In what may very well be the most harrowing instance of a Tesla accident we’ve heard of yet, a Tesla owner in China claims that his Model X became engulfed in flames after getting into an accident on the highway. According to a report originally noted by Electrek, the owner of the Model X and his girlfriend were sitting in the second-row seats when the accident happened. Once the car caught fire, the two tried to exit from the back via the Falcon Wing doors only to realize that the doors weren’t working.
With the fire spreading, the pair managed to crawl into the front where they escaped through the Model X’s front doors. The accident apparently went down this past February and the owner is now suing Tesla for $1 million.
In a statement on the matter, Tesla China said that the lives of the passengers were “not threatened” and that fires aren’t out of the ordinary when cars of any kind get into high-speed accidents. The statement further adds that Tesla “will not accept” the $1 million payout the Model X owner is seeking.
Interestingly, a commenter on Reddit points out that the Model X owners manual includes a section detailing how users can open the Falcon Wing doors in situations with no power. Alas, it’s not terribly intuitive as it involves removing “the speaker grille from the door” and pulling the “mechanical release cable down and towards the front of the vehicle.” From there, users can lift up the door manually.
Having said all that, many otherwise important details regarding the crash remain unknown, so it’s probably wise to reserve any definitive judgement until more information bubbles to the surface.
Interestingly, Electrek also managed to obtain video of the accident. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty intense.
For what it’s worth, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted the following a few years ago back when everyone was needlessly freaking out about Model S’ catching on fire.
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. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.
The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to 1 vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to 1 fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are 5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!