Brand New Tesla Model S Plaid Destroyed by Fire

    The car owner’s attorney says the driver was trapped inside the car and had to force the door to escape

    A 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid after a fire in Pennsylvania
    The burned Tesla Model S Plaid after the blaze was extinguished.
    Source: Lower Merion Township FD

    A 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid, the automaker’s newest model, caught fire in Haverford, Penn., on Tuesday night for reasons as yet unknown to authorities. The car’s owner, a business executive who has not been named—either by authorities or by the law firm representing him—was not injured, according to local fire officials. 

    The law firm told CR in an e-mailed statement that while the owner was driving his new Model S, he smelled smoke and attempted to leave the car but he found that the doors were locked and would not open. The law firm also said that the driver forced the door open to escape before the Model S erupted into flames.

    Charles McGarvey, chief of the Lower Merion Township Fire Department, which responded to the blaze, says his department used copious amounts of water to douse the fire, and kept the vehicle for 24 hours before returning it to its owner, to ensure that it would not reignite.

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    Media attention is again focused on Tesla after another of its cars succumbed to a fire that took tens of thousands of gallons of water to put out, and this from its newest, fastest model.

    "While we don’t know exactly what started the fire, we do know from years of data collection that cars tend to have more problems when they are new or redesigned,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “This model is one of the very first models built after the largest update to the Tesla Model S in nearly a decade."

    The law firm representing the car’s owner went a step further, calling for Tesla to halt production of the new cars until the cause of the fire is found.

    Tesla Model S Plaid on fire in Lower Merion Township
    The Tesla Model S Plaid on fire after the driver escaped.

    Source: Lower Merion Township FD Source: Lower Merion Township FD

    “This is a harrowing and frightening situation and an obvious major problem,” says Mark Geragos, the principal attorney at Geragos & Geragos. “Our preliminary investigation is ongoing, but we call on Tesla to sideline these cars until a full investigation can occur.”

    Neither Elon Musk nor Tesla responded to a request for comment, which was sent via Twitter because Tesla no longer has a press office.

    Independent of any production issues Tesla may have, the fire serves as the latest example of an alarming trend of EV fires requiring huge amounts of water to put out. Chief McGarvey says his department sprayed water from two 1¾-inch fire hoses for more than two hours in order to douse the flames. According to Firehouse Magazine, one 1¾-inch hose can put anywhere from 100 to 180 gallons per minute onto a fire, meaning this fire could have required between 24,000 and 43,000 gallons.

    “This is the first EV fire in our district, and the first Tesla fire, too,” says McGarvey, who noted that his department had received special training for EV fires. “We’re in an affluent area, so there are a lot of them driving around.”

    Tesla Model S Plaid
    Tesla Model S Plaid battery pack and drivetrain.

    Photo: Tesla Photo: Tesla

    Benjamin Preston

    My reporting has taken me everywhere from Baghdad, Iraq, to the Detroit auto show, along the U.S.-Mexico border and everywhere in between. If my travels have taught me anything, it's that stuff—consumer products—is at the center of daily life all over the world. That's why I'm so jazzed to be shining light on what works, what doesn't, and how people can enrich their lives by being smarter consumers. When I'm not reporting, I can usually be found at home with my family, at the beach surfing, or in my driveway, wrenching on my hot rod '74 Olds sedan.