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Tesla Model S Fire in California Connects The Dots Between Different Stories
When Tesla proposed a deal to Tesla Model S owners affected by voltage-capping updates, Elon Musk said the company was just doing the right thing. Another hypothesis for that is that Tesla didn’t want courts inquiring about why it made the updates. When we wrote about a Model 3 fire that the police suspect to be arson, some readers disputed that: the battery pack would not have exploded if that was really the case. Somehow, a new story connects the dots between these two after a fire happened in San Ramon, California.

Tesla Model S Fire in California Connects The Dots Between Different Stories

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Yogi Vindum told The Washington Post that he was an early Tesla customer. He bought his first Model S in 2013 and liked it so much he got a second one. Both were sitting in his garage charging overnight on December 30, 2020, when the alarm in one of them set off. His house was filled up with fumes, and he and his wife left it. Thankfully, none of them got hurt.

The firefighters arrived soon and managed to kill the fire on the house quickly, but the cars inside the garage kept on reigniting. Only when the firefighters managed to drag them out could they prevent that from happening again. Anyway, both Teslas were destroyed beyond repair. Vindum had more than $1 million in damages, and his insurance company took care of everything, apparently.

According to the fire inspection report about his case, the problem started in one of the EVs. It could have been a thermal runaway or something in the car’s electric system while it was charging. Vindum tried to contact Tesla multiple times. When he managed to get in touch, the company said it would investigate the fire. The charred remains stayed in front of the garage for months waiting for the company to appear. It didn’t.

Vindum’s vehicle probably was among the ones affected by the 2019.16.1 or 2019.16.2 software updates that capped the voltage of the cells in 1,743 vehicles in the U.S., according to Tesla’s settlement proposition. Owners in other countries also got the restrictive updates, but we have no idea about how many they are.

In China, one of these vehicles caught fire in a Shanghai garage in April 2019. In Norway, 30 owners sued Tesla and should receive 136,000 Norwegian kroner – equivalent to $15,500. The company is appealing the decision.

The Model S that caused the fire in Vindum’s garage made the one nearby also catch fire. The firefighters involved with helping Vindum said they could feel how intense the blaze was from the sidewalk. That said, how strong and prolonged would a fire have to be to provoke a thermal runaway?

When a Tesla Model 3 caught fire in San Diego last August 3, witnesses said they heard an explosion. The fire video shows that the battery pack was on fire and that some blasts threw cells in the air. With a ballistic grade aluminum armor plate to protect the battery pack, how could an arsonist cause enough heat to affect it?

In arson cases affecting EVs, it normally burns some components in the car, such as the interior, but the battery pack remains intact. That’s what happened to a Model S in Norway in August 2019, as Tom Moloughney reported for InsideEVs.

The police will investigate that Model 3 fire and determine the causes. As some dust bins around that neighborhood were also on fire, they suspect arson. Could that have been caused by bits of the Model 3 that flew away with the explosions?

We’d ask this and more questions to engineers and experts if they were not afraid of ruining their chances of working for Tesla or other automakers. So far, we haven’t found a single one willing to talk, so our only option now is to wait. And to hope that other customers do not go through the same issues that destroyed Vindum’s house.

 
 
 
 
 

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