Tesla cars being caught on fire isn’t new. Allegations against the car company claim that it’s due to their car batteries.
Founded in 2003, Tesla is one of the biggest electric carmakers in the world. Since the company inception, it has been building all-electric vehicles with the goal of accelerating the transition of the world to sustainable energy. Tesla has established a reputable name in the electric vehicle industry but, like any other business, it’s not without its fair share of controversy.
Tesla Cutting Corners Leads to Cars on Fire
In 2012, there were alarming allegations made against Tesla, claiming that the company sold cars equipped with batteries they knew could combust. Interestingly, it was the year when the electric automaker was in a rush in order to meet their production goal for their first all-electric sedan, the Model S. Tesla was allegedly sprinting to get the Model S on the market that it didn’t get to solve some issues with the car batteries before getting the car out the door.
The problem was that the battery cooling system of Model S would crack and leak occasionally. This issue could shorten the lifespan of the battery or worse, make it explode. It was argued that the company was aware of this problem yet they still sold the vehicles anyway.
Further issues behind the electric car
Several components of Model S were manufactured by Tesla out of an aluminum material and it was found to be susceptible to cracking. When the material cracked, the coolant tends to spill onto the battery pack, eating away at the battery. This destroys the battery, rendering it useless or triggering an explosion. The electric carmaker also uses a type of battery coolant that leaves behind a flammable residue when it evaporates, which makes it a dangerous fire hazard.
Apparently, there was an accident that happened when a technician was disassembling the Tesla Model X. A coolant was spilled in the battery pack, which sat there for a long time. Although there was no immediate danger, significant corrosion was found on the battery cells when the battery modules were removed later. It was actually bad enough that there were electrolyte leaking from the cells.
It was then discovered that Tesla was aware of the cracking parts but they seemed to have tried to cover the flaw. Employees even shared their concerns about the issue while Model S cars were being delivered.
Sure, every aspect of vehicle that Tesla designed was breakthrough innovation. They have done what many automakers couldn’t do even until now to it’s almost guaranteed that there would be serious problems in the production. However, the flaws could’ve been avoided.
More debates on Tesla cars catching fire
Much to the dismay of Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, fires that involved Tesla car batteries have gained a lot of attention over the years. Since 2013, there have been several incidents of cars catching fire and some of them were parked when the incident happened. This seems to contradict Musk’s claim that Tesla cars are more than 500% less likely to catch fire.
Of course, a burning vehicle isn’t new and it is definitely something that happens to other car brands and types, not only to Tesla cars. Car fires are a common occurrence after a crash and most of those that involved the ones manufactured by Tesla happened following violent wrecks. However, new incidents in the past that involved spontaneous combustion of the batteries of Tesla cars sparked attention.
Due to those recent events, Tesla had done some software update to their Model X and S cars. The update was set to change some of the settings of the battery management software of the car that’s related to thermal and charging controls.
The update happened after some incidents of Tesla fires were highly publicized. One of those occurred in China, which was caught by security cameras. The footage of the fire quickly went viral on social media.
Possible reasons for the car combustion
The vast majority of cars on the road still run on gasoline these days. Indeed, it is flammable but since the number of Tesla vehicles on the road is nothing compared to the number of gasoline-powered cars, it just makes sense to look into the increasing incidents of spontaneous fires that involve Tesla’s Model X, S, and 3.
In 2018 and 2019 alone, there have been more several instances when a Tesla car just burst into flames at the parking lot, even without being touched by the owner or a mechanic. According to the company, there is no reason for concern, though they still did the precautionary update to its Model S and Model X fleet.
The company claimed that its team of experts is thoroughly investigating these incidents to identify the cause of the problem. According to them, based on their research, they know that there are a lot of external factors that could attribute to the fire. These include vehicle damage, improper charging of the car, aftermarket ramifications, building fires, improper maintenance done by unauthorized mechanics, etc.
However, one theory behind those car combustions is connected with the lithium-ion battery cells. Each battery pack of Tesla consists of thousands of these cells, but there’s a flaw behind this source that powers every Tesla vehicle.
Lithium batteries have a known failure mode and that is when they develop internal shorts spontaneously. Depending on whether it is undercharged, overcharged, or overheated, the battery can form “copper dendrites” or “lithium dendrites”, creating dead shorts between the anode and cathode internally. This is why it is important to design both the charge and discharge circuitry very carefully. This could possibly be the case with electric cars by Tesla.
Unfortunately, it is still unclear if there is a manufacturing issue that can be solved or whether the public is in danger or not with these cars since Tesla doesn’t disclose any information on what really caused those fires. Although the company gave an assurance that it is less likely for Tesla to catch fire, it already happened many times in the past, so many are in doubt.