In recent weeks, at least three Tesla models parked in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and San Francisco burst into flames unexpectedly. Speaking with CNBC, analysts say fears about electric vehicles catching fire could slow sales.
“There are a lot of people who won’t want to take the risk if they think there’s a chance of an accidental fire,” senior analyst with AutoTrends Consulting Joe Phillippi said.
A few years ago, there were concerns about Tesla vehicles catching fire but the majority of these cases came after crashes, with the automaker consistently pointing out that its vehicles are far less likely to catch fire than petrol and diesel alternatives. However, on April 21, security camera footage from inside a Shanghai parking garage which showed a Model S smoking, exploding, and bursting into flames, triggered headlines around the world.
Also a Model S caught fire while parked in Hong Kong and at the start of May, a separate Model S caught fire in a San Francisco garage.
While Tesla is still investigating the incidents, it did issue an over-the-air software update to Model S and Model X vehicles last week to adjust charge and thermal management settings “to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity.” Tesla said it was introducing these updates “out of an abundance of caution.”
Concerns about these three recent Tesla fires damping demand for electric vehicles may be somewhat premature but they do show that improvements in lithium-ion battery technology can still be made.