Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said late Thursday that it will not open a formal investigation into Tesla Motors Model S EV after a battery fire destroyed a vehicle in Kent, Wash., this month.
“After reviewing all available data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not found evidence at this time that would indicate the recent battery fire involving a Tesla Model S was the result of a vehicle safety defect or noncompliance with federal safety standards. The agency continually reviews incoming and prior consumer vehicle complaints, as well as other data to identify potential vehicle defect trends and takes appropriate action as necessary,” the agency said.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland this week told reporters that the agency had been collecting data and been in talks with Tesla about the fire.
The Tesla fire was one of the first things NHTSA’s defects team began looking at when they returned to work last week, Strickland said. Because of the 16-day-government shutdown, NHTSA wasn’t able to send investigators to the scene to look at the vehicle.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a blog post Oct. 4 that the fire came after the Model S “traveling at highway speed struck a large metal object, causing significant damage to the vehicle. A curved section that fell off a semi-trailer was recovered from the roadway near where the accident occurred and, according to the road crew that was on the scene, appears to be the culprit. 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 three-inch diameter hole through the quarter-inch armor plate protecting the base of the vehicle.”
He said the “fire caused by the impact began in the front battery module — the battery pack has a total of 16 modules — but was contained to the front section of the car by internal firewalls within the pack.”
Musk also suggested the fire could have been much worse in a gasoline-powered car.