Elon Musk, CEO of electric car company Tesla, responded three days after one of his high-performance sports cars caught on fire by defending the vehicle’s electric battery technology.
“For consumers concerned about fire risk, 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,” Musk wrote in his blog.
Musk said a piece of curved metal caused the Tesla model S catch on fire. He said the object’s shape led to a powerful hit on the underside of the vehicle, punching a 3-inch hole through an armor plate that protects the car’s bottom.
The company said the car properly contained the blaze. The driver was able to exit the highway in the Seattle suburb of Kent before flames engulfed the front of the vehicle.
Of the estimated 194,000 vehicle fires in the U.S. each year, the vast majority are in cars and trucks with gasoline or diesel engines. Electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of the cars sold in the U.S.
Firefighters struggled to extinguish the Tesla fire, finding that the flames reignited. Crews found that water seemed to intensify the fire, so they began using a dry chemical extinguisher.
Tesla shares fell sharply Wednesday and Thursday after a video of the car fire circulated on the Internet. The shares recovered somewhat Friday, rising $7.67, or 4.4 percent, to $180.98. They still finished the week with a loss of $9.92, or 5.2 percent.