According to David Strickland, NHTSA’s Administrator, the government agency is currently gathering data about the blaze and talking to the company. He did not say whether or not the organization would open a formal investigation into the incident, which took place in Washington State.
From flaming Fisker Karmas to charred Chevy Volts there have been numerous electric-vehicle fires in recent years. This Model S inferno almost seems like par for the course in the world of EVs… almost.
Responding to the incident in a blog post Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the car struck a large metal object, which caused “significant” damage and ultimately caused the fire. Apparently the debris in question was a stray part from a tractor trailer. It punched a three-inch diameter hole clean through the car’s under-body armor plating, piercing the battery and starting the fire. Yikes.
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Because of the government shutdown NHTSA was not able to send investigators to the scene (thanks, congress!). Now that the D.C. hullabaloo is over the agency is working to review consumer complaints logged during the fiscal “vacation.”
Musk also pointed out in his blog post that a similar situation with a gasoline-powered vehicle could have been much worse. With a massively punctured fuel tank a fire of the same scope could have easily consumed the entire vehicle.