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Tesla says battery fire without crash in LA was ‘extraordinarily unusual occurrence’, still investigating the cause

A few months ago, the battery pack of a Tesla Model S caught on fire in Los Angeles seemingly on its own without any accident.

As the NTSB releases a preliminary report about the incident, Tesla released an update saying that the battery fire was “an extraordinarily unusual occurrence’ and it is still investigating the cause.

Actress Mary McCormack first reported the incident, which happened to her husband’s Model S in Santa Monica in June.

Today, the NTSB has been investigating the fire and they broke down what happened in a new preliminary report today:

“On Friday, June 15, 2018, about 5:30 p.m., Pacific daylight time, a 2014 Tesla Model S electric‑powered passenger car, occupied by a 44-year-old male driver, was traveling westbound on Santa Monica Boulevard, in West Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California. Motorists flagged down the Tesla driver because they saw smoke coming from the vehicle. The driver stopped the Tesla next to the north-side curb in the 7800 block of Santa Monica Boulevard and exited the vehicle. A nearby Los Angeles Police Department patrol car also stopped, and the officers directed traffic around the burning car. The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to the vehicle fire, dispatching an engine unit from station #8, which is located at 7643 Santa Monica Boulevard. The fire was extinguished, and there were no injuries. The vehicle was towed from the scene without incident.”

Here are images of the vehicle after the fire was extinguished by the fire department:

The NTSB report doesn’t suggest any possible cause and instead, it only established the facts about the fire.

They say that Tesla took possession of the vehicle and “conducted an initial safety inspection and removed the battery pack and its cover to drain the remaining electrical charge from the battery.”

According to NTSB, the vehicle was then “reassembled and relocated for further inspection” and the NTSB participated in an inspection of the vehicle.

Tesla released a new statement today confirming that they are still investigating:

“This was an extraordinarily unusual occurrence, and we are continuing to investigate this incident to find out what happened. Our initial investigation shows that our battery architecture was extremely effective in containing the fire to a single module within the battery, without affecting any other modules. We also know that for this same reason, the cabin was totally unaffected by the fire, and our customer had more than four minutes to exit the vehicle before any flames appeared. We’re glad our customer is safe.”

The automaker claims that statistically, their vehicles are 10 times less likely to catch on fire than gas-powered cars.

Electrek’s Take

Tesla vehicles catching on fire were often in the news a few years ago after a series of fires happened in a relatively short period of time – leading people to believe that it was a frequent occurrence with Tesla vehicles.

Lately, we have seen several new instances of Tesla fires, which could likely just be explained by Tesla’s growing fleet.

Fires following accidents are not really worrying because they are often inevitable after several crashes, regardless of the type of powertrain, but it is different for fires without any crash.

In 2016, a Tesla Model S caught on fire during a test drive event in France without any impact.

The automaker eventually determined that the fire was due to ‘electrical connection improperly tightened’ by a human instead of robots.

We will follow any development of this incident as Tesla attempts to find the cause.

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