Tesla Model S Investigation Launched by NHTSA Amid Battery Fires

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a formal investigation into reports of battery fires with Tesla Model S electric cars, after at least three consumers reported problems where their vehicle caught on fire after running over debris on a roadway.

The Tesla Model S investigation was initiated on November 19, according to multiple medial reports. The probe will examine a potential issue with the chemical makeup of the car’s battery, which may carry a risk of fires during collissions due to the lithium ion cells.

Concerns about Tesla battery fires began after videos surfaced of flames coming from vehicles after impacts. One report received in Mexico indicated the vehicles burst into blames after a high speed collision, but safety regulators are deeming this incident to be isolated and outside of the scope of the investigation. Another fire incident involved a Tennessee driver, who allegedly rode over a tow hitch, causing the undercarriage to be impacted.

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The NHTSA initially began looking into the reports on November 13, and has decided to launch a federal defect investigation to include an evaluation of the battery’s size, shape, chemical makeup and crash tests results of the potentially affected models.

Critics have suggested that the Tesla Model S lithium battery may pose a risk of fire if it is punctured. The battery is located near the underside of the vehicle, potentially making it vulnerable in automobile accidents and when the vehicle is driven over debris.

A class action lawsuit was filed earlier this month against Tesla Motors, Inc. on behalf of investors who allege that the automaker has made misleading statements about the safety of the Model S. Since news of the Tesla Model S fires became public, the auto maker’s stock price has plummeted, falling nearly 30% and causing a loss of $6.5 billion loss in the company’s stock value. The complaint seeks damages for investors who suffered loses since May 10.

Photo Courtesy of jurvetson via Flickr CC

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