Tesla sent out a software update this week to tens of thousands of its vehicles to help reduce the risk of battery fires.
Three of its sedans went up in flames without warning in recent months, one in Shanghai, another in Hong Kong, a third in San Francisco.
Of the 14 known fires involving Tesla vehicles, the majority occurred after a collision.
Recent reports of Tesla vehicles spontaneously catching fire could make potential customers wary at a time when virtually every automaker is getting ready to roll out battery-based vehicles, industry executives and analysts worry.
Tesla said earlier in the week that it’s investigating the most-recent fire and sent out a software update to tens of thousands of its vehicles to help reduce the risk of battery fires.
Three of its sedans went up in flames without warning in recent months, one in Shanghai, another in Hong Kong, a third in San Francisco. Tesla has experienced at least 14 known battery fires in recent years. But it is by no means alone, a long list of manufacturers experiencing similar incidents.
The threat that vehicles could catch fire while parked, never mind after an accident come as automakers ramp up plans to win over more skeptical mainstream buyers, not just hardcore fans, several analysts and industry executives told CNBC.
“There are a lot of people who won’t want to take the risk” of buying an electric vehicle “if they think there’s a chance of an accidental fire,” said Joe Phillippi, senior analyst with AutoTrends Consulting.
General Motors alone is planning to launch about two dozen all-electric models in its fleet by mid-decade, Volkswagen twice that many. Mercedes-Benz this month began taking orders for its new GLC, the first of 10 pure battery-electric vehicles. All told, manufacturers around the world are believed to be investing well over $100 billion in their electrification efforts, a large share of that going to BEVs.
It’s one thing to have a fire occur following a crash, Phillippi said, but another matter altogether when a vehicle is simply parked.
Of the 14 known fires involving Tesla vehicles, the majority occurred after a collision, but there have been a growing number of blazes in which its products appear to spontaneously ignite. That appeared to be the case when, on April 21, a security camera in a Shanghai garage captured images of a Model S sedan smoldering before suddenly bursting into flames. Another fire engulfed a Tesla sedan that appears to have been hooked up to one of the company’s Superchargers in Hong Kong.