Vehicle and Battery Fires
When people think of vehicle safety issues, one of the worst incidents that can come to mind is a deadly fire. The Center has long been involved in vehicle fire issues, from the infamous Ford Pinto to the current electric vehicle fire issues. Although technology in automotives has greatly advanced in the early twenty-first century, unfortunately vehicle fires (whether caused by poor gas tank placement or an improperly manufactured lithium ion battery) are a dangerous and persistent problem. Within the past few years, the Center has advocated for Kia and Hyundai to recall many of their vehicles equipped with engines that cause non-crash fires, and to expand the recalls that have already occurred. The Center has also raised awareness around new types of fire risk raised by electric vehicles.
Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), under U.S. scrutiny for vehicle-fire risk, is seeking to head off a months-long investigation that could lead to expensive upgrades and longer-term damage to the image of electric cars.
The NHTSA investigation is the best way Tesla has to insure the safety of the Model S and restore consumer confidence. Unlike the Chevrolet Volt, the Tesla fires occurred on the road and not in the lab. Unlike the Volt, the Tesla had three fires not one. Tesla needs to fully cooperate with NHTSA to determine the problem is lack of a shield and not a more serious battery problem like the Boeing Dreamliner.
Tesla Motors Inc. co-founder Elon Musk says “there’s definitely not going to be a recall” of the company’s Model S sedan. Ultimately, it’s not up to him.
U.S. regulators’ decision on whether to start a defect investigation, which can lead to a recall, will depend whether they see three fires in five weeks as freak occurrences or evidence of a design flaw in the plug-in car.
Is the Tesla Model S really the safest car on the road?
One key fact went unnoticed this week as Tesla Motors Inc. trumpeted its “best” crash-test rating in the media: The federal government doesn’t test most other luxury cars.
So the Model S may be safer than many cars costing far less. But whether it’s safer than direct competitors from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz — considered among the safest cars available — remains a mystery.