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One Little Update Could Keep Teslas From Catching Fire

Tesla / 4 Comments

Something has to be done after three parked Teslas caught fire in less than a month.

It should be remembered that Teslas tend to catch fire at a much lower rate than cars with internal combustion engines do. But that being said, Tesla fires make headlines more often than not for two reasons: because mass adoption of EVs has just begun and people want to know whether the technology is safe and because Tesla is a young company with far less experience than its competitors and buyers want to see if it can uphold the same quality and safety standards as veteran automakers usually do.

And though Tesla claims its cars are 10 times less likely to catch fire than gasoline-powered vehicles, Tech Crunch reports that the automaker is still trying to get ahead of the problem by rolling out a new software update aimed at reducing the chance its cars go up in flames.

This is relevant because earlier this week, on May 14th, a Tesla Model S 85D went up in flames in a Hong Kong parking garage just 30 minutes after it was parked and took firefighters 45 minutes to put out. A statement to TC by Tesla reveals that the automaker still hasn't figured out the cause of the fire even though it appears that only a few battery modules were damaged and that most of the pack was left undamaged.

This blaze was significant because it marks the third time a Tesla has caught fire while parked in less than a month, with previous incidents including a fire in Shanghai involving a Model S and another in San Francisco, also involving a Model S. When seen in a larger context, the three incidents are standouts because most Tesla fires (there have been only 14 since 2013) take place after an accident, not while the car is parked.

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In order to get ahead of the problem, the software update was issued in what Tesla says is "an abundance of caution." The update, intended only for the Model S and Model X, will supposedly protect the battery and extend its life by changing battery charge and thermal management settings.

"As we continue our investigation of the root cause, out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity," read Tesla's statement. It went on to say, "Although fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles are already extremely rare and our cars are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car, we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero." Hopefully, Tesla's software update, which seems like a temporary safeguard until it figures out the cause of these fires, will prevent another incident from taking place.