A Tesla Model S caught fire on a highway in the US city of Seattle recently after its floor-mounted battery compartment was ruptured by a large piece of metal.
The shape and size of the metal piece was enough to punch a 7.62cm diameter hole through the quarter-inch armour plate protecting the base of the vehicle.
The damage caused a fire in the front battery module, which was fully contained in the front section of the car by internal firewalls surrounding the pack.
The warning system on board the Model S instructed the driver to pull over, leaving him with enough time to exit the vehicle before the fire broke out.
Even after fire fighters on the scene inadvertently punctured the battery pack’s protective cover to put out the fire, the flames never reached the cockpit, according to claims by company CEO Elon Musk’s post on the Tesla blog.
“It is important to note that the fire in the battery was contained to a small section near the front by internal firewalls built into the pack structure. At no point did the fire enter the passenger compartment,” said Musk.
He was also quick to point out that had the same incident occurred with a conventional petrol-powered vehicle, “the result could have been far worse,” he added.
“A typical petrol 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 fuel to form and often burn the entire car to the ground,” Musk wrote in the same blog.
Musk went on to say, “For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely no doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.”
Launched in mid-2012 by Tesla Motors, the California-based electric car company has had considerable success with its five-door Model S.
Tesla’s sales to date have exceeded expectations and its share price has risen by more than 400 per cent, giving it a market capitalisation of more than $21 billion, greater than many traditional car manufacturers.
But shortly after the above video of the car fire surfaced on YouTube, the stock price fell backwards by more than 5 per cent. It has since recovered and was up by 4.4 per cent.