What Happens to a Tesla Car When it Crashes?

On Quora, Jason M. Lemkin, the CEO and co-founder of EchoSign, once asked what would happen to a Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S car during a crash? He explained that every single battery company in the world had experienced multiple uncontrollable fires during its existence, and burnt at least one factory to the ground. He mentioned that Sony (NYSE:SNE) once burnt its production Lilon plant, worth over $1 billion, entirely to the ground. The problem is that when one battery catches fire, it burns hot and can ignite the next battery, and before you know it the conflagration runs away and all the batteries catch fire and create an extremely hot blaze.

His question about the safety of the Model S arose when he took his wife’s Model S out and was hit by another car. He took the car to be repaired at a Tesla-approved body shop, where he discovered a warehouse of broken and beaten Teslas, all in varying states of repair.

Tesla Model S

A brand-new Tesla Model S

He quickly noticed, and had the fact confirmed by the body shop mechanics, that not a single Tesla electric vehicle (Roadster or Model S) had ever caught fire as result of a collision with another object.

Simon Kinahan, a software developer who commented on Lemkin’s original article, explained that the Tesla battery will never explode no matter how much you hit it as it is not similar to other lithium-ion batteries that catch fire occasionally in laptops. He also explained that the Model S chassis is so strong that it actually broke the crash test machine when it was first tested, meaning that you would probably be safer in a Model S than in other cars.

The biggest danger to anyone dealing with a crashed Tesla vehicle is the high voltage electric system, and the risk that it might be exposed when the car is damaged. He stated that all electric and hybrid cars have a high voltage disconnect switch, which emergency service workers should know about. The most that Lemkin could determine is that the Tesla Roadsters have a tendency to fall apart, claiming that between perhaps 20-30 percent need to be rebuilt. And that many Tesla cars suffer rear-end accidents. He suggests that this may be due to the default ‘Standard’ regenerative braking system, which makes the car brake very aggressively.

Kinahan warns that any damage to the battery is impossible to repair and would require the battery to be replaced. The battery represents a large portion of the value of the car, so a Tesla with a damaged battery is likely to be a write-off. At the end of the article Lemkin warns that parts for the Tesla car are also incredibly expensive and due to their scarcity, it can take months to fix a damaged car.

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Originally written for OilPrice.com, a website that focuses on news and analysis on topics of alternative energy, geopolitics, and oil and gas. OilPrice.com is written for an educated audience that includes investors, fund managers, resource bankers, traders, and energy market professionals around the world.