Another Tesla Model S involved in a traffic crash caught fire near Smyrna, Tenn., on Wednesday after an apparent strike by road debris — the third such report in six weeks. As with the previous two cases, the news sparked a reaction from investors, who sent Tesla shares plunging, and Tesla itself, which said no one was injured and that it was investigating the cause.
But this latest incident does raise a troubling comparison for Tesla's 19,000 Model S owners: Even though it has fewer electric cars on the road than its competitors, none have reported similar fires after crashes. And while liquid-fueled vehicles suffer about 170,000 such fires every year, federal data show they take place in only 0.1 percent of all crashes.
"To have one instance of fire from road debris is a fluke," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety. "To have two road debris fires in a vehicle population that small is highly unusual."Read More »from Third Tesla Model S fire raises fresh questions, NHTSA query