Little Girl Trapped Inside Tesla Shows the Dangers of Electrical Door Release Systems

A little girl was trapped inside Tesla after the 12-volt battery died 6 photos
Photo: Tesla, AZ Family
A little girl was trapped inside Tesla after the 12-volt battery diedA little girl was trapped inside Tesla after the 12-volt battery diedEmergency door release systemEmergency door release systemOpening the hood with no power
A grandmother had to call firefighters to rescue her granddaughter, who remained trapped inside a Tesla EV with a dead 12-volt battery. Because there was no way to open the doors from the outside without power, they had no better solution than to break the car's window.
There's a new trend in the automotive industry to replace physical parts with electrically-actuated systems. The most obvious example is the electrical door release system. All Teslas have such a system, which ensures that the frameless windows are lowered before the door opens. However, when the 12-volt battery dies, the same systems can pose a significant danger, especially when people must quickly evacuate the vehicle.

Tesla offers a backup emergency release that works without power, but many owners are unaware of how to use it. Sometimes, the release string is hidden behind the door panel and is not always easy to reach in an emergency. Only the front doors have easily accessible emergency releases. This has caused problems more than once when the car's low-voltage (12-volt) battery died. Some even blamed the system for people's deaths in crashes that resulted in a fire.

Last September, a mother and her 16-year-old daughter were trapped inside a rented Tesla after the 12-volt battery died. They weren't familiar with the emergency door release in a Tesla and panicked when faced with a bricked car they could not get out of. Luckily, they called a tow truck driver who instructed them to get out of the Tesla through the boot using the tailgate release.

When the low-voltage battery approaches the end of its lifecycle, the car is expected to warn drivers to schedule a service center appointment to replace it. However, this doesn't always happen; sometimes, the battery just dies without warning. When this happens, the vehicle's auxiliary systems remain without power, even though the high-voltage battery has enough charge.

A Scottsdale grandmother learned this the hard way on Wednesday just as she loaded her 20-month-old granddaughter into her car seat for a trip to the Phoenix Zoo. She closed the rear door and went around the car to get in the driver's seat, but she couldn't open the door. The 12-volt battery was dead, and she was locked outside while her granddaughter was trapped inside the car, buckled into a car seat. She had no option but to call 911, which sent out Scottsdale firefighters.

"And when they got here, the first thing they said was, 'Uggh, it's a Tesla. We can't get in these cars,'" Renee Sanchez told AZ Family. "And I said, 'I don't care if you have to cut my car in half. Just get her out.'"

Intriguingly, the firefighters didn't know that you could "jumpstart" a Tesla with an external battery that allows you to open the doors. Instead, they used an axe to break a window after covering it with tape to prevent the glass from flying. The operation caused significant distress to the little girl, who was already scared. Thankfully, everything ended well, and she was back safely in her grandmother's arms.

Sanchez would like to see Tesla offer a better way to get into the car when the battery dies. Other brands provide a physical key hidden in the key fob that can be used to manually open the door without power. However, Tesla only relies on a system that is unknown to most owners and first responders.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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