What has already been a stressful week for Elon Musk - which started with his now legendary conference call meltdown and promptly deteriorated from there - is about to turn even less pleasant, because one day after two teens were killed in a "horrific" Model S crash in Ft. Lauderdale, when the two 18-year-olds died after being trapped in the burning vehicles, the NTSB is launching an investigation into this incident.
The probe which comes two months after Tesla and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board had a fallout over the board’s investigation into a deadly, March 23 crash in Mountain View, involving a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot, will be mainly focused on "the emergency response in relation to the electric vehicle battery fire" as Elektrek reports that batteries from the other crash under investigation reignited days after the accident.
The NTSB issued a statement announcing their investigation into the crash. NTSB Chairman Robert S. Sumwalt, on whom Elon Musk recently hung up, commented:
“NTSB has a long history of investigating emerging transportation technologies, such as lithium ion battery fires in commercial aviation, as well as a fire involving the lithium ion battery in a Chevrolet Volt in collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, the NTSB is currently investigating a fire involving the transportation of hydrogen gas for fuel cell vehicles. The goal of these investigations is to understand the impact of these emerging transportation technologies when they are part of a transportation accident.”
The NTSB sent 4 investigators to Florida and will “primarily focus on emergency response in relation to the electric vehicle battery fire, including fire department activities and towing operations.”
The second Tesla probe in two months comes shortly after the stunning news that the Mountain View Fire Department shared a report with other fire departments about the aftermath of the fatal Tesla Model X accident in Mountain View that is now also under NTSB investigation.
In the report (via KTVU), the fire department said that they monitored the battery pack and it reignited days after the March 23 accident, with Mountain View Fire Chief Juan Diaz commenting:
“In this particular case, six days later, the temperature inside those cells increased to the point of ignition. That’s why the car reignited. You have stored energy that is frankly unstable.”
Think of a nuclear meltdown in which the plutonium rods spontaneously combust over and over as there is no way to cool them sufficiently. It's kinda like that.
Amusingly, Tesla recommends using “large amounts of water” to extinguish a battery fire in its vehicles and to use a thermal imaging camera to monitor the battery for at least one hour after it is found to be completely cooled:
“If the high voltage battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is bent, twisted, cracked, or breached in any way, use large amounts of water to cool the battery. DO NOT extinguish with a small amount of water. Always establish or request an additional water supply.”
More appropriately, the company also offers online training for fire departments about how to handle its vehicles after a crash. In other words, if you are driving a Tesla, better pray that if you get in a crash, your fireman has taken his annual Tesla online remedial checkup.
As Elektrek adds, in the case of the March 23 accident, Tesla was able to send engineers to assist the firefighters in removing the vehicle and its battery pack from the scene since it was near its factory and headquarters (pictures via Dean C. Smith on Twitter).
We doubt Elon Musk will be cooperative with the NTSB this time considering the growing feud between the government regulators and the increasingly erratic electric car company CEO.