This is a scenario straight from your worst nightmares.
Tesla has been quickly racking up trophies and bruises in its short but illustrious career as it begins to bear the texture of a true tried and tested automaker. Coming off of its recent high of becoming the most valuable US automaker (even if it only held its title temporarily), a trip through China with a Model X gone wrong could sour Elon Musk’s celebration party. The story, as reported by Electrek, involves Lee Tada, the owner of the Model X, her boyfriend, and their chauffeur.
While traveling on a highway in Guangzhou, the Model X hit a concrete side rail and spun 180 degrees. After that, it was struck by a Ford Focus on its front end and sustained serious damage. The horror, though, didn’t begin until Tada and her boyfriend began hearing the batteries pop underneath the passenger compartment. Realizing they had trouble on their hands, the pair tried to escape the rear compartment of the Model X before the flammable chemicals reacted unfavorably, but found that the Falcon Wing doors would not open. Horrified, Tada and her boyfriend managed to escape out of the front just before the car caught on fire as we can see in the photos Tada posted to WeChat.
Now this may not be as high profile a case as the death of Joshua Brown, who was killed when his Autopilot-driven Model S smashed into a semi-truck after the system confused the truck’s white rear cargo hold for the sky, but it raises a few eyebrows nonetheless. One is the question of the prevalence of battery fires in electric cars. The NHTSA actually looked into this and found that EVs catch fire significantly less frequently than their gasoline-fed counterparts. This leaves the Falcon Wing doors' inoperable state as the most important and investigation-worthy detail of this crash. As Electrek notes, there is an emergency latch to open the doors after a crash located under the speaker covers.
However, its existence is a fact that can be easily looked over by those who fail to read the owner’s manual, a group we can expect owners who hire chauffeurs to be included amongst. Currently, Tada is suing Tesla China for $1 million, claiming that the damages were mainly of the psychological variety (though the chauffeur had to be hospitalized 40 days after the incident). Maybe it’s time for Tesla to look into the emergency pyrotechnic gullwing door removers from the Mercedes SLS AMG?
Check out this video if you want to see more but be warned, it's a bit graphic.