Tesla is updating its battery software after 2 seemingly spontaneous fires

North American Heavy Rescue Symposium, YouTubeProfessionals burn a Tesla to demonstrate how to put out a high voltage battery vehicle fire.

  • Tesla is updating the thermal management software for its vehicles’ batteries, the company said Wednesday.
  • The changes are being made out of an “abundance of caution” following two fires in Hong Kong and Shanghai that seemed to ignite without a clear cause.
  • Business Insider reported in April that oversights and missteps by Panasonic at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory could potentially increase fire risk in Tesla’s batteries.

Tesla said Wednesday that it will update the thermal management settings in its vehicles’ software in response to a string of seemingly spontaneous fires.

The company said it has not yet determined a cause of the Model S which caught fire in a Hong Kong shopping mall on March 14, or that of another in a Shanghai parking garage in April.

We currently have well over half a million vehicles on the road, which is more than double the number that we had at the beginning of last year, and Tesla’s team of battery experts uses that data to thoroughly investigate incidents that occur and understand the root cause,” the company said to Business Insider.

“Tesla battery packs are engineered with a state-of-the-art design so that in the very rare instance a fire does occur, it spreads very slowly and vents heat away from the cabin, alerting occupants that there is an issue and giving them enough time to exit the vehicle,” a Tesla spokesperson said regarding the Hong King fire.

The statement went on to say that the update is being made out of an abundance of caution, rather than an existing safety hazard.

“Although fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles are already extremely rare and our cars are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car, we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero,” it said. “As we continue our investigation of the root cause, out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity.”

Business Insider’s Linette Lopez reported in April that some practices by Panasonic inside Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada could lead to contaminated battery components, increasing the risk of fire. On several occasions, Panasonic insiders said, foreign objects have fallen into the massive, 16-foot mixers that combine battery chemicals, including volatile lithium.

Those items – whether it be scissors, a roll of tape, a tool – sometimes go unnoticed until the mixer is being cleaned. Battery experts say that if a single piece of shrapnel, even one smaller than a millimetre, gets into the lithium mix, it could pierce the separator between the anode and cathode, causing a fire.

“Panasonic produces the most advanced electric vehicle battery cells because we pay exceptional attention to quality. Our quality-control protocols are industry standards and include cleanroom environments and laboratory-like working conditions. The battery cells go through several testing gates before they are released to Tesla, and Tesla separately tests the cells after delivery. We are proud to have helped propel one of the most exciting revolutions in the auto industry,” Panasonic said to Business Insider.

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