- Tesla is sending out a software update to all Model S and Model X cars to adjust battery settings after videos showed Tesla vehicles bursting into flames in Hong Kong and Shanghai last month, according to multiple reports.
- The update will be sent wirelessly and will affect charge and thermal management settings, which could help prevent overcharging and a potential failure in the vehicles’ lithium ion batteries. An investigation into the Hong Kong incident revealed that "a few battery modules were affected," according to the company, although it did not share more details.
- In a statement to CNN, Tesla said its electric vehicles (EVs) "are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car" and said the updates were being made "out of an abundance of caution."
The explosions, which were captured on security cameras, rattled some drivers and industry observers. The car had been parked for 30 minutes, according to Reuters, and no one was injured in the fire. But it came just weeks after a widely circulated video showed another parked Tesla bursting into flames in Shanghai. Tesla has assured drivers that the vehicles are safe and battery packs are designed to slow the spread of fire and to alert occupants if there are any problems.
Still, the incidents are a reminder of the potential volatility of lithium ion batteries, which power most electric vehicles and other devices (the most well-known example was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone, which could explode if overcharged). Lime, for example, had to pull some scooters off the streets and update software on others in response to a manufacturing defect that could have caused a battery fire. Although nobody was harmed in the incident, Lime did get criticism for not immediately disclosing the issue.
With increasing scrutiny on possible safety dangers of micromobility devices — like a braking issue with Lyft e-bikes and Lime scooters — batteries present another possible problem. For Tesla, the high-profile fires could halt the company’s growth, and overall adoption of electric vehicles. Although the company quickly corrected the issue, lithium ion batteries still pose a potential problem and safer batteries are likely years away.