NHTSA Opens Investigation Into Tesla Battery Packs That May Cause “Non-Crash” Fires

  • A National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration notice stated the agency launched an investigation into possibly battery defects earlier this week.
  • Certain Tesla Model S and Model X battery packs may have a defect that could cause “non-crash fires”, according to a recently submitted petition.

A defect petition triggered the investigation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the Tesla Model S and Model X this week, as the agency received a complaint filed on behalf of Tesla owners by consumer attorney Edward Chen, according to a CNBC report. The petition estimates 2,000 vehicles are affected between 2012 and 2019, with a potential defect that could result in “non-crash fires in the affected battery packs.”

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA, Chen wrote, “Tesla is using over-the-air software updates to mask and cover-up a potentially widespread and dangerous issue with the batteries in their vehicles.” He goes on to say that Tesla should have notified the NHTSA of the defect’s existence and conducted a safety recall. Owners contend the over-the-air update sent to address the issue also reduced the car’s range on each single charge.

Tesla Model S

As part of the investigation, NHTSA will decide whether to instigate a recall. For its part, Tesla did not officially comment on the investigation or reporting since the NHTSA published the associated documents. Chen’s letter contends, “Tesla is aware of these issues yet has failed to provide any concrete position or explanation to address the concerns of these affected owners, including the concerns of my clients.”

Tesla’s potential battery issue is not the only item that drew attention from the NHTSA this week. The company also rolled out its new Smart Summon feature, and the NHTSA said it was aware of accident reports surrounding the feature. At this point, the agency has yet to open an investigation into Smart Summon.