In continuance of our report about a Model S catching fire twice in California earlier this week, it now emerges that the car caught fire no less than three times.
The third fire was reportedly contained within the car, but firefighters stuck around for nearly 10 hours to make sure no further thermal event would occur. Tesla is currently investigating the matter, so no comments have been forthcoming. Their earlier comment stands:
“We currently investigating the matter and are in touch with local first responders. We are glad to hear that everyone is safe.”
The sad part is that the owner seems to be unaware that electric cars can catch fire just like traditional ICE vehicles. It’s a different kind of thermal event but both are susceptible to it. Studies show that EVs may actually be a little safer than conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles. Unfortunately, the owner told KGO-TV that it was the last Tesla his family owned.
In contrast, the editor-in-chief of top auto research company Edmunds, Mr. Alistair Weaver, has a more educated view:
“People tend to look at electric vehicles and assume they won’t catch fire because they don’t have a traditional combustion engine. The reality is that they still can still catch on fire.
“Certainly if I was a Tesla driver I don’t think this is a source of panic.”
It is true that battery fires usually take longer to put out, but it’s essentially the same as any vehicle fire. Says Fire Captain Bill Murphy of the Santa Clara County Fire Department, who put out the Model S fire:
“The presence of large lithium ion batteries in vehicles is something we are encountering more often. It’s still categorized as vehicle fire. We just have a different fuel now. There is some additional complexity to the fuel that’s burning.”
There’s no reason – or data – to believe that electric cars are more dangerous than gas cars. In the United States, there are more than 150,000 vehicle fires reported every year, and that’s just highway fires. But a large number of these are either not reported or may be reported just locally. When a Tesla catches fire, everyone from coast to coast wants a piece.