Are Tesla batteries prone to catching fire?

Tesla battery fires and other safety issues pop up in the news with startling frequency, but are Teslas really at risk of bursting into flames? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tesla fires are rare events that don’t require additional probing. While all cars have a fire risk, Teslas are no more dangerous than any other car.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: Jan 29, 2022

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Can't-Miss Facts

  • Reports of Tesla batteries catching fire sparked alarm in America, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found no evidence of similar problems within the past two years
  • A petition from Tesla owners states that the company is limiting battery range in response to fire danger, but the NHTSA has found no evidence to back up the claim
  • Teslas are at no more risk of fire than any other electric vehicle
  • While electric cars are less likely to catch fire, lithium batteries create challenging fires for firefighters

The popularity of electric cars is on the rise as more Americans are opting for gasless rides. This popularity is partially due to environmental concerns and the fact that electric cars are becoming more affordable.

Tesla is one of the most prominent names in electric cars. From its sleek styling, exciting technology, and powerful performance, anyone looking for an electric vehicle should consider a Tesla.

However, some people are hesitant to get behind the wheel of a Tesla because they believe that the battery will catch fire. If any of the Tesla models has an increased possibility of bursting into flames, interested buyers should be made aware.

The good news is that battery fires aren’t common in Teslas. Not only does this mean that they’re safe to drive, it also means that owning a Tesla won’t come with higher auto insurance rates.

If researching Tesla battery fires is the only thing holding you back from making a purchase, you can compare insurance rates so that you’re prepared if you buy one. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool to determine what quotes might look like for you.

How likely are Tesla battery fires to happen?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received a petition in 2019 concerning Tesla fires. The request states that there were reports of Tesla vehicles catching fire after they were charged at a fast charging station.

The request wanted the NHTSA to investigate how likely a fire was to start in the battery, especially after fast charging.

Although there were reported incidents in China, the NHTSA found no evidence of similar events happening in the United States. Therefore, the agency declined to investigate, stating that there was no cause for concern, non-accident fires were rare events, and an investigation would likely uncover no safety issues.

Non-Accident Battery Fires

The Chinese Tesla fires were cause for alarm in the states, but no duplicate incidents were found. However, there were three incidents involving a fire that were investigated. But those fires were either unrelated to fast charging or did not ignite in the battery.

A non-accident battery fire still concerns many Tesla owners, even though the NHTSA found no danger. There is currently a petition from a group of Tesla owners to examine a recent software update from Tesla. The petition states that Tesla has limited the range of its batteries to decrease the risk of battery fire.

In response to the petition, the NHTSA reviewed non-crash fire data for 255,000 Model S and X cars from 2012 to 2019. Afterward, the NHTSA announced that there was no need for a software update to handle fire risk because fires were a rare event.

There have been incidents where Teslas have caught fire when no crash was involved. Although rare, all cars — gas and electric — have a chance of catching fire while the engine is running. Tesla spokespeople insist that Teslas are ten times less likely to catch fire than traditional cars.

Additionally, Tesla designs their cars so that the interior cab is as safe as possible in the event of a fire. Lithium batteries — the kind on which Tesla operates — are slower to catch fire and burn in a more controlled manner.

However, battery fires are more challenging to extinguish than gasoline fires, and firefighters have to use special techniques to resolve the situation.

Even though the occasional Tesla catches fire in a non-crash incident, the NHTSA finds the fire risk acceptably low.

Fires Caused by Accidents

If non-crash fire incidents are rare, how do crash-related fires compare?

All cars have a chance of catching fire during an accident. For Teslas, the fire risk derives from the battery. If the battery is damaged in the right spot, there is a possibility that it will catch fire.

Unfortunately, the press can unfairly treat Teslas and other electric vehicles. For example, a Tesla involved in an accident caught fire and was reported to burn for more than four hours. The fire was reported to burn uncontrollably while firefighters struggled to contain it.

In truth, the main fire lasted a few short moments. Minor flare-ups from the battery persisted for a few hours while firefighters put it out.

While the fire wasn’t as destructive as the press claimed, it still had a tragic end. Two passengers in the car lost their lives.

While the fire risk of a Tesla battery might frighten you, it’s worth noting that most types of cars come with a fire risk. Firefighters constantly have to change tactics to keep up with changing car trends. From natural gas to propane-powered vehicles, fires are always a challenge.

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Are Teslas the safest electric cars?

Teslas are generally safe cars — and they certainly advertise the safety of their vehicles — but how do they compare to other electric vehicles? Despite some common problems, there are plenty of safe electric cars to choose from.

Tesla does well against its competition when a human is behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the autopilot feature is plagued with reports of risk. The following vehicles are considered by the NHTSA as some of the safest electric cars:

  • Tesla Model 3
  • Tesla Model Y
  • Chevrolet Bolt EV
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Toyota Prius Prime
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

As you can see, there are safe electric vehicles for almost any budget. While Teslas offer excellent safety and exciting technology, they can be quite expensive.

How much do Teslas cost?

As much as Tesla cars are well-known for their powerful engines and futuristic designs, they’re also known to be expensive.

 

ModelStandardLong RangePerformancePlaid
Model 3$44,900$50,990$58,990-
Model Y-$58,990$63,990-
Model S$94,990--$129,990
Model X$104,990--$126,490

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As high-priced cars, insurance for your Tesla will be more expensive than for an average vehicle. Additionally, most car insurance companies don’t offer an electric car discount yet.

While insurance prices always depend on your unique circumstances, consider the average cost of a Model 3.

 

Insurance providerAverage monthly cost
Progressive$151
GEICO$213
State Farm$161
USAA$95
Allstate$277

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As you can see, insurance can become costly. However, you can save money on your insurance by taking advantage of discounts, keeping your driving record clean, and comparing rates from as many companies as possible.

Find the Best Tesla Insurance Today

If the possibility of the car catching on fire is the only thing stopping you from purchasing a Tesla, the NHTSA says that  there’s really nothing to worry about. Tesla fires are no more prevalent than any other vehicle fire and might actually be less risky.

If knowing that you’re relatively safe from Tesla battery fires has you ready to purchase one, you can begin looking for the best insurance for your needs by comparing quotes. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool to discover what rates might look like for you.

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