Tesla issues battery software update after spontaneous fires

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A Tesla logo on the front of a Tesla Model S car at a launch event for the MobilityX self-driving conference, a gathering of global autonomous vehicle leaders, in Dublin.

Tesla is updating software on all its Model S and X cars after two batteries caught fire.

The update, sent over the air, changes some of the battery management software that relates to charging and thermal controls and follows two high-profile cases of cars that burst into flames in Asia.

The first, in April, saw a Model S catch fire while parked, unused, in a car park in Shanghai. More recently, another Model S seemed to spontaneously combust in Hong Kong just after the owner had charged the vehicle. It is believed that nobody was injured in either of the incidents.

In a statement, a Tesla spokesperson said: “We currently have well over half a million vehicles on the road, which is more than double the number that we had at the beginning of last year, and Tesla’s team of battery experts uses that data to thoroughly investigate incidents that occur and understand the root cause.

“Although fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles are already extremely rare and our cars are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car, we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero.

“As we continue our investigation of the root cause, out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity.”

Compared with regular, combustion-engine-powered vehicles, electric car fires can’t be put out with foam or chemicals. They can only be extinguished with hundreds of litres of water.