For those that were alarmed by our reports over the last three weeks of Teslas in China and Hong Kong appearing to spontaneously combust, don’t worry: there’s a software update for that.
At least, that is the company line that Tesla wants you to believe while it continues to investigate the cause of recent incidences of parked Tesla vehicles catching fire for apparently no reason at all. Tesla has started putting out a software update that will change battery charge and thermal management settings in Model S sedans and Model X SUVs, according to TechCrunch.
Tesla claims that the software update is being done out of "an abundance of caution". The company says it's supposed to "protect the battery and improve its longevity". Because we guess it’s bad PR to come out and say: we’re trying to prevent cars from bursting into flames for no apparent reason at all.
And if they could improve battery longevity via a software update, why haven't they done it already?
Regardless, the software update will not apply to Model 3 vehicles and Tesla says that it hasn’t yet identified the cause of the Hong Kong fire, or found any issues with battery packs. Here is the statement Tesla put out:
We currently have well over half a million vehicles on the road, which is more than double the number that we had at the beginning of last year, and Tesla’s team of battery experts uses that data to thoroughly investigate incidents that occur and understand the root cause. Although fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles are already extremely rare and our cars are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car, we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero.
As we continue our investigation of the root cause, out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity.
Just weeks after a Tesla Model S appeared to spontaneously combust in a parking garage in China, a Tesla Motors Club forum post pointed out what looked to be another incident of a Tesla catching fire while parked - this time in Hong Kong. In a post online at the TMC forum, a new member named "andinardo" posted photographs of what appears to be a smoldering Tesla Model S. The user wrote:
"Emergency news for every tesla model s owner after the shanghai incident last month, today in Hong Kong it happen again. Tesla 2016 model S burn itself while is charging, fortunately the driver wasnt in the car."
The poster also claimed that the driver had mentioned he was having issues with the car, and even reported them to Tesla service, who fixed the issue. The poster says there is CCTV footage from this incident that shows "3 times explosion":
The owner mention last year he think the battery have some issue, his car can't start and he did report to Tesla service. Tesla did service his car and they did fix the issue. But from the CCTV footage show that first some smoke coming out of the front of the Tesla and then 3 times explosion.
The post was accompanied by photographs of the alleged incident.
A response to the post says that: "The Chinese words said the Tesla parking spot has wall connector installed but at the time of the fire, the car was not charging."
About 12 days ago, we also wrote about an unplugged Tesla that caught fire in a San Francisco garage, prompting an investigation from authorities. The San Francisco Fire Department responded to a reported car fire at a home on the 1300 block of 26th Avenue near Irving Street. The crews saw "smoke near the rear right tire of a Tesla Model S" that was not plugged in at the time and put out the fire.
The Tesla was then towed from the garage by the fire department. There were no reported injuries at press time. It was two weeks prior to the San Francisco fire that a stunning video surfaced of a Tesla catching fire and exploding, while parked, in China.
Finally, that explosion in China came just about a week after we reported that a Tesla vehicle near Pittsburgh caught fire and burned for hours at an area service garage. The fire occurred despite Tesla engineers reportedly having access to the vehicle prior to moving it. The photos were stunning, showing what appears to be a vehicle that has been close to completely incinerated and reduced to a heap of smoldering wreckage.
The same car had previously caught fire back in February in a garage around the same area, according to CBS 2 Pittsburgh. It was being towed to a new shop and "somehow" caught fire again, despite the fact that a Tesla engineer tried to reduce the risk of fire by removing the fuse from the battery pack prior to transporting the vehicle.
This all leads us to ask one question: what if whistleblower Martin Tripp was right and it isn’t a software problem, but rather a hardware problem?
And even better, why isn’t the NHTSA asking this question?