How Common are Tesla Fires?

Pierce Keesee
Pierce Keesee
August 11, 2022
How Common are Tesla Fires?

The biggest objection of both car enthusiasts and EV critics concerns the dangers of lithium-ion batteries. Anytime electric vehicles start coming into conversations, their susceptibility to catching fire starts making people nervous.

However, the lithium-ion batteries inside a Tesla or any other electric vehicle are the same battery cells that power most smartphones. Yet, not many people seem to mention the fire threats that they carry inside their pockets.

Lithium-ion Batteries and fire threats

Lithium-ion batteries power most of the gadgets and electronic items inside your homes. They account for a vast majority of household items. Considering their widespread use, the instances of them catching fire are few. However, whenever they do catch fire, it’s due to a reaction referred to as thermal runaway.

Thermal runaway

In the event of a thermal runaway, a cell will tend to short. Keep in mind that the battery pack of a Tesla involves a set of cells aligned with each other to power the vehicle. Therefore, one cell shortage can cause a chain reaction and increase the temperatures of the cells around it, causing a drastic thermal runaway that eventually leads to a fire.

In a small battery, this tends to happen almost instantaneously because the battery generally consists of only one cell. However, in a Tesla, the battery consists of thousands of cells, each with protective shielding.

Also, the systematic design of Tesla’s battery pack includes a monitoring computer that ensures passenger protection when the battery condition becomes critical. Hence, comparing the Tesla lithium-ion battery to any other item is ill-suited.

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Moreover, if you find the idea of Teslas catching fire alarming, then take into account reports by fire departments regarding combustion engine vehicles catching fire. According to a study by the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments in the US have to deal with an average of two hundred and eighty-seven thousand gasoline vehicle fires every year.

Another scary statistic is that an average of 500 fatalities occur every year due to vehicle fires. Despite the increasing numbers of conventional vehicles catching fire, they do not make headlines in the news. This is largely due to the commonality of this event.

On the other hand, each and every Tesla fire is subject to vast media attention. This is because there are many biases and allegations against Teslas and other EVs.

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How many Teslas Have Caught fire?

To put things into perspective, you’re more likely to experience a gas or diesel car fire than an electric car fire. Data supports that for one Tesla car fire, about 50,000 gas and diesel fires occur. From the data Tesla provides for 2012 to 2020, one Tesla fire occurred for every 205 million miles. The chances of a Tesla battery catching on fire or a Tesla car in general catching fire are very low.

To measure the exact number of Tesla fires is difficult because a fire outbreak can have many variable causes. Most of the vehicle fires of EVs result after collisions at high speeds, while others revolve around other issues apart from battery overheating.


What can you do in the face of a fire?

It usually takes plenty of time for a thermal runaway to result in a disastrous fire outbreak. Thus, before the thermal runaway begins to cause damage, a passenger inside a Tesla has a good amount of time to evacuate the car, particularly because the monitoring system inside the Tesla keeps the driver well aware of potentially critical battery conditions.

Mitigating Tesla's Thermal Runaway

Thermal runaway is the most common cause of EV fires. Lithium-ion batteries can heat up so much that they expel hot gases that cause excessive burning. A new patent was introduced to help mitigate this thermal runaway by allowing two battery packs to be connected by tubes and valves that open up when hot gas accumulates.

Final words

As a Tesla driver, you should worry less about it catching fire than if you were driving a gas or diesel vehicle. Nevertheless, you should be aware of the possibility of it happening and stay vigilant regarding battery health and maintenance to minimize the probability of an electric vehicle fire.

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Pierce Keesee
Pierce Keesee

Technology enthusiast with background in battery building and electronic repair

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