Model S fire?

Model S fire?

Appears to have been in an accident. Wonder what caught fire. Something flammable in the frunk?

oildeathspiral | October 2, 2013

bronto +1

On the tsla stock side, so many longs think there are shorts (Wall Street) that are trying to manipulate the stock down even though it's performed well while those short think "they" (also Wall Street) are trying to manipulate it up.

Maybe they cancel each other out?

GDH | October 2, 2013

I wonder if there is a team from Tesla heading to Kent to inspect teh car?

edcalis | October 2, 2013

I wonder how the video guy knew the car was brand new, before recognizing it was a Tesla.

Tupelo | October 2, 2013

I don't understand some of these posts about the video being "faked". Pretty sure it's a fact that a MS actually did burn to a crisp yesterday.

L8MDL | October 2, 2013

I have it on good authority that Art Bell and C2C will be on this "fire". Now, back to rampant speculation...

Kelly TX | October 2, 2013

There are a few things under the frunk:

1. AC compressor which runs at 300V
2. Air pump for suspension, which explains why the back end has dropped to the ground. Rear axle is not broken.
3. Brake booster and brake fluid reservoir (quite flammable stuff)
4. ABS controller, which has a lot of brake fluid as well
5. 12V aux battery (normal lead acid)
6. Heat exchangers and glycol to cool battery and motor. If the driver just had an extended driving session and braking/regen, the coolant was probably a bit warm. Not enough to cause a fire, nor is the coolant flammable.
7. A TON of plastic on the front of the car which will melt and flow when it's on fire.

You probably can't see the large metal debris because it's UNDER THE FRONT OF THE CAR!!!

If you hit something large and metal, and drag it under your car at highway speeds, it's going to probably get nice and red hot. That red hot piece of metal will be pushed up against plastic, first which will then catch fire.

There is no conspiracy by the guys shooting the video. There is no conspiracy by the unfortunate owner/driver of that Model S.

As Officer Barbrady from Southpark would say, "Move along, nothing to see here!"

As for the TSLA price, now's the time to jump in with both feet! This is going to be a small hiccup in the nice pretty line that points up and to the right.

BGYWGY | October 2, 2013

Average year: 250,000 ICE fires
Tesla life to date: 1 fire (*)

* - reported as triggered from hitting an object.

I think the price drop is a buying opportunity.

jeffsstuff | October 2, 2013

I read that NHTSA won't be investigating anytime soon (if ever) because of the government shutdown.

Do I think the videos doctored... No.
Do I think the accident is staged… I hope not.
Do I think the battery was involved… Probably not.
Likely scenarios…

1. The driver hit something and it caused a fire in something flammable in the frank.
2. The driver was carrying a container of something highly flammable (propane tank for barbecue?) And it leaked, found the source of ignition and, well that would explain the mangled hood.

How precisely was the driver notified to get out of the car? Was this a message from the car indicating something was amiss?

NumberOne | October 2, 2013

This looks a little suspicious to me. The battery pack is very well protected, and for something like this to be possible, the burning part of the car must have been torn to pieces underneath. Other possibilities include an oxygen tank, a butane tank, or some other similar metal object or vessel containing a combustible substance that got pinned near the front car. Tesla will be investigating why this happened, but so will the insurer, the local fire and police departments and possibly the NHTSA. Frankly, posting such a video before anything is really known about the cause of the fire is highly irresponsible. It does not however, take a lot to entertain the masses. I still plan to get my Model X.

The explosion that can be seen in the video may be some of the batteries (provided that this real footage and not special effects). The pictures show the hood badly damaged, while the damage, if real could be attributed to some kind of explosion preceding the fire, it is well known that aluminum has a much lower melting point than steel, and that the hood could have melted if the fire was hot enough. (It is quite thin, so this is not as far fetched as one might think.)

David N | October 2, 2013

It does look like something is burning on the ground in front of the car

justineet | October 2, 2013

Clearly the car went through serious crash, large object on the ground or whatever. A big crash can only explain the significant damage to the front.

GDH | October 2, 2013

Pretty sure the damage to the front was done by the fire dept try to put out the fire and not a front end collision. As many reports claim the driver smelled something burning and pulled off the highway, driver also thought he ran over something on the highway, not slammed into something.

WayneH | October 2, 2013

Firefighters confirm battery on fire. Sad news.

GDH | October 2, 2013

Of course the battery was on fire, doesn't mean the battery caused the fire.

jeffsstuff | October 2, 2013

Doesn't sound like the battery but rather, the auxiliary 12v battery (they said the front of the car). Time will tell. For now, put away the tinfoil hats and enjoy your cars. As for me, I have to wait until Dec for mine.

coll1951 | October 2, 2013

The Washington State fire fighters claim that the batteries caught fire, and they had to turn the car on it's side to remove the battery pack. This is obvious a lie, made up by those people who have sold Tesla stock short. This is the world's greatest car ever built.
Tomorrow morning I am mortgaging my home and buying all the Tesla stock I can get my hands on. The is the greatest car and car company in the world, go Tesla, go Tesla.

justineet | October 2, 2013

@coli1951...where is the link to the story of the Washington State fire fighter's claim???

Brit.l.T | October 2, 2013

Ok that pics looks pretty freaking good for a car fire! I've seen way worse in ICEs.

mrspaghetti | October 2, 2013


The previous story was updated, so follow the same link.

It doesn't actually add all that much info other than how the firefighters put out the fire (which, once started would obviously spread to the rest of the car regardless of where or how it started).

We'll just have to wait until they complete their investigation to learn the cause.

GDH | October 2, 2013

To bad we can't get Matlock on the case!

eepic | October 2, 2013

From the ibtimes link provided by GDH:

"E71 found a medium sized sedan that appeared to have an engine compartment fire. [...] E71 found what appeared to be a battery pack in the front end of the vehicle that continued to burn. [...] E71 discovered that there was no access to the battery from the undercarriage. E71 then used a circular saw to cut an access hole into front structural member to apply water to the battery pack. E71 completely extinguished the fire."

It seems pretty clear that the "battery pack" they keep referring to is the 12V lead-acid battery in the front, common to conventional cars. The main lithium ion battery pack does not extend to the "frontal structural member", as seen in the below picture of the chassis and battery.

The media is doing a very poor job investigating before posting news on this. The lithium ion battery was NOT the battery that caught on fire.

zero2hide | October 2, 2013

180,000 vehicle fires in the US each year. 1x Tesla burns and its stock "plummets" 6 percent.

For those of us that invested in this exceptional company at $27 I say, "Meh."

bfranks273 | October 2, 2013

Well, really, the media is not quite on top of the details like we are. But the front 12V batt sounds right. There was a comment that water seemed to increase the fire and then they used chem fire retardant. And then cut into the battery. I'll look for the ref if nobody else saw it. They want to conclude that the lithium was hit by water and fired up. My problem with that is the multiple separate little AA like cells. I suppose one or a few might have been damaged and ripped open, but could the fire kick open more cells, considering the liquid cooling and the the retardant goop used to assemble the pack? This will be interesting, I hope we can actually get the facts.

Coll you are right. Pick the dip: 150? nah 162 worst.

mikefa | October 2, 2013

Must have hit something that was flammable?

judimasters | October 2, 2013

What time was the fire? Was it today 10/2? Because I was in my Blue Tesla S along side another Blue Tesla S this afternoon 10/2 and we were waving at each other on Hwy 18 going toward and near 167. I then went into a store and then north on 167. I am wondering!

oildeathspiral | October 2, 2013

Kelly TX

Great post, thanks for the specifics.

Mark K | October 2, 2013

They operative question is whether the battery was the fuel for the fire or not.

We'll find out in the next few days, but I think the battery was not the source of the flames.

I like Kelly TX intelligent analysis.

If you look in front of the car, there is fluid on the ground that is on fire. That is most likely brake fluid. (You can't really "juice" the electrolyte out of those individual steel-skinned cells into a pool like that).

The impact likely ripped into the brake lines / reservoir and spilled fluid. Either sparks from dragging the object, or a severed electrical line provided the ignition source.

This kind of damage to a gas car would likely have spread to the fuel lines and the whole car would have gone up in flames.

My guess is the forensic analysis will show that the Model S battery was not the fuel for the fure, and the car performed quite well relative to gas cars subjected to the same kind of hit, We'll see.

When the dust settles, I think it will be even more clear that the Model S is the safest car made..

cfOH | October 2, 2013

I wonder...did Jaguar's stock behave similarly when Dick Van Dyke's XJ spontaneously (not because he hit something) caught fire and burned to a crisp, almost taking him out with it?

I will wait until we know for a fact what happened with the Model S before I alter my opinion of either the company or the vehicle. To do otherwise seems unreasonable.

sunbingfa | October 2, 2013

I like eepic 's analysis. seems convincing.
If that's true, then the accident would be a ad for Tesla in the long run, supporting that the battery module are very safe even a fire has already started somewhere else. Hope people and media will look more into detail, not just panic over the word "Tesla“ and "Fire".

defmonk | October 3, 2013

Lord, I'm not looking forward to dealing with the fallout from this one. It's bad enough that I still have to debate moronic soccer moms about the Broder range issue every weekend. I'm sure "how can you put your kids in that firetrap?" will be the new theme...

ajkim26 | October 3, 2013

@defmonk borrow my argument, used on actual soccer parents: the Model S has far better range than any gas car. While model s can recharge for free for life, gas cars at best reach 500 miles before they die, unless one makes a $100 payment at the fill station for continued operation.

2-Star | October 3, 2013

It looks like the fluid used to cool the battery pack may have leaked out and caught fire. Does anyone know if that fluid is flammable, and if there is some other battery coolant fluid that is inflammable?

jeffsstuff | October 3, 2013

The battery coolant is nonflammable. It is similar to automotive coolant. Brake Fluid, on the other hand, is flammable.

Mark K | October 3, 2013

The coolant is not flammable.

Tesla has now given an official statement, and was able to confirm that one section of the battery did catch fire. So what we saw in the video was indeed combustion from cells (bummer !).

Still, the fire propagated slower than if that debris had punctured a gas tank instead of the battery pack, and the driver was able to walk away safely.

Notwithstanding the damage to the pack, the car seemed to perform better than its gas counterpart would.

We need to learn more how the limited chain reaction was even possible, given Tesla's pack architecture.

Ironically because of its success and greater numbers, such perfect storm cases will occur.

Still in my view safer than any gas car.

Bubba2000 | October 3, 2013

List of substances that could have fueled the fire - opinions?
1. Lead Acid Battery 12 V - I do not think there is enough energy there to feed the fire. Could have started the fire in impact.
2. Li-ion batteries - Could have started the fire, but the whole pack would be consumed. Spread underneath. Fire would intense of the kind seen when there is electrical discharge, metal burning. Like a transformer burning.
3. Brake fluid - There is not enough brake fluid in the car to cause this kind of fire. They can be based on glycol-ether (usually not flammable, unless hi alcohol content was used), silicon (not flammable), mineral oil (could be flammable?).
4. Battery coolant - It is a mystery what Tesla uses. I am thinking something like glycol+water. They may have used hi ethanol (70%) and glycol so it would not freeze during very cold winters. That could light up and cause this kind of fire including burning on the ground. Tesla could remedy this and come up with another mix. Would have to be tested extensively for heat transfer properties, temperature stability, boiling/freezing properties, corrosion. Expensive.
5. Al burning - Not likely at these temps and the burning is different. Flame is very bright.
6. Flammable fluid in the frunk? Object in the road had flammable fluid?

dayoreo | October 3, 2013

On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour in the US.

National Fire Protection Association

hpatelmd | October 3, 2013

Refreshing to see this Forbes reporter keep a level head:

carlk | October 3, 2013

Yes cars do catch fire, and often they do. About 200,000 incidents are reported in US each year. And I have to think gasoline is much more dangerous than Lithium when that happens.

sefischer1 | October 3, 2013

Think about the typical car with 10-20 gallons of gasoline, stored in a garage with a gas water heater. All you need is a small fuel leak. Kinda puts it in perspective.

cfoley | October 3, 2013

i have idea for a new option: a big tesla T fire extinguisher! guess the boys at tesla cant walk on water

RedShift | October 3, 2013

Mna123 aka NNT!

How are your other cars doing? The MBZ 300 that you say you have?

SwiCago | October 3, 2013

If the battery compartment was compromised, Tesla will probably have to recall and beef up that section. Who's to say bottoming out won't cause the same incident. If the area protecting the batteries and their cooling system is insufficient, it will happen again.
Simple fix would likely be a skid plate added to that section where it is most likely to be compromised.

stealth_mode | October 3, 2013

the MS IS allready the safest car ever! You can still kill your selfe in ANY car- fire or not.
I think it is pretty awesome and well engineered that the car didn't explode...
I do not even want to talk about a Hydrogen car or hydrogen refill station-
An exploding H2 car would likely leave a huge crater in the road and probably killing others too.
As long as the battery isn't self igniting.. Well

Bubba2000 | October 3, 2013

I do not think Li-ion batteries would burn with a flame that seeps to road. It looks some kind of liquid. The only liquid in sufficient quantities for that kind of fire is the battery coolant. I suspect Telsa used a hi alcohol mix with glycol or something similar. If the alcohol is greater than 70%, it is flammable. This kind of mix does not freeze even in most cold climates.

Tesla may choose to replace the coolant. Do some testing. Just a short term cost. With time the issue will be resolved.

J.T. | October 3, 2013

There but for the grace of God go I

mrspaghetti | October 3, 2013

@Mark K - can you link to Tesla's official statement? Thanks

RedShift | October 3, 2013

ABC reports that NHTSA is unable to travel to Washington state to investigate because of the government shut-down!

BGYWGY | October 3, 2013

mna123: Agree on the "Life is precious" comment. Consider this:

~250 million ICE cars in the US with roughly 250K fires per year (basically 1:1,000 ICE cars will have a fire in any given year.)

~25,000 Model S's on the road with 1 fire (1:25,000)

So regarding risk from fire, Model S's are apparently 25x safer than an ICE car. And that is only fire. We already know it is the safest car on the road if you are in any other type of accident.

So, Yes, Life is Precious. Buy the Model S and protect the ones you love.

Mark Z | October 3, 2013

The Model S air suspension lowering during highway speed makes for less clearance when striking debris on the freeway. This driver was reported to be in the HOV lane making it difficult to avoid the metal object. Perhaps a nicely hidden "cowcatcher" modification would allow the Model S to deflect road debris from the highway and eliminate all incidents of this nature.

thranx | October 3, 2013

Oh, good grief. You can make an MRAP catch fire, too.

@mna123; Better get rid of your shower and tub, too...that's where you're most likely to fall and die.