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Tesla Model S Catches Fire, Explodes, in Shanghai

In March of this year, we reported on an accident in Shanghai, China that was due to a Tesla Model S that suddenly accelerated before landing in a river adjacent vehicle charging station. Today, our automobile accident injury lawyer presents a report of a Tesla Model S that exploded inside a Shanghai parking deck.

The facts surrounding the Model S fire

According to the time stamp on a security camera that documented the incident, at 10:15:14 p.m. on April 21st (Shanghai local time) a Tesla Model S can be seen to emit wisps of white-colored smoke from the rear half of its undercarriage. The amount of smoke steadily increased over the next 5 to 6 seconds until the vehicle explodes at 10:15:20. Following the explosion, the Tesla Model S can be seen engulfed in flames and at least two other vehicles appear to have been damaged by the force of the explosion and/or burning debris.

News reports published in the US identify the exploding vehicle to be a “first generation” Tesla Model S. Since retail vehicle sales in China did not begin until 2014, this would suggest that the battery pack involved in the explosion would be toward the lower end of the 60 to 85 kWh packages.


Other reports of problems with Tesla battery packs


Although the Shanghai explosion is the first battery fire to have occurred in the absence of a vehicle accident, there has been at least one other incident (Pennsylvania 2019, below) where a battery fire occurred in a vehicle that had been idle for several hours. This is in addition to 2 other cases within the past year where a battery reignited after its initial fire was extinguished.


Monroeville, PA: February 8 – April 17, 2019


On February 8th, KDKA-TV (Pittsburg) reported that a fire inside the detached garage of a private residence in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania had destroyed two vehicles that were parked inside. At the time, the station’s coverage of the fire did not mention the makes or models of the vehicles but subsequent events revealed that one of the vehicles was a Tesla of unreported model type and year.

On April 17th, KDKA reported that the Tesla involved in the Fox Chapel garage fire was moved from a storage garage in Fox Chapel to the garage of Smeltz Auto Service in nearby Monroeville. Several hours after it was placed in the Smeltz garage, the Tesla caught fire again and subsequently burned for four hours before local firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. Following the fire, KDKA quoted forensic engineer David Bizzak as stating:

“We removed the car from the garage. A Tesla engineer removed the fuse from the battery pack prior to transport, indicating that would make the car safe for transport. We brought it here to Monroeville, arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon, and about 6:20, the car spontaneously caught fire …” [Emphasis added]

Davie, FL: February 24, 2019

On the afternoon of February 24th a Tesla Model S was involved in a high speed crash in Davie, FL. The vehicle burst into flames on impact, but the fire was extinguished by first responders. After it was removed to an impound lot, the vehicle’s battery reignited at least three times.

Fort Lauderdale, FL: May 8, 2018

On May 8th of 2018, a Tesla Model S crashed into a metal light pole in a high-speed single-vehicle accident. The Fort Lauderdale Fire Department (FLFD) reported that the vehicle was engulfed in flames when FLFD units arrived on scene. However, the Tesla’s battery pack reignited as the vehicle was being secured for removal and again shortly after arrival at a storage yard.

What to do after a car fire

Electric-powered vehicles have long been at a disadvantage when compared to their fossil fuel competitors: electric vehicles simply did not have the range of “gas burners.” To combat this shortcoming, electric vehicle manufacturers turned to Lithium ion battery technology. While these batteries allow impressive performance, they have one major drawback: if their inner components are exposed to water, even the water present in the atmosphere (“humidity”), they will catch fire and burn until either the water is gone or until their lithium compounds have been chemically converted to something that will not burn!

At The Doan Law Firm we believe that, in their haste to deliver “The Car of the Future” to consumers, some manufacturers may have released vehicles with “unproven” technology (e.g. high density Lithium ion batteries or “driverless” computer software). If someone is injured in an accident where one of these unproven technologies played a role, there may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit on the grounds that the vehicle’s manufacturer deliberately marketed a “defective product.”

In upcoming posts we will take a closer look at the issues raised in this short page. We encourage you to visit our website often to learn more about these issues and how they may have contributed to an accidental injury.

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