Car Fires Prompt NHTSA To Open Official Probe Into Safety Of Tesla Model S

The smell of car batteries roasting in the flickering flames has reached the nose of he National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which aid it’s opened a formal probe into the safety of the Tesla Model S electric car after reports of two fires caused by cars hitting debris in the road. In other words, Elon Musk is probably not happy right now.

The “undercarriage strikes” are the reason for the safety investigation, reports USA Today, as both cases involved fires in the battery compartment when cars hit stuff in the road that pierced those compartments.

This morning before the NHTSA announced the probe, CEO Musk rolled out three steps the company would take because of the fires but said in the lengthy blog post that he still thinks the cars are safe. The steps as summarized by USA Today:

•Higher ground clearance to make them less likely to strike road debris that can potentially penetrate the battery pack and ignite a blaze.

•Asking federal safety regulators to “conduct a full investigation as soon as possible into the fires.” Musk gave no hint that NHTSA was about to open an investigation.

•Amending the cars’ warranty to cover damage due to fire.

See, so he asked for the probe, or so it might seem. And besides, those battery fires are nothing when compared with the thousands of burned up cars after gasoline fires in ruptured tanks.

“Since the Model S went into production mid last year, there have been over 400 deaths and 1,200 serious injuries in the United States alone due to gasoline car fires, compared to zero deaths and zero injuries due to Tesla fires anywhere in the world,” he writes.

The NHTSA does throw the Tesla Model S a bone in noting that passengers were able to escape the cars after they caught on fire.

“In each incident, the vehicle’s battery monitoring system provided escalating visible and audible warnings, allowing the driver to execute a controlled stop and exit the vehicle before the battery emitted smoke and fire,” NHTSA writes.

After the NHTSA is done investigating, Musk says if the feds have any suggestions on how to make the cars safer, he’ll implement them speedily.

Feds open formal probe into Tesla electric car fires [USA Today]