Tesla announces battery shield fix for Model S fires image

NHTSA opened its Tesla Motors announced it will add battery shields underneath its Model S electric sedan following a four-month investigation from U.S. regulators into fires that occurred after the cars struck road debris.

Tesla began installing a “triple underbody shield,” including a titanium plate, on cars made as of March 6 and will retrofit existing cars, CEO Elon Musk announced in a blog post. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “a defect trend has not been identified”, with the organization adding that Tesla’s fixes should be enough to reduce the fire risk.

The U.S. regulators’ decision to end the investigation lets Tesla avoid a formal recall. NHTSA closed its investigation March 26, and said that Tesla’s revision of vehicle ride height and the added shield “should reduce both the frequency of underbody strikes and the resultant fire risk.” It also cited Tesla data that Model S cars have traveled about 90 million miles without incident since the last fire.

“With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla. The addition of the underbody shields simply takes it a step further,” Musk said.

The company will have to retrofit more than 25,000 Model S sedans that are currently on the road.

Photographer: Gianluca Colla