The federal auto safety regulator announced Tuesday that it is investigating battery fires in the luxury — and top safety rated — Tesla Model S electric cars following a series of fires.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted to its website that, following two recent cases in which debris pierced the cars’ batteries, it opened a “preliminary evaluation to examine the potential risks associated with undercarriage strikes” last week.
None of the car fires have resulted in injury, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said in a post to the company’s blog Monday that Tesla had requested the federal investigation with the aim of dispelling concerns over the car’s safety. Musk also said that a software update will give the car more ground clearance at highway speeds, further reducing the fire risk from debris.
“Given that the incidence of fires in the Model S is far lower than combustion cars and that there have been no resulting injuries, this did not at first seem like a good use of NHTSA’s time compared to the hundreds of gasoline fire deaths per year that warrant their attention,” Musk wrote on the blog. “However… if a false perception about the safety of electric cars is allowed to linger, it will delay the advent of sustainable transport.”
The investigation covers more than 13,000 2013 Model S cars in America, which range in cost from $70,000 to well over $100,000.