Are Teslas Actually More of a Fire Hazard Than Gas Cars?

Do Teslas really catch on fire more than gasoline-powered vehicles? Tesla has faced many hurdles establishing itself as a successful electric vehicle and clean energy brand. It has produced some of the most innovative features and tech in the entire automotive industry. The company has also faced major scrutiny over its Autopilot feature and battery pack fires. How likely are Teslas to catch fires, and are they more dangerous than the average gas car?

Tesla’s rise to the top of the electric vehicle market

A red 2021 Tesla Model S driving down a highway.
2021 Tesla Model S | Tesla

Tesla is very much still new to the automotive industry compared to automakers like Ford and General Motors that have been around for over a century. The brand still isn’t two decades old and has disrupted the market in many ways. In just 13 years, the company has produced several popular electric vehicles that have captured consumers’ attention.

CEO Elon Musk and the hardworking folks at Tesla recognized that the niche electric vehicle market wouldn’t be niche for long. President Joe Biden recently announced that he would like 50% of all new vehicles to be electric by 2030. Electric vehicles are taking over the automotive industry, and Tesla has positioned itself as the top EV automaker. The company had to learn the hard way that novelty often comes with scrutiny.

When rare instances such as battery fires do happen to Tesla models, they attract media attention. In contrast, major vehicle recalls for gas-powered vehicles are often overlooked because they are more common and ordinary. The real question that consumers want answered is, are Tesla electric vehicles actually more prone to catch fire than the average gas-powered vehicle?

Tesla fires: Common or a rare occurrence?

Tesla fire aftermath.
Tesla fire | Via AFD

As we are witnessing firsthand with vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt, it is tough to sell a vehicle that is likely to burst into flames. According to InsideEVs, the reason Tesla is still selling major units is that Teslas don’t actually catch fire often. In the year 2019, the United States experienced close to 190,000 vehicle fires. Teslas only accounted for a small portion of the total amount of vehicle fires.

The reality is, internal combustion engine vehicles are much more likely to catch on fire than electric vehicles. Since Tesla is such a popular and controversial automaker, its vehicles catching on fire provide much more shock value than other automakers. How many times have we overlooked airbag recalls that could have led to fatalities by major automakers?

From 2012 to the year 2020, there was close to one vehicle fire for every 19,000,000 miles traveled. From 2012 to the year 2020, there was one Tesla vehicle fire for every 205,000,000 miles traveled. Not only are Tesla battery fires a rare occurrence, but Teslas are actually safer than gas-powered vehicles when it comes to catching fire.

Should you be afraid of electric vehicle fires?

Car crashed and burst into flames.
Detectives inspect the scene where a car crashed and burst into flames | William West/AFP via Getty Images

Electric vehicle battery pack fires have become an issue. However, not all electric vehicle battery packs are made the same way. Tesla claims to isolate cells in battery packs to avoid a chain reaction in the event that one cell actually does overheat.

When choosing an electric vehicle, it’s best to do research. Evidence will tell you that vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt are extremely prone to catching fire. Teslas, on the other hand, are just as safe as any other vehicle on the market when it comes to vehicle fires. Its Autopilot feature is another story. Electric vehicle fires will be minimized after GMs recent recalls and bad publicity. After all, no automaker wants to produce the vehicle that is most likely to combust spontaneously.
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