“This is the safest car on the road hands down, and for me, I can say honestly say it saved my life,” said the driver of a crashed Model S in an Oct. 6 article from GTSpirit.com.
The driver had just experienced a collision after another driver ran a red light while texting, an accident one may not think they’d simply walk away from unharmed. While every manufacturer can test the limits of their automobiles, none can be for sure of their mettle until disaster strikes on the road. Tesla has finally had the chance to run the gamut, and their strengths have been proven in real world testing.
According to an Oct. 4 press release from Tesla, a Model S cruising at highway speeds passed over a metallic object on Oct. 1. As the release noted, “the geometry of the object caused a powerful lever action as it went under the car, punching upward and impaling the Model S with a peak force on the order of 25 tons.” The resulting impact caused damage to one of the battery packs. Upon detection of the damage, the Model S’s alert system instructed the driver, Rob Carlson, to pull over and exit the vehicle. Once Carlson was safely outside of the vehicle, he noticed smoke flowing from beneath the car, closely followed by an inferno of flames.
The press release went on to report that the fire department arrived at the scene, unfamiliar with exactly how to handle the situation. While there are more than 150,000 car fires each year, this was the first recorded instance of a Tesla Model S catching fire. A firefighter initially punctured holes in the top of the battery pack’s protective shell, which only allowed for more flames to rise from the top. Fortunately, the rescuers were able to subdue the fire with a combination of water and dry chemical extinguishers, with no injuries.
The event created a stir in the news. Allegations surfaced that the performance electric car’s battery pack overheated and caught fire, similar to a laptop or other lithium-ion powered device. The result dropped the company’s shares by $12.05 on Oct. 2, followed by another $7.64 on Oct. 3 after a viral video claimed to debunk the vehicle’s safety standards. However, CEO of Tesla Motors, Inc., Elon Musk believes that this is even more proof that the Model S is safer than a combustion engine vehicle.
“Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan,” explained Musk in the same press release.
He continued by saying, “The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to 1 vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to 1 fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are 5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!”
While the vehicle caught fire, it proved itself to be far safer than nearly any other car on the road. Flames may have grown to absurd sizes, but taking a closer look at the vehicle, no flames were present in the cabin. The vehicle did what it was designed to do; once the hole was punctured in the battery pack and a fire began, vents beneath the vehicle forced the flames downward.
What appeared to be a tragedy for the company only turned out to be a successful “test” for the car that was considered to have already perfected safety, and then some. It’s without a doubt that the Model S is the safest vehicle on the streets and gives way for even more reason to have been the proper choice for the duPont REGISTRY Daily Driver Award in the Exotic Car Buyers Guide. Well done, Elon Musk.