The video that supposedly proved the dangers of EVs was faked. The Tesla didn't even have a battery in it.
The Swiss branch of the well-known insurance company, AXA, recently released a video that has since become infamous.
The video below shows a Tesla Model S being towed toward a traffic circle, which it misses completely. The car then flips onto its roof, slides for a few yards, and then comically bursts into flames. We saw this video when it was published on 26 August 2022. Our immediate reaction was to call BS for several reasons, but the most telling was the location of the fire, which is nowhere near where a Model S' battery pack is located.
After some well-deserved online backlash, AXA Switzerland has finally admitted the fire was fake; rather, the fire we saw was "triggered in a controlled manner." A few days after, AXA apologized for misleading viewers, but its apology is a bit hollow, however. Even though it was caught red-handed, it's still trying to make a case for using such a deceptive demonstration.
The video was published even though it fully admitted that its research shows that electric cars do not catch fire more often than combustion engines. It also further claims that this test was "a rare but quite realistic scenario." AXA also admits that the damage caused to the underside of the Model S was not enough to spark a fire and that the battery pack was heavily reinforced, as is the case with most modern EVs. New battery pack protection is constantly being developed.
That's not how crash tests are supposed to work. The NHTSA and IIHS have a standard set of tests that represent the most likely accidents a car could be involved in. Testing every possible scenario is simply not viable. It's also rare but quite realistic that a vehicle could lose control on the PCH and end up in the drink, but that's not a standardized test either.
According to AXA's statement, it faked the fire for the safety of the live audience. As we all know by now, EV fires are notoriously difficult to put out, though they pose no more significant threat than an ICE car. AXA's research shows that only five out of 10,000 vehicles die from a fire. We agree that consumers should be aware of thermal runaway, but without unduly causing damage to a manufacturer's reputation. And besides, the USA is currently rolling out a program to educate firefighters on how to combat an EV fire.
"Most electric cars, especially the powerful ones, have a very high torque, which is immediately noticeable when you tap the power pedal," said Michael Pfaffli, Head of Accident Research at AXA Switzerland. "This can lead to unwanted, jerky acceleration, which the driver can no longer control."
While we agree that especially fast EVs can be a hazard in the wrong hands, AXA made some other claims that don't make much sense.
The company also claims that EVs are heavier and therefore pose a greater risk to other road users. The test itself - whereby the Model S ends up on its roof - also suggests that EVs pose a higher rollover risk, giving off the unmistakable smell of BS.
The part about EVs being heavier and, therefore, more dangerous is rendered irrelevant by the existence of large SUVs and trucks. The Tesla Model S has a curb weight of 4,561 pounds. The top three best-selling vehicles in the USA (Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ford F-150) weigh more in their family-friendly body styles. This is hardly the first time the world has dealt with vehicles weighing this much.
The rollover part is also a complete myth. If anything, EVs are less prone to flipping over because their center of gravity is much lower than an ICE car. It's entry-level physics. The Tesla Model X famously received a perfect rollover safety score from the NHTSA. It was the first SUV ever to do so. By removing the battery before the test, AXA made this Model S more prone to rolling over. We would have loved to see the result had the battery pack been left in.
It takes a special kind of reckless driving to scrape a Tesla's roof. If you've managed to do so, we have some bad news for you. You were born to ride the bus.
AXA has become quite famous for its crash test, but this fake test completely ruined its reputation.