A recent report about an accident that involved a Tesla vehicle spelled bad news for the company. The report indicated that its car batteries may not be safe.
The National Transportation Highway Safety Board’s experts issued a report on a crash of a 2014 Model S in Fort Lauderdale on May 8 that involved a driver who lost control of the car. The report’s authors wrote:
The Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue Department arrived at the crash scene and found the Tesla fully engulfed in flames. They extinguished the vehicle fire using 200–300 gallons of water and foam. Small portions of the lithium-ion high-voltage battery had separated from the vehicle, and—though there was no visible fire—they applied water and foam to the debris. During the loading of the car for removal from the scene, the battery reignited and was quickly extinguished. Upon arrival at the storage yard, the battery reignited again. A local fire department responded to the storage yard and extinguished the fire.
One fire is bad. Three fires are three too many.
The major criticisms of Tesla vehicles are that their autopilots are not advanced enough to be safe for drivers who surrender control of their cars and that the type of batteries Tesla uses are unstable. While the evidence of these is thin because it is based on very few accidents, regulators and some consumers are anxious nevertheless.
Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) has a series of problems that are unrelated to fires, but it does add one more burden as the company struggles with its future. Investors worry it will run out of cash this year. Analysts worry production of its mass-market Model 3 will be to slow to satisfy consumer demand and reach key milestones set by founder and CEO Elon Musk.
In 2015, Consumer Reports gave the Tesla Model S a score of 103 on a scale with a high point of 100. It lauded the car’s safety features. But that was three years ago before Teslas started to have serious accidents. These accidents may dampen consumer demand at a time Tesla needs it.