A Tesla Model S crashed into a concrete barrier and burst into flames in Austria and, according to The Express, 35 firefighters were needed to put out the blaze. The luxury electric car was travelling along the Ahlberg Expressway (S16) in Pians. Despite the severity of the fire, the 19-year-old driver walked away from the accident with minor injuries since he was able to escape before the fire started.
While the fire required lots of effort to put out, it could have been worse. The Express reports that it didn’t spread to the entire battery pack which would have intensified the blaze. In Tesla vehicles, the battery packs are built into the chassis and they contain a firewall to prevent the spread of fire. That’s a very important safety feature because the lithium-ion batteries in electric cars emit toxic fumes when heated so when fire hits the battery it can be very harmful.
The potential danger of fires in Tesla is so serious that the company has put out a set of guidelines for first-responders who have to deal with them.
“If the high voltage battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is bent, twisted, cracked, or breached in any way, use large amounts of water to cool the battery,” it says. “Always establish or request an additional water supply. Battery fires can take up to 24 hours to extinguish.
So, are electric cars a fire hazard that Tesla buyers should be worried about? In 2013, The MIT Technology Review reported that early data suggested that Tesla models were more likely to catch on fire than regular cars. But they also added that the number of accidents was so small that it was hard to make a definitive judgement as to whether Teslas are more fire-prone than other cars. The report from MIT came after three Tesla Model S’s caught on fire in two months. Two of the cars involved in those accidents ran over a metal object and were driving at highway speeds. The other Telsa ran into a concrete wall.
It’s important to note that none of the drivers of these cars was hurt which could be an indication that Tesla’s safety features are working. A warning system instructed the drivers to pull over and exit the car and the battery pack design prevented the fire from getting to the passenger compartments.
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