Tesla puts Model S fire into perspective

Responding to video of a blazing Model S that circulated earlier this week, Tesla posted an explanation of the accident and facts about fires in gasoline cars.

Burning Tesla Model S
A burning Tesla Model S was captured on video by a passerby. Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET

This week's YouTube video of a burning Model S prompted the upstart electric carmaker to post an in-depth explanation of the accident that lead to the fire, along with statistics about fires in internal combustion engine cars.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted in the post that "you are five times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!"

According to Musk, a large piece of curved metal fell off a tractor-trailer rig. The Model S overran the object, causing it to lever up into the bottom of the car with a force of 25 tons.

The metal object created a 3-inch hole in protective plating underneath the car, breaching one of the 16 battery compartments in the chassis. The intrusion caused the battery pack to catch fire, although firewalls between the battery modules and in the structure of the car prevented the flames from moving into the passenger compartment.

Musk points out that internal combustion cars have much less protection in the chassis than does the Model S, so this type of accident could have been much worse. Citing the National Fire Protection Association, he writes that there are 150,000 vehicle fires every year.

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