Early Data Suggests Collision-Caused Fires are More Frequent in the Tesla Model S than Conventional Cars – 11/21/13

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Kevin Bullis

Since October, three Tesla Model S electric vehicles have caught fire after they ran into something—first a chunk of metal, then a concrete wall, and then a trailer hitch. Now the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating whether two of the fires (the third happened out of its jurisdiction in Mexico) are the result of a safety defect. No one has been hurt in the fires.

With relatively few electric cars on the road there’s a danger that electric cars will get a reputation for being unsafe.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says not to worry. He says the rate at which the cars are catching fire is actually very low compared to gasoline powered ones. Is this actually the case?

Not if you’re only looking at fires caused by collisions. And that’s what the NHTSA wants to know–whether the Model S is particularly vulnerable to catching on fire when it collides with something.