Talking tech since 2003

Tesla Motors is arguing against a recent claim against its car chargers. The company claims that its own investigations into a Southern California garage fire that’s been associated with Tesla products have actually yielded no evidence that they’re to blame.

To recap: back in October and November, four owners of Tesla-made electric cars reported fires that they’ve connected to the vehicles’ batteries or chargers. And yesterday, Reuters reported that the Orange County Fire Authority, which was investigating the most recent fire that had started in a garage, claimed that the conflagration may have been started by an overheated Tesla charger cable.

But according to a post on Bloomberg, Tesla has reviewed the car’s data logs and found no such connection. The post offers up a statement from Tesla regarding the garage fire:

“The cable was fine on the vehicle side; the damage was on the wall side. Our inspection of the car and the battery made clear that neither were the source. The battery had been charging normally, and there were no fluctuations in temperature or malfunctions within the battery or the charge electronics.”

Well, you might be asking, what does that leave? The report filed by the OCFA notes that it’s possible that the fire could’ve been the result of faulty wiring—the damage to the wall socket as a result of the fire makes it difficult to determine.

It’s natural that Tesla would claim that it’s not at fault, though one would hope that if the company had found a problem with its products, it would own up to it. Tesla founder (and real-life Tony Stark) Elon Musk seems like the kind of person who wouldn’t want to sit on a potentially hazardous mistake. But that’s all speculation on my part, so that’s not a particularly valuable assessment.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if sucking up lots of power from a wall socket that was probably installed years ago might be a recipe for disaster. Tesla’s products are clearly on the cutting edge of technology, but chances are good that wall sockets in people’s garages aren’t. Most garages are little more than uninsulated woodsheds, so it’s likely that any house that wasn’t built within the last 20 years probably has some less-than-stellar wiring.

The reason all of this is worthy of note is the simple fact that Tesla is in the unenviable position of taking on some pretty firmly entrenched companies. It has the odds stacked against it from the start, and any news that might hint at the possibility that its products are unsafe is a major issue. It’s funny, considering that traditional internal combustion cars are quite clearly already proven to be dangerous in terms of their emissions and their contributions to global climate change. But those are dangers we found out about long after we’d already adopted them as standard parts of our lives.

While I want the truth and safety of all to come out ahead of everything, I can’t deny that I want for Tesla to be blameless in this case, and for its products not to be the cause of this fire (or any of the others that have been reported prior to the November incident). Hopefully the evidence will bear that out.

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