Federal investigators are looking into a battery fire that broke out in 2014 Tesla Model S electric car in June to address the unique safety issues encountered by emergency crews responding to electric vehicle crashes.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the Tesla fire occurred on June 15 as a driver was traveling west on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, California. Other motorists flagged down the Tesla driver when they saw smoke coming from the vehicle.
The driver pulled over, stopped the car, and got out. A nearby Los Angeles Police Department patrol car also stopped as smoke and flames started to consume the Tesla vehicle. The area around the burning car was closed off while the Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to the fire.
According to the NTSB, video footage of the incident taken by the Tesla driver and a bystander shows the smoke billowing from underneath the vehicle after the driver pulled over to the curb and got out.
After a few minutes, flames and smoke emitted from behind both front wheels and along under the vehicle’s doors.
Electric car fires fueled by powerful lithium-ion cells in the engine pose a relatively new challenge for firefighters, who are well versed in battling car fires fueled by gas and diesel but may be unfamiliar with the behavior and other characteristics of electric-vehicle fires. According to the NTSB, firefighters on the scene of the blaze consulted with Tesla representatives by phone about how to contain the situation and secure the vehicle.
Tesla cautioned the firefighters about the possibility of the lithium batteries reigniting after the flames appeared to be extinguished. Firefighters doused the Tesla vehicle with about 300 gallons of water and foam before the batteries were cool and stable.
Tesla took possession of the burned vehicle and moved it to a Tesla service center in Burbank, California, where it was disassembled and inspected. The automaker shared its findings with NTSB, which is using the information along with its findings from its post-crash investigations of other electric Tesla vehicle crashes to inform first responders.