October 29, 2013

Wrecked Teslas and a wrecked McLaren F1

Tesla Motors stock ($TSLA) has fallen two times because of reports that their Model S catch fire after accidents. This article will go through a few known major accidents with cars from Tesla Motors. But to warm up, we will begin with the story of how a McLaren F1 was almost destroyed two times.

McLaren F1
The main investors in and the co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, used to own the supercar McLaren F1 with the serial number #67. The full story is available here: How Elon Musk crashed his McLaren F1, but the basic story is that a young Elon Musk wanted to impress a co-worker by flooring the gas pedal while driving his new McLaren F1. This ended in disaster when he lost control of the car, they crashed, and the front and the suspension were damaged. The McLaren F1 was repaired and Elon Musk would later sell it to an unknown buyer. After six months of winter storage in a garage, the new owner took the car out for a drive. A passing onlooker alerted the driver that smoke came out of the rear engine compartment. As the owner jumped out, the fire spread quickly, destroying large parts of the car.

Elon Musk's old McLaren F1 on fire. Source: Jalopnik

The Roadster was the first car made by Tesla Motors. As it's a sports car and 2,500 were manufactured, it's not strange that a few of them were involved in accidents. One of the accidents took place in Denmark when the drive of a 14 days old Roadster stopped because of a traffic jam. The driver of a Toyota Prius didn't notice that the traffic had stopped, so the Prius hit a motorbike, then the Roadster in a way that the Roadster was pushed forward under the Volkswagen Touareg. Despite the dramatic pictures, the drive of the Roadster was all right as he later recalled (Treehugger):
...both front and back crumple zones did their job well. But Tesla could do better with the neck support on top of the seat, it was very hard on my head. But the accident has convinced me that the Tesla is a very safe sports car. There were no damage in the passenger compartment at all. The Tesla was brand new and had only been running for 400 miles and it was very sad for the owner, I had lent it from. Over all, 6 people went to the hospital, and after 3 hours we were all on our way home.
Roadster wrecked in Denmark. Source: A Green Living

(You can see high resolution images from the accident here: flickr)

Model S
The second car from Tesla Motors was Model S, and about 20,000 of them will be manufactured each year. Since the car is new and electric, it's natural that people are suspicious when they catch fire after accidents. Notice that the Roadster above didn't catch fire despite the fact that they are based on the same technology. The first dramatic fire took place in the beginning of October 2013. According to Tesla Motors blog, the driver traveled at highway speed and struck a large metal object (probably a curved section that had fall off a semi-trailer). But the fire was contained to a small section of the battery and the driver could escape unharmed. This is what it looked like:

Just a few days ago (October 18, 2013), another Model S caught fire when a Model S driver in Mexico drove into a roundabout, crashed through a concrete wall, and hit a tree. The driver was unharmed and fled the scene before the car went up in flames (San Jose Mercury News). This is what it looked like:

Model S fire Mexico. Source: AutoGuide

A third Model S fire happened on November 6, 2013. It's still unknown what has happened but the driver told Tesla that "[he] was not injured and believes the car saved his life."

Model S fire Tennessee. Source: @nashvillain_