NHTSA closes probe into Tesla Model S fires

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 31, 2014

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed a four-month probe into fires in the Tesla Model S. According to NHTSA documents, impacts with road debris are normal and foreseeable and the likelihood of such strike and fire risk has been reduced by raising the car’s ride height via a software upgrade last fall, and adding an increased underbody protection.

Tesla Motors Inc. disclosed a design modification to better shield the batteries of the Model S. The EV maker disclosed it commenced building the Model S with a titanium underbody shield to prevent battery fires similar to the two that occurred in the US in 2013, when the vehicle’s drivers hit road debris.

hief executive Elon Musk, revealed the design change in an article on Medium.com, saying that all Model S produced after March 6 feature the shield. He added that owners of Model S built before the date could opt to have the Titanium shield added upon request. Musk actively defended the safety of the Model S in 2013, even after NHTSA launched a formal probe on November 15.

In the article in Medium.com, Musk said the modification would have value, by minimizing owner inconvenience during an impact and addressing any lingering public misperception about EV safety. He noted that with Tesla’s track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries, there is no safer car on the road than theirs. He said that the addition of the underbody shields simply takes safety a step further.

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