Elon Musk Explains How a Tesla Catching on Fire Proves That Teslas Are Totally Safe

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 4 2013 4:56 PM

Elon Musk Explains How a Tesla Catching on Fire Proves That Teslas Are Totally Safe

Tesla Model S fire YouTube
Inferior gas-powered cars look on in admiration at how well the Tesla is handling this fire.

Screenshot / YouTube

You've gotta love Elon Musk. Well, you don't have to, but you might as well. It's more fun than hating him, and in any case he's not going away anytime soon.

To recap: A guy was driving his Tesla Model S in suburban Seattle the other day, heard a clunk, pulled over, and the next thing you know his gorgeous electric luxury car was shooting flames from its battery. Firefighters struggled to douse the blaze, but eventually they put it out. Meanwhile, a passerby put a video on YouTube, Tesla's stock took a hit, and suddenly people are asking once again whether electric cars are really safe.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.


And now, on cue, everyone's favorite real-life Tony Stark has arrived on the scene to explain how this is all further proof of the Tesla's unrivaled greatness.

In a blog post published Friday afternoon, Musk informs us that the likely culprit was a curved piece of metal that fell off of a semi trailer. Based on the size of the hole in the underside of the Model S, coupled with the geometry of the object and the angle of incidence, Musk is able to discern that the debris must have hit the car with a peak force "on the order of 25 tons." That being the case, he goes on, the driver ought to be mighty thankful that he was in a Tesla Model S and not some inferior variety of vehicle. "Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse," he warns.

Not one to be daunted by small sample sizes, Musk finishes up by determining precisely how much safer you are in a Model S than a gasoline-powered car, when it comes to vehicle fires:

The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to 1 vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to 1 fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are 5 times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!

Finally, the coup de grace: Musk attaches a letter from the vehicle's poor driver, who has also become convinced that the battery fire really serves to prove how resistant Teslas are to battery fires. "I am still a big fan of your car," he writes, "and can't wait to get back into one."

Elon Musk, everybody.

To be clear, I'm not saying he's wrong. I'm just saying that, when it comes to dealing with bad press, he could teach chutzpah lessons to Billy Flynn.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.