Prof. Ceder provides explanation to CBS on recent Tesla fires

On Wednesday, December 19, the battery of a Tesla Model S vehicle caught on fire twice, leaving the car a smoldering mess. Tesla says its cars are designed with firewalls to prevent flames spreading from battery modules into the passenger compartment. However, experts say that the same that slows the spread of fire, which allows drivers and passengers time to get out, also slows the fire fight. CBS came to Professor Ceder for an explanation about why this is.

“The heat and the fire is actually inside the cells inside the batteries, so it’s very hard to get the water and the cooling to that,” explained Gerbrand Ceder, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Unlike a regular fire, Ceder tells KPIX 5 it’s chemicals inside the batteries that are producing the heat in these cases.

“There are firewalls to stop the heat from spreading, and that’s important because of one cell catches fire, you don’t want it to infect the other cells,” said Ceder. “But unless you can bring the temperature down, it could slowly heat up again. And that’s why you get these spontaneous re-ignitions.”

While Tesla says that their cars catch fire about ten times less frequently than gas-powered cars, the cause of the two fires on Wednesday is still under investigation.


(Adapted from the CBS SF BayArea article, click here to read more and watch the news story from CBS: South Bay Fire Officials: Dealing with Tesla Fires a Learning Process)