Austin Personal Injury Blog

Implications of Tesla Vehicle Fire

Posted By The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC || 10-Oct-2013

A battery for a Tesla Model S electric car exploded but caused no casualties or injuries. The vehicle was traveling at highway speed when it collided with a large metal object that had fallen off a semi trailer. This caused the object to push up into the engine compartment, piercing the quarter inch thick armor plate beneath the battery and causing the first battery fire in an electric car ever.

There is intense consumer and legislative interest surrounding whether this fire represents an unsafe vehicle design. Experts point out that car fires are a common roadside occurrence, ending the life of about one in 1,738 cars. This fire, the first for Tesla, means that the odds of an electrical car fire are about one in 20,000.

It is also germane to the case that the fire happened after a major car accident and not when the car is at rest. The peak force required for that piece of metal to pierce the armor under the battery was something like 25 tons. This would certainly have done far more damage to a gasoline-burning car. However, there was one important difference: the fire in the battery was more difficult for the firefighters to put out than in other cars. They thought they had extinguished it, but it reignited and had to be put out again. It is uncertain why the battery caught fire again, and experts are calling for more studies to determine the cause.

Although there has been extensive safety testing for the Tesla electric car, they have yet to disseminate an effective procedure for putting out the fire when the worst occurs. Consulting an attorney who is experienced in personal injury law may be a good starting point for those who have suffered from injuries caused by an electric vehicle explosion.

Source: MIT Technology Review, "What the Tesla Battery Fire Means for Electric Vehicles", Kevin Bullis, October 03, 2013

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