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Owner Of Tesla Model S That Burned Still Loves Car, Will Buy Another


2012 Tesla Model S Signature

2012 Tesla Model S Signature

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Since a Tesla Model S electric car caught fire in Washington State last week, Tesla Motors [NSDQ;TSLA] has been trying to put out a fire.

It's working to contain any potential damage to its reputation--and last week, the company got some help from the victim of the fire.

The owner of the destroyed Model S says he looks forward to getting another one of the electric cars, according to an e-mail reprinted in a Tesla blog post.

Rob Carlson, the car's owner (who is also a Tesla investor), said the Model S "performed very well under such an extreme test."

His e-mail responded to one sent by Tesla's vice president of sales and service, Jerome Guillen.

"I am still a big fan of your car and look forward to getting back into one," Carlson said.

And that's probably not something you'd hear from most owners of burned cars.

Last Tuesday, Carlson's Model S caught fire after striking a large metal object just outside Seattle, Washington.

Carlson was able to exit the car safely, and firefighters eventually extinguished the blaze after puncturing holes in the shielding around the plug-in car's battery pack.

Tesla Model S in flames near Kent, Washington [frame from YouTube video]

Tesla Model S in flames near Kent, Washington [frame from YouTube video]

Enlarge Photo

According to a statement by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, the piece of road debris punched a 3-inch-diameter hole in the bottom of the car, and the force of the impact started the fire.

The fire was contained to the first of 16 battery modules by internal firewalls, Musk said.

He went on to note that the fire could have been far worse if the car were powered by gasoline:

A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground.

In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10 percent of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between.

As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1 percent that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.

Indeed, there are nearly 150,000 car fires per year. By itself, a car catching on fire isn't that surprising-- but Tesla's novelty and all of the controversy that comes with electric cars made the incident into a media event.

Given that, it's not surprising that Tesla has taken such aggressive steps -- including the testimonials from Carlson and Musk -- to inform the public and contain any potential PR damage.

Do you think the incident will permanently harm Tesla?

Or will it pass out of the news relatively quickly, with the story line returning to the company's growing sales and expansion beyond North America?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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