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Putting Tesla Model S Fires in Perspective

Tesla Model S Fire, NOT Special
Tesla Model S Fire, NOT Special

When you don’t have all the facts, anyone can twist what few facts there are and turn something, such as a third Tesla Model S fire, into an ignorance-fueled media-fest.

I just went on www.google.com and searched for the images with the keyword “car fire” and noticed how many of them were not a Tesla Model S, which brings up a very interesting point, but why don’t you go ahead and try it, yourself? Now that you’re back, and we’re all sufficiently shocked by the untameable horror fairly common occurrence, fire, that is, let’s relax a minute and take a look at the facts.

The Tesla Model S, like every other vehicle on the road, whether hybrid, diesel, gasoline, ethanol, or electric, is made up of at least two very important components that make fire a distinct possibility in the case of an accident. First, the materials that all vehicles are made of, including plastics, foam, rubber, vinyl, and paint, are flammable. Second, in order to get around, some sort of chemical energy storage system is used to propel the vehicle. Gasoline, diesel fuel, and lithium-ion battery electrolyte are all flammable.

In most circumstances, typical everyday driving or sitting at home in the driveway, the flammable parts of your vehicle are kept safely away from ignition sources. Accidents change all of that. Fuel tanks are ruptured, electrical systems are compromised, and the probability of fire jumps a few notches. All three of the Tesla Model S fires occurred after impact with some foreign object in the road, which compromised the battery pack, allowing some of the electrolyte to leak and ignite.

Wow, three Tesla Model S fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association [NFPA], there were an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year between 2003 and 2007. According to the Department of Transportation, there was an average of 248.1 million vehicles on the road, which would give a vehicle fire a 0.12% chance of occurring. Today, there are better than 25,000 Tesla Model S on the road. With just three Tesla Model S fires, that’s a 0.012% chance. Put another way, your conventional vehicle is 10 times more likely to catch fire.

Your safest bet would be to buy a bicycle, not an electric one, or buy a horse. Neither of those consume fossil fuels and, as far as I know, have never caught fire after an accident. On the other hand, think of the physical benefits!

UPDATE: Updated highway vehicle fire statistics and added link.

Image © Tesla Motors Blog

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