A Sherbrooke man says he barely escaped with his life after his car mysteriously bursted into flames while driving last month.
The incident happened in Montreal on March 5 at around 1 a.m. Sacha De Santis says he had just stepped into his high-end Tesla, the Model X, when smoke began to plume out of the vents.
“There was so much smoke in the air that I couldn’t drive,” he told CTV News. “I was lucky I wasn’t on the highway.”
George Iny, a consumer advocate from the Automobile Protection Association of Montreal, said in this case it appears the fire may have started in the vents or been due to an overheating dash, pointing to a potential issue in the heating and electrical systems.
But Iny said his organization is also concerned about the risk of fires in electric vehicles that use lithium-ion batteries, as Teslas do.
“We’re absolutely convinced we haven’t heard the last on this subject,” he said. “Lithium-ion is just not that stable. We predict that as electric vehicles get older, ones using that technology will be more prone to catch fire.” Iny pointed to recalls of the Hyundai Kona and Chevrolet Bolt in recent years for that reason.
Fires started in the batteries of electric vehicles are especially concerning, he said, because the battery is underneath the car, making it harder for firefighters to access. They also burn hotter and require more water to put out.
“It’s a worry for us,” he said. “Our hope, long term, is that lithium-ion is replaced with something that’s more stable.”
While Tesla vehicles don’t necessarily present a higher risk than other electric cars, they have been on the market since 2012 and are sold far more than other electric vehicles, said Iny. He said to expect to see car fires in Teslas because they’re overrepresented in the category.
Iny said the APA still recommends EVs with lithium-ion batteries, adding, “but we are aware the situation could go sideways.”