Elon Musk defends safety of Tesla Model S after fire incident

Article by Anita Panait, on October 7, 2013

Questions over the safety of the lithium ion battery pack powering the Tesla Model S have surfaced after a fire incident involving one of the sedans. This has prompted Tesla Motors Inc. chief executive Elon Musk to step up and defend the flagship’s safety. A Model S piloted in Kent, Washington, on Oct. 1 hit metal debris on the road.

In a statement, Musk said the object seems to be a "curved section" that fell off a semi-trailer. Tesla said that the sedan’s warning system alerted the driver to pull over and exit the vehicle, after which a fire broke out.

In the statement, Musk said that 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."

Musk noted that if the same thing happened to a conventional gasoline car, “the result could have been far worse."

News of the Model S fire sparked a 10-percent dive in Tesla’s shares over two days, reflecting worries that the incident may blemish the electric carmaker.

Musk ended the statement by saying that there should be “absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid."

The Washington State Patrol and local authorities are probing the incident. A review by U.S. safety inspectors is not expected soon since they are among the furloughed employees during the U.S. government shutdown.

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