I normally don’t blog about the major ‘news’ events about Tesla. I figure anyone who has interest in electric cars has heard the news already, often I don’t have anything to add, or the news is uninteresting.
A case in point the three Tesla vehicle fires. I think the national media hyped this story up. Unfortunately many US media outlets focus on fear mongering and sensationalism instead of meaningful news. The only outlets I really pay attention to these days is the San Jose Mercury News and the PBS Newshour. The nightly news on most stations is intolerable and focuses on violence and terrorism. Most web based news outlets focus too much on celebrity gossip or other trivial matters.
Tesla did not do a perfect job in handling this fire situation. They gave us a firmware update to our cars, version 5.8, without telling us ahead of time or in the release notes that the car had a significant behavior change. A huge uproar occurred on the forums as owners began to notice that their car no longer lowered on the freeway.
Now with 5.8, a driver cannot use the low suspension setting, which should save energy at highway speeds. The air suspension option cost $1,500 and requires the tech package. Tesla effectively turned off this feature through software without any notice. This video shows the air suspension in action.
The three vehicle fires were the reason for this change. As Elon Musk pointed out in his recent blog, the fire rate for the Tesla is one in 6,333 cars which is much lower than ICE cars which is one fire per 1,350 cars. I have seen others debate Elon’s exact numbers, but I have not seen any that state the rate of fires of the Model S is anywhere near ICE vehicles.
The Model S is so safe that not one person has been injured or killed in any Model S to date by any kind of accident. The National Highway Safety and Transportation is investigating these fire incidents and the warranty is being modified to cover non-intentional fire damage.
Tesla is stating by January the driver will be able to manually lower the car back down to the low setting. I can see this might be a tiny bit safer as the driver needs to think of the road conditions. I rarely drive on roads with a lot of loose items or tailgate, so I will be lowering my Model S back on down.
I often see other Teslas on the freeways, and I have to admit, they remind me of lowrider cars when they are in the low suspension setting.