Science & Technology

MIT Challenges Musk Claim of Fewer Tesla Fires

Maybe too soon to say electric cars are less likely to catch fire than gasoline-fueled vehicles


Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) cars have caught fire caused by collisions more often than gasoline-powered vehicles, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology report rebutting assertions by Elon Musk, the electric-car maker's chief executive officer.

Because only 4 percent of vehicle fires are caused by collisions, Tesla's Model S sedan, with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, is statistically more likely to catch fire than are cars with gasoline tanks, wrote Kevin Bullis, senior editor for energy for MIT Technology Review.

One in 32,603 registered vehicles catches fire compared with 1 in 6,333 of the Model S, Bullis said in a blog post today, using U.S. government data. Fewer than 1 percent of registered vehicles are plug-in electrics.