Mon, Mar 31, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Tesla fire probe halted after safety vow


A Tesla Model S electric automobile is displayed at the company’s stand on the opening day of the 84th Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland on March 4.

Photo: Bloomberg

US federal safety regulators have closed an investigation launched following two fires involving Tesla’s Model S sedan after the electric carmaker vowed to reinforce the casing around the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries.

A statement by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tesla’s move to modify Model S batteries with three additional layers of protection should be enough to prevent fires in the car in future.

The NHTSA said “the addition of increased underbody protection should reduce both the frequency of underbody strikes and the resultant fire risk.”

“Accordingly, the investigation is closed,” the NHTSA added.

The safety probe was launched after two separate car fires in the US states of Washington and Tennessee last year.

In both cases, the cars involved hit debris on the road that pierced the chassis and caused a battery fire.


Both cars were gutted by fire although the drivers in each incident escaped unharmed.

A third case was also reported in Merida, Mexico.

The investigation had been a rare blip of bad news for Tesla, which was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk and specializes in high-end electric vehicles.

Despite the shadow cast by the fire investigation, last month Consumer Reports hailed Tesla’s Model S as the top vehicle this year, describing it as a “technological tour de force.”

Musk said in a statement on Tesla’s Web site that the modification made to the Model S would dramatically reduce the risk of fires in future.


“We felt it was important to bring this risk down to virtually zero to give Model S owners complete peace of mind,” the entrepreneur said. “Starting with vehicle bodies manufactured as of March 6, all cars have been outfitted with a triple underbody shield.”

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