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Electric cars are four and half times less likely to burn?

Since suffering from its third fire incident in space of five weeks, we’ve been waiting on the rebuttal to widespread media sensualist reporting from electric carmaker, Tesla, and finally, CEO Elon Musk has issued a blog post to put some perspective on things.

A third Tesla owner reported a fire earlier this month, in his Model S electric car, after it hit a a three-pronged trailer hitch on the highway in Tennessee, similar to the first fire incident in Seattle back in October, when one of the fully-electric saloons hit debris in the road, striking the underside of the car.

Tesla Model S, Zurich, 31 January / 1 February 2013. James Lipman +44 7803 885275

A second incident took place later in October, when a driver in Mexico hit a concrete wall and a tree. In all three incidents, the drivers were unhurt and were able to exit their vehicles before the fires began.

To a rational mind- aware that there are more than quarter million gasoline car fires in the United States alone, resulting in more than 400 deaths and 1,200 serious injuries each year- Tesla’s track record supports its NHTSA five star safety rating.

Four and half times less combustible

With two of the three drivers of the unfortunate toasted Model S cars writing blog posts in support of Tesla, the carmaker is naturally emboldened by that backing. But of course, that’s not all that makes the electric car maker defiant in the face of unjust criticism; Tesla calculates that you are four and a half times more likely to experience a fire in a internal combustion car (ICE) than a combustion car.

This is based on the statistics so far; with more than 19,000 Model S electric saloons now on the road, making for an average of one fire per at least 6,333 cars, compared to the rate for gasoline vehicles of one fire per 1,350 cars.

There is a real science behind this result; a gasoline tank has 10 times more combustion energy than our battery pack. What’s more, Tesla’s battery pack is very well protected: with internal firewalls between the 16 battery modules and a firewall between the battery pack and passenger compartment, preventing the spread of a fire.

In his blog post on the company website, entitled ‘The Mission of Tesla’, company CEO, Musk says it is fair a “new technology should be held to a higher standard than what has come before. However, there should also be some reasonable limit to how high such a standard should be, and we believe that this has been vastly exceeded in recent media coverage.”

Adding: “The three Model S fires, which only occurred after very high-speed collisions and caused no serious injuries or deaths, received more national headlines than all 250,000+ gasoline fires combined. The media coverage of Model S fires vs. gasoline car fires is disproportionate by several orders of magnitude, despite the latter actually being far more deadly.”

Nonetheless, to doubly ensure its safety record remains well-above anything that a combustion car can achieve, Tesla has announced it will take three specific actions; firstly rolling out an over-the-air update to the air suspension that will result in greater ground clearance at highway speeds, making it harder for debris to hit the underside of the car. Another software update expected in January will give the driver direct control of the air suspension ride height transitions.

Secondly; the carmaker has requested that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conduct a full investigation as soon as possible into the fire incidents, to ensure that there is nothing untoward, though the carmaker is confident it will find nothing. And thirdly; Tesla will amend its warranty to cover damage due to a fire, even if due to driver error.

With the seven seat luxury saloon Model S newly launched in the UK, prospective buyers can be reassured that Tesla still has an unblemished record despite the damning media reports; with zero deaths or injuries resulting from driving one of its cars.

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Faye Sunderland

Filed under: Electric cars, Tesla Motors

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