A Tesla Model S Plaid Spontaneously Combusted, Briefly Trapping the Driver Inside

'Our preliminary investigation is ongoing, but we call on Tesla to sideline these cars until a full investigation can occur.'

A Tesla Model S Plaid Spontaneously Combusted, Briefly Trapping the Driver Inside
The Tesla Model S Plaid, on fire. Ben Meiselas / Twitter

Few if any new inventions are perfect with the first iteration.

One of Tesla's new high-end Model S Plaids spontaneously combusted on Tuesday night in Haverford, Pennsylvania, momentarily trapping its driver inside, according to a tweet from the law firm representing the driver. The owner's lawyer also said the vehicle "spontaneously combusted," according to a report from The Verge.

Luckily, the driver escaped alive. It's also important to note that this could be a flaw with the design, but further investigation is necessary to confirm or refute this possibility.

Firefighters drenched the Tesla Plaid to extinguish the flames

Firefighters from both the Lower Merion and Gladwyne Fire Departments responded to the scene before 9:00 PM EDT on Tuesday, where they "laid a 5 inch supply line into the scene so that we could keep a continual water stream on the fire to extinguish the fire and cool the batteries down to ensure complete extinguishment," read a statement from the Gladwyne Fire Department.

The Model S Plaid is Tesla's high-end, super-fast refurbished version of the all-electric auto manufacturer's original EV sedan, and mere weeks have passed since it went to market. CEO Elon Musk hosted the commencement of initial customer deliveries of the novel EV, which sells for $130,000. This burning one was among the first 250 vehicles shipped out to buyers, according to the tweet from the unnamed driver's lawyer, Ben Meiselas. As of writing, in addition to surviving, the driver escaped the inferno with no injuries.

"This is a harrowing and frightening situation and an obvious major problem," said another attorney named Mark Geragos, who is also representing the owner, in a Roadshow report. "Our preliminary investigation is ongoing, but we call on Tesla to sideline these cars until a full investigation can occur." The fire department said it fought the flames for two hours, according to a report from The Washington Post. In the lawsuit, the Plaid's sophisticated door handles momentarily trapped the driver inside the car.


No evidence that EV batteries are more dangerous than internal combustion

As of writing, there's no evidence suggesting all-electric vehicles spontaneously combust with greater frequency than conventional engines that use internal combustion. But the issue has come to a head as more electric vehicles go to market. Whether EVs are more likely to erupt in flames than conventional ones, first responders are undergoing training to effectively quell battery fires, because they can't be put out like ordinary, fossil fuel cars.

Meanwhile, Tesla fires have gained a lot of public attention, so much that Musk has spoken repeatedly on fire-related incidents. Several other companies, including Audi, Chevrolet, Hyundai, and NIO, have recalled some of their vehicles in anticipation of potential fires erupting from their electric vehicles. Jaguar, for instance, has also seen some fires erupt from their EVs. Tesla has insisted that it makes the safest cars in the world, and continues to release fire statistics annually of its own initiative, which so far suggest that, statistically, combustion engine cars are far more likely to spontaneously combust than all-electric ones. Additionally, Elon Musk's company has made several changes to the Model S in the last decade, to address the existing fire risks. Time will tell if official authorities agree with the company, and whether all-electric vehicles have an inherent flaw, or are simply too sensational to ignore.


This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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