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A piece of electric car history up in flames: several Tesla Roadsters and original Tzero lost in devastating fire

Today we learned of a piece of electric car history that went up in flames last week. Those familiar with the early days of Tesla know that AC Propulsion’s Tzero is an important vehicle. It was a small all-electric sports car using lead-acid batteries that Tesla helped convert to li-ion cells and used the vehicle to convince investors to support their vision to build what later became the Tesla Roadster.

Only 3 Tzero vehicles were ever built and one of them was destroyed in a fire last week in Arizona – along with several of its successors, the Tesla Roadster.

Pete Gruber, CEO of Gruber Industries, a hardware company, and Gruber Motor Company, is a Tesla Roadster owner and a big fan of the vehicle. He even publishes a monthly newsletter about the vehicle. His company was buying a lot of Roadsters and refurbishing them or selling parts.

He had several Roadsters in his garage last week when it caught on fire in Phoenix. Arizona Central reported:

“A late-afternoon fire that caused the roof of a north Phoenix manufacturing building to collapse on Friday was exacerbated by lithium batteries inside, according to the Phoenix Fire Department.

The blaze started just before 5 p.m. at a manufacturing building near Central Avenue and Deer Valley Road that produces batteries and motors for electric vehicles, officials said. Dozens of units responded as the department sounded three alarms.”

As the publication mentioned, the lithium batteries certainly aggravated the fire, but they were not necessarily the cause of the fire. The company was reportedly trying to repair the battery pack of one of the Roadsters using “experimental techniques” that might have caused the fire, but it’s not clear at this point. There’s a thread on the Tesla Motors Club about it.

We have reached out to Gruber for a comment. We will update if we get an answer.

Gruber posted pictures of the garage just hours before the fire and then of the aftermath (via Flickr credit to Pete Gruber):

It looks like 5 or 6 Roadsters have been lost and the Tzero. Probably over $500,000 worth of electric vehicles.

The fire also resulted in now only one of 3 Tzero vehicles left in circulation and that vehicle became priceless for some electric vehicle enthusiasts. Considering there were only just over 2,000 Tesla Roadster ever made, It also made the vehicle rarer.

Arguably, the Tzero was an important part of launching the resurgence of electric vehicles in the 2000s. It inspired the Tesla Roadster, which in turn inspired the Chevy Volt and enabled Tesla to develop the Model S, which in turn is currently inspiring a whole generation of new electric vehicles.

If you know who owns the last one, let us know.

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