Electric Cars

Video of parked Tesla catching fire in China sparks investigation

The car appeared to smoke from underneath before bursting into flame.

A Model S in a Chinese garage caught flames.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

A new video from China shows one of Tesla's electric cars catching fire while parked. The video, which appears to show an unoccupied Model S bursting into flame, was initially shared on Chinese social-networking site Weibo before being shared more widely on Twitter.

Reuters reports that the Tesla Model S caught fire in a parking garage in Shanghai. No cause has been confirmed so far, though Tesla reportedly sent a team to investigate the blaze. The video shows smoke coming out of the bottom of the parked car, before flames erupt and engulf the car.

Tesla did not immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment. However, the company told Reuters that it was investigating the blaze. "We immediately sent a team onsite and we're supporting local authorities to establish the facts. From what we know now, no one was harmed," a company spokesperson told the news agency.

Reuters reports that "at least 14" Tesla models have caught fire since 2013, though mostly after they've been involved in accidents, which can damage the cars' battery packs. CEO Elon Musk has maintained that Teslas pose a lower risk of fire than internal-combustion vehicles, but the nature of the lithium-ion batteries in electric cars can make it tougher to extinguish fires once they begin. In one instance, the National Transportation Safety Board reported that a Tesla's battery reignited twice after a crash.

Of course, fires aren't exclusive to EVs -- there are still plenty of instances of regular internal-combustion vehicles catching fire, often leading to recalls. Until Tesla completes its investigation of the car in this video, it's tough to draw any particular conclusions from this situation.