NHTSA closes probe into Tesla Model S fires

Article by Christian A., 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.

The first full-electric sedan from Tesla, the Model S, epitomises the progress in automobile engineering. Blending safety, performance, and efficiency, it set new global expectations for the 21st century vehicle with the best safety ratings possible, the best range of any electric vehicle, and software updates over-the-air to continuously improve it.

Tesla Architecture

Using Tesla’s platform, the battery's floor placement provides the Model S with a very low balance point, reducing rollover risk, while simultaneously improving control and performance. Remove the engine and the Tesla Model S’s crumple zone, meant for absorbing front impact energy. is much bigger than other performance sedans.


Tesla’s Model S is among the safest. Much of this safety is from its singular electric drivetrain beneath the vehicle. The Model S’s low centre of gravity minimises risk of rollover. The Model S has a safety record confirmed by an NHTSA and Euro NCAP 5-star rating as well as a record for the lowest possibility of occupant injury when tested in America.

With active safety features standard like automatic emergency braking, collision warning, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and optional conveniences like traffic-aware cruise control, autosteer, autopark, and summon, the Model S remains to be the safest.

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