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Tesla car spontaneously catches fire, taking 22,000 litres of water to put it out

The front section of the Tesla Model S was completely destroyed in the incident on a US freeway   (Metro Fire of Sacramento)
The front section of the Tesla Model S was completely destroyed in the incident on a US freeway (Metro Fire of Sacramento)

A Tesla Model S electric car spontaneously caught fire on a US freeway, a series of tweets by the Sacramento fire protection service showed.

The car was not involved in a collision and the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District reported “nothing unusual prior” to the incident on January 29. However, more than 22,000 litres of water were needed to put out the fire from the battery as its “cells continued to combust”.

Photos show the front section of the Tesla Model S was completely destroyed. However, the Sacramento fire service said there were “no injuries reported”.

The huge amount of water required is typical of a large battery fire. What’s more, 6,000 US gallons or 22,000 litres are far from the highest seen in a Tesla incident.

In September 2022, an estimated 24,000 US gallons or 90,000 litres of water were used to put out a Tesla EV fire in Stamford, US.

In Tesla cars and other electric vehicles, the battery will typically sit across the car’s base, covering a good amount of its surface. A Tesla Model S battery starts at 98kWh capacity, equivalent to about 1920 Dell XPS 13 laptop batteries.

Sacramento firefighters said they used jacks to lift up the car and gain better access to the huge battery to cool it down.

How often do electric cars catch fire?

As eye-opening as this may appear, numerous reports have shown fires in electric vehicles are far less likely than in their combustion engine counterparts. And while a report by CE Safety in late 2022 found 507 electric vehicle fires have occurred in London since 2017, the vast majority of these were electric scooter fires.

Electric scooters are typically built to much lower standards than electric cars, as they are unregulated. They are typically ridden illegally on London’s roads and pavements.

Tesla claims there is “one Tesla vehicle fire for every 210 million miles travelled”, although this relates to vehicle performance between 2012 and 2021.

The company cut the price of its cars in the UK and elsewhere in January 2023, by between 10 per cent and 13 per cent, including a £5,500 discount on the base Model 3. This has since caused some rivals to follow suit. Ford has just slashed the price of the Mustang Mach-E by up to £4,800.

Tesla’s decision was seen as a response to its rapidly falling stock price. This was caused in part by CEO Elon Musk’s erratic stewardship of Twitter.