News of a fire involving another Tesla Model S hit the wires early this morning, when Reuters published a report which claimed a 15 November garage fire in Irvine, California, could have been caused by an “electrical failure in the charging system” of a Model S luxury sedan.
But, says Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA] spokesperson Liz Jarvis-Shean in an official statement on behalf of the Californian automaker, the car is not to blame in any way for the previously unreported fire. Moreover, says Jarvis-Shean, Reuter’s reporting of the fire is nothing short of misleading journalism.
The incident, which occured more than a month ago, resulted in an electrical fire which ended with a full investigation by the Orange County Fire Authority. Its report — obtained by Reuters and used as the basis for the news story — states the fire was caused either by a “high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connector from the Tesla charging system,” yet also emphasizes that the cause of the fire is unclear.
In other words, the Orange County Fire Authority is unable to tell if the charging connector or the charging unit caused the fire, yet Reuters appears to lay the blame at Tesla’s feet, despite clarifying the Fire Authority’s lack of clarity.
Jarvis-Shean says Tesla disagrees. After an official internal investigation she says, the Tesla Model S is not at fault. In an official statement to Transport Evolved, which we’ve reproduced below, she sets out Tesla’s official statement, attributable to the company, and accuses Reuters of poor journalism.
Tesla is aware of this incident, which occurred over a month ago. Based on our inspection of the site, the car and the logs, we know that this was absolutely not the car, the battery or the charge electronics. There was a fire at the wall socket where the Model S was plugged in, but the car itself was not part of the fire. The cable was fine on the vehicle side; the damage was on the wall side. Our inspection of the car and the battery made clear that neither were the source and were in fact functioning normally after the incident. In addition, a review of the car’s logs showed that the battery had been charging normally, and there were no fluctuations in temperature or malfunctions within the battery or the charge electronics.
All of the above information was provided to the journalists and editors at Reuters responsible for the article. It is therefore disappointing that they would choose to publish as “news” a misleading article about an event that occurred more than a month ago that was not caused by the car and that was already covered by the Orange County Register. It appears that their objective was simply to find some way to put the words “fire” and “Tesla” in the same headline. The journalists and editors who created the story have patently ignored hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries unequivocally caused by gasoline car fires, instead choosing to write about a garage fire where there were no injuries and the cause was clearly not the car.
While it’s difficult to know exactly how the fire started, we can say is this isn’t the first time an electric car has been blamed for a garage fire in which poor house wiring — not the car or the charging station — were ultimately to blame. While we don’t know for sure, we’d have to bet the likely cause of the fire is old electrical wiring which, over time through corrosion, started to fail. The older the wiring, the more likely it is to be higher resistance, meaning it heats up more readily when high currents — such as those needed to charge an electric car — are passed through it. And hot wires, if they stay hot long enough, can start fires.
That’s why we think it’s always worth getting a dedicated electrical circuit fitted to your house, or at least any existing 240-volt circuits certified by an electrician as being safe, before plugging in any electric car or electric car charging station in.
And if you have to plug in to an unknown outlet, make sure you’ve set your car to draw no more than the outlet is capable of providing.
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