The battery in a 2014 Tesla Model S re-ignited two times after it was involved in a fatal and high-speed crash in Florida in May, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report released Tuesday.
The NTSB report said the electric vehicle was traveling 116 miles per hour three seconds before its 18-year-old driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed along Seabreeze Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The driver and a front seat passenger died. A third passenger, who was ejected, survived the crash. The vehicle erupted in flames as the crash unfolded. The Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue Department extinguished the vehicle fire using 200 to 300 gallons of water and foam. Firefighters also applied water and foam to the debris, which included small portions of the lithium-ion high-voltage battery that had separated from the vehicle, according to the report.
The battery re-ignited as the vehicle was being loaded for removal from the scene. The fire was quickly extinguished, the NTSB said. However, the battery re-ignited again when the Model S arrived at the storage yard. A local fire department responded to the storage yard and extinguished the fire.
Tesla declined to comment on the NTSB report.
The NTSB says the investigation, which will also include examining the procedures used to extinguish the battery fire and to remove and store the car post-crash, will continue. Tesla does provide information to first responders on how they should handle Tesla vehicles following a collision.
There have been two other fire incidents in recent months involving a Tesla battery. Six days after a fatal crash in California involving a Tesla Model X, the vehicle’s battery re-ignited three or four times, the Mountain View Fire Department told a local TV news station KTVU. Earlier this month, actress Mary McCormack posted a video on Twitter showing her husband’s Tesla that abruptly burst into flames. Tesla has said it’s investigating the highly unusual event.
Tesla has long contended that design of the battery pack as well as the fortified structure mounted on the floor of the car has a number of protections that prevent it from igniting. For example, the battery pack includes thousands of cells divided in groups and housed in separate modules. Firewalls are between each module and between the battery pack and passenger compartment. The pack is also designed so that if a fire occurs it’s supposed to spread more slowly than it might in a gas car.
Tesla did release a new feature following the fatal crash in Fort Lauderdale that optionally limits the acceleration of Tesla vehicles and allows owners to set a maximum speed limit up to 90 mph. The feature can only be engaged or disengaged with a four-digit pin. A notification is sent to the owner’s mobile device if the vehicle approaches the set maximum speed.