Burn?

If this is the safest car ever tested in the USA does that prove all US made cars are designed to burn on impact? Watching US TV and films does seem to show a much higher incidence of burning cars than other nations?

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Re: Made in the U.S. of A. = Made to Burn?

Spot on! Chuck Norris' cars ALWAYS burn. However as a counter example, cars rarely burn in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

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M7S

Emergency Services Tranining

There's a few comments above about training firefighters to deal with "this type of car". Even one suggesting "in the target market areas" which presumes that, charging/range issues aside, that owners might in some way be restricted to certain areas. I can think of better criteri to confine people to certain areas, but that's for another thread....

Car design has become hugely complex. I'm involved in rescuing people from cars in the UK and even with petrol ones there are issues. For example, in serious collisions, the best way to extricate someone involves removing the roof. A few years ago Trumpton would turn up, fire up the Holmtatro and six snips later we were shoving spinal boards and KEDs (other extrication vests are available, if your local NHS trust bothers to carry any at all) down people's backs.

Now there are all sorts of hazards in the roof, some cars have airbag curtains (meaning there are possibly un-discharged pyrotechnics in the roof) and for a few the fuel line goes through the roof via the a- and c-posts, so removal becomes a nightmare. Remember it's your ability to walk again that we're trying to preserve here so whilst cutting a car apart is fun, there is a reason behind it.

Another issue is power. In the old days (again) turn up, open the bonnet and cut the earth strap from the battery to prevent sparks and make everything safe, then attend to the casualty, perhaps wind back the seat after we've braced them to get the extrication gear on, maybe even slide the seat backwards to get better access to the legs or forwards so we've more room to work on the rear passengers. Oh no, not now becase all the seats are electric with no manual release (at least not without tools and a mechanic).

I'm sure there will be issues with electric vehicles as they become more widespread and the subject is of interest as I'm hoping to get one for a few days trial later this month (Not a Tesla), but now crews are having to try to identify the model of a vehicle on arrival (can you tell a partially burned Cosworth from a normal Sierra?, showing my age I know) and then look it up which requires lots of books or a tablet of some form with connectivity (and we're not all in shiny London with good signal) whilst trying to work out if the time critical patient can be removed "properly" or if we're going to have to risk their spine because there is not time to make the scene safe and their compromised breathing or circulation takes priority.

I've no complaint about the article and this is El Reg but comments having a pop at this car because it's electric are rather wide of the mark.

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At least it wasn't a Pinto

The US government says there were an average of 152,300 car fires each year between 2006 2010. Each year they caused an average of 209 deaths, 764 injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage.

https://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/vehicles

Apparently Tesla has the car in their labs and they'll have to respond because the one thing America is even better at than high tech is litigation.

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New technology

Did the first steam trains work perfectly or were there many cases of them blowing up?

Did the first planes work perfectly or were there many cases of them falling out of the skies?

Did the first internal combustion engines work perfectly or were there many cases of them destroying themselves, bursting into flames etc?

I think you'll find the answer to the above questions, is always the later.

New technologies will always have failures until the flaws are worked out. Telsa should be applauded for trying to produce a real electric car, rather than tax avoidance/emission regulation projects like the Nissan leaf, or the complete waste of space which are the hybrids** (slow, ugly and less economic than a decent diesel motor).

If people had jumped all over new technologies like the steam engine, powered flight and the internal combustion engine in the same way that they want Tesla to fail, then we would all still be riding around in horse and carts.

** Except Supercar hybrids like the Porsche 918 which use the electric motors for a power boost rather than some attempt to be 'green'.

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Anonymous Coward

Hello this is the 911 operator

Car fire eh? (opens manual)

which make?

which model?

What year?

is that the dual fuel, hybrid, diesel or petrol model?

what do you mean, just get a fire truck here, people are burning? I dont want to be sued by the manufacturers for sending an appliance with the wrong medium to extinguish it.

sometimes the commentards are more idiotic than the storylines.

it was a car on fire, the fire department attended......they roll up to factory blazes en-mass too without knowing what is inside....time is critical, the type of fire and way to extinguish are split second decisions taken on-site to save lives

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paranoia

Lala la la la....SMACK...Ohh it sounds like something big fell off.

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Look at the facts

Significant accident.

Driver unhurt.

Passenger compartment remained undamaged - there would have been ample time to get 4 or 5 people out safely.

Only the battery that was damaged caught fire.

No wonder Tesla gets Pugnacious when such nonsense is written about their cars. I would too.

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Maybe Tesla's should come with an onboard halon suppression system!!

Or maybe foam! They are expensive enough :)

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So the story is...

Worlds safest car has major failure, and noone is hurt.

Doesn't that rather match the "worlds safest car" moniker?

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Lithium-Ion Batteries

Ok, so Tesla have stated that the fire started in the battery pack. The most likely cause of this is due to the metal debris the driver said he ran over punctured a cell and caused a short circuit.

Now, this is a Lithium-Ion battery pack, which contains no raw lithium metal, and hence is not reactive to water.

Conventional fire training states that for an electrical fire, do not use water. In the case of a Li-Ion fire, this is not the case. Once the cell goes into thermal runaway, all the ingredients for the fire (Fuel, oxygen and heat) are in the cell. using CO2 or foam will have no effect (these are used to remove an external source of oxygen from the fire).

It has been stated that the initial use of water was not effective. Looking at the video the fire seems to have spread beyond the batteries, so there is likely to be an electrical fire outside the battery, plus whatever other flammables are there. At this point they used dry extinguishers, smashed through the battery and at that point (which this article does not mention) water was used on the cells to finally put out the source of the fire. It seems to me that the fire department on site had the proper knowledge and training to deal with the fire.

No-one was injured and the driver evacuated the vehicle safely. Any artificially powered vehicle that suffers damage in the wrong place will catch fire. There are numerous vehicle fires on our roads (and race tracks) every year, and none of these have this kind of effect on the stock price of that company. Hopefully the post-mortem reports will bring market confidence back to Tesla.

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Re: Lithium-Ion Batteries

"and none of these have this kind of effect on the stock price of that company"

Just lol - none of the other car manufactures have such ridiculously astronomically high valuations.

One fire devalued the company by 6%? An ounce of common sense would devalue the company by 90%

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VERTICAL VIDEO SYDROME!

Another idiot holding the camera the wrong way.

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Buying a tesla

I was shopping for an upgrade to my trusty Prius, but it looks like the Tesla isn't the best options, I have kids, and I don't want to seem them burning to their death.

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Email from Tesla says water is correct

From the email they sent me (I'm on their mailing list):

[[When the fire department arrived, they observed standard procedure, which was to

gain access to the source of the fire by puncturing holes in the top of the

battery's protective metal plate and applying water. For the Model S lithium-ion

battery, it was correct to apply water (vs. dry chemical extinguisher), but not to

puncture the metal firewall, as the newly created holes allowed the flames to then

vent upwards into the front trunk section of the Model S. Nonetheless, a

combination of water followed by dry chemical extinguisher quickly brought the fire

to an end.]]

Water may be wrong for an electrical fire, but apparently it's right for a lithium-ion battery fire, I guess.

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Missed the Main Point

This article seems a bit snarky and misleading - particularly the title.

The simple fact is the Tesla still is the safest car ever made.

Directly from MIT Tech Review: "there were 187,000 vehicle fires in the United States in 2011. That’s one fire for every 1,738 cars on the road. With Tesla, this fire makes one out of almost 20,000." That’s still 10X LESS frequent than an ICE.

Also, about 1 person dies a day in an ICE car fire and about 1600 injuries a year while there have been ZERO deaths or even injuries from a Tesla fire. That is still enormously impressive and easily lives up to the title 'Safest Car'.

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Anonymous Coward

Looks fishy to me

The vehicle is a few feet from a right hand turn at a junction. One would assume it had been coming to a stop as the driver approached the junction then went into flames as the driver pulled away?

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