Musk: Battery Cars Much Safer Than Gasoline


News of Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLAnotorious Model S fire whipped through the Internet this week, causing significant investor concern and sparking consumer anxiety over the true safety of lithium ion battery-operated vehicles. After the video of the fire went viral mid-week, the electric car giant’s stock plunged 6.2 percent Wednesday, and then another 4.2 percent Thursday, closing at $173.31. on the Nasdaq.

But then things starting looking up for Tesla Friday, and the company had CEO Elon Musk to thank for the stock reverse that took place before the markets closed for the week. Musk, the South African founder of the automaker, published a blog post on Tesla’s website Friday afternoon that explained the vehicle fire in detail, and worked to alleviate any lingering concern over the safety of the iconic Model S sedans.

The report was concrete and businesslike, reflecting Musk’s recognition of the severity of the situation. He fluidly explained the events leading up to the fire, and that which occurred thereafter, and then signed off the blog post as “Elon,” with the final statement: “For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.”

The assertion thus undoubtedly reflects Tesla’s current obligation: prove to auto consumers that battery-powered vehicles are just as, if not more, safe than conventional gasoline cars. The Palo Alto, California-based company solely sells EV vehicles; thus, it is imperative that consumers maintain a confidence in electrically powered products, or Tesla could soon see its recent stock rally take a significant turn for the worse.

And, in Musk’s blog post, it is clear that he maintains the assertion that his Model S sedans are undeniably secure and deliberately designed to maximize a driver’s safety. Both Tesla’s CEO and spokespersons have been adamant about articulating that although the fire did take place, the vehicle’s warning system was executed seamlessly, and the driver was alerted of the danger and given plenty of time to pull over and exit.

The fire also never entered the passenger compartment, and that’s because Tesla purposely constructed its vehicle to have the internal firewalls built into the pack structure. This design is unlike that for conventional sedans, and Musk explains, “Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground.”

“In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10 percent of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1 percent that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.”

In addition, Musk was careful to point out in his blog post the unusual presence of the large metal object that caused the sedan blaze in the first place. The CEO highlighted Friday that the Model S wasn’t unprovoked when it caught on fire, but rather had been struck on the highway by a “curved section that fell off a semi-trailer.”



He further explained that, “The geometry of the object caused a powerful lever action as it went under the car, punching upward and impaling the Model S with a peak force on the order of 25 tons. Only a force of this magnitude would be strong enough to punch a 3 inch diameter hole through the quarter inch armor plate protecting the base of the vehicle.”

Thus, the uniqueness of the situation was effectively highlighted and Musk clarified why a consumer is “5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gas car than a Tesla.” The poignant post proved effective as it sparked a Tesla stock appreciation late Friday, allowing it to close at $180.98, and make for a bright end to an otherwise turbulent week.

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