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Elon Musk addresses Tesla Model S fire, reiterates safety of electric vehicles

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After an alarming video of a Tesla Model S engulfed in flames spread across the internet on Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk is today looking to calm any consumer (and stockholder) concerns over safety. He's taken to the company's blog with a post addressing the incident head on. Musk first lays out the facts, reiterating that investigators believe the fire was caused when the Model S, while traveling at highway speeds, collided with "a large metal object" that had fallen off a semi-trailer.

The resulting impact caused what Musk describes as a "powerful lever action" that punched a 3-inch hole through the armor plate that protects the base of the Model S. The driver was able to safely pull off the highway and exit his vehicle. Shortly after, a fire caused by the force began "in the front battery module." But Musk emphasizes that despite how bad the video may have looked, no fire ever entered the passenger compartment thanks to internal firewalls integrated within the battery pack.

Musk says 'only' a 25-ton force could have caused this fire

"Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse," Musk claims. "A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground." Musk says Tesla's figures show that the "effective combustion potential" of a Model S is just one percent that of a traditional gasoline-powered sedan.

As a result, Musk says conventional cars are five times more likely to face a fire than any Tesla. "There should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid," he concludes. The owner of the car in question is a Tesla investor and maintains that his Model S "performed very well under such an extreme test." For now he's been offered a loaner vehicle and, despite the incident, says he's looking forward to getting back in his own.

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