Footnote Today – October 4, 2013 – Tesla Shares Plummet Following Fire

Report – Tesla Shares Plummet Following Battery Pack Fire

Tesla stock closed at $173.31 last night following news that a Model S caught fire in Kent, Washington. Shares were at a record-high $191.83 the day before the fire was reported.

A report published by the Kent Regional Fire Authority states the driver of the Model S hit a piece of debris in SR-167’s HOV lane about 20 miles south of downtown Seattle and pulled off the freeway when the car started running poorly. The S smoked and quickly burst into flames towards the bottom of the off-ramp but the driver had enough time to get out safely and call for help.

Fire fighters say spraying water made the flames worse so they put out the initial blaze using a dry chemical extinguisher. When the smoke cleared, they realized the car’s lithium-ion battery pack was still burning but they couldn’t access it so they were forced to take apart the front end of the vehicle and puncture several holes in the pack to help the water reach the flames.

A jack was used to gain access to the underside of the car, which was still on fire, but there was no way to reach the battery pack so firefighters cut a hole through the front structural member to spray water on the last remaining flames and put the fire out once and for all.

Tesla blames the fire on the collision with a “large metallic object” and points out the flames did not reach the passenger compartment or spread to the entire battery pack thanks to the Model S’ safe design.

“Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle,” explained a company spokesperson in a statement.

Source: Leftlane News

Footnote – The Model S Is Still the Safest Series Production Car!

Do not be fazed by reports of this fire incidence into thinking that NHTSA had been wrong for rating the Tesla Model S the safest car ever produced. Of course, NHTSA’s shutdown affected our Recalls reports section, and it may investigate this matter when it resumes operation, as the US government comes back, we can guarantee that you’re still very safe in the Model S and you need not panic. If you had looked into buying one and can afford it, great, still go ahead and do so.

On a scale of one to five with five being the best and one worst, NHTSA had ranked the Model S crash Safety as 5.4, meaning Top Safety plus. It exceeded NHTSA’s five star level.

But, did you notice something about this report of the fire spread? The fire, for as long as it took firefighters to contain it, did not quite get to the cockpit, or cabin on the whole. It’s as if the driver could’ve remained inside and watched the inferno, like some arsonist until the engine bay and underbelly had burned out, and not suffer a singe. While that is impossible as fire intensity may defy some structure and logic before it peters out, and lithium-ion batteries are highly flammable, the Model S’ firewall and floorpan integrity is a big deal.

First of all, note that it was the car that alerted the driver to pull over. So, the fire alert system of the Model S is Sound. Second, the barriers (individual cell firewalls) within the battery pack modules themselves were able to contain the fire within just the localized area as long as the fire kept burning. Third is that firewall structure.

The aluminum-intensive, in combination with high-strength steel, extrusion and casting that make up the firewall of the Model S has been proven to be highly thermally stable and fire resistive, even as it is highly distributive of crash forces, providing a great frontal barrier against crash forces in the event of a collision.

Still, this fire, investigation pending, is certainly not an indication of mechanical failure in the Model S or its battery system as if it just had to catch fire. The piece of metal debris that the car hit and ran over must have shorted the poles, or electrodes of the pack, making for rogue electricity flows and overheating the setup to self-ignition temperatures and the resultant fire.

Rest easy. Tesla is in control.

Inside the Tesla Model S. PHOTO: Cartype.com

Inside the Tesla Model S. PHOTO: Cartype.com

Footnote Today is designed by The Jigged Team to succinctly explain at most one aspect of automotive technology each day. Day by day if you spare one minute every lunch break to check the entire auto tech jargon will be easy pie to make sense of. If you’ve enjoyed today’s Footnote leave a reply and pay it forward to one of your communities below.

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4 thoughts on “Footnote Today – October 4, 2013 – Tesla Shares Plummet Following Fire

  1. Since you asked for me to reply to you on this page, rather than on your original thread on google+, I will respect your wishes, but now the gloves come off.

    1) No, but the real blame lies in part with how car seats for children or young adluts are made with regards to safety in a car, rather than the car design itself.

    2) Is it possible to construct the battery of the car so instead of it being physically in a block, exist as a linkage of tubes or a flat pallet??

    Let me guess?? You thought I was going to be all rude and what not..??

  2. Brandon Cook says:

    The safety rating for the Model S was so high they had to create a new level for safety. The Model S is currently the safest car on the road. No car in history has ever gotten a rating so high.
    http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Vehicle-Detail?vehicleId=7769
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/tesla-model-rated-safer-safe/story?id=20010910

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