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    ‘Extraordinarily Unusual’: Tesla Reacts to LA Car Fire

    Twitter / Mary McCormack
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    Actress Mary McCormack posted a video of her husband’s Tesla electric cars becoming engulfed in flames “out of the blue.” The maker is perplexed by the incident. However, it looks like this could happen to anyone.

    McCormack tweeted on June 16 a video of her husband's Tesla electric car in Los Angeles with a fiery stream shooting out from underneath the vehicle.

    "@Tesla This is what happened to my husband and his car today. No accident, out of the blue, in traffic…" she wrote under the video.

    ​Thankfully, no one was harmed in the fiery incident.

    Tesla has already reacted to the video, calling it "extraordinarily unusual," according to CBS News.

    "Our initial investigation shows that the cabin of the vehicle was totally unaffected by the fire due to our battery architecture, which is designed to protect the cabin in the very rare event that a battery fire occurs," the company noted in a statement.

    Tesla's incredulity perhaps derives from the fact that the company manufactures its cares with Lithium ion batteries, which catch fire very rarely, unless being directly tampered with — punctured, for example.

    According to Cadex battery manufacturer's Battery University website, there are several types of Li-Ion battery failure.

    "One occurs at a predictable interval-per-million and is connected with a design flaw involving the electrode, separator, electrolyte or processes," the website reads. "These defects often involve a recall to correct a discovered flaw."

    Other failure types are random, cannot be predicted and may be caused by some stress factor, such as elevated heat, charging at below-zero temperatures and strong vibration.

    Rupture of the battery's inner separators — either by force, such as penetration with a foreign object or by vibration — can cause a short circuit, which leads to rapid self-discharge and excessive amount of heat and, eventually, a fire. Once upon a time, manufacturers experimented with thinner separators in order to increase the battery's capacity, but once they realized how fragile this made the batteries, they prioritized safety instead.

    Cadex highly discourages using uncertified batteries, because manufacturers are enticed to make shortcuts, winning in production cost but losing in safety.

    But even with proven manufacturers, a microscopic metal particle getting into the battery is all it takes to cause a short circuit. In 2006, a 1-in-200,000 breakdown triggered a recall of almost six million lithium-ion packs, Cadex notes.

    That being said, Tesla says it takes extraordinary measures to protect passengers from fires, which it says are at least 10 times less likely in a Tesla than in a gas-powered car, CBS reports, and this claim is backed by Alistair Weaver, editor-in-chief at Edmunds, a car review website.

    "We've driven over 50,000 miles in these vehicles and have never replicated this or anything like it, nor have we seen any evidence elsewhere of other cars spontaneously catching fire, so I think it needs more investigation," Weaver says.

    While McCormack's incident still appears to be an extremely rare exception that was mathematically destined to happen with someone at some point, it's a good idea to keep in mind that crashing your Tesla or rupturing your batteries will still likely set your car on fire. Drive safely.

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    Tags:
    incident, electric cars, battery, fire, Tesla, Los Angeles, United States
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