Screenshot by NPR/AGVS / UPSA – Auto Gewerbe Verband Schweiz
A global insurance company takes fire for ramping up a battery fire during a crash test of a Tesla sedan.
The insurance company Axa claimed to demonstrate how electric cars can quickly erupt into a dangerous fire after an accident.
But it wasn’t the Tesla’s battery that caught fire. In fact, Axa had the vehicle’s battery removed prior to the late August demo, the Paris-based company said later.
A crash test video posted by the Swiss Auto Trade Association shows a yellow Tesla hurtling toward an obstacle, then flipping over and landing upside down on its roof. Moments later, a bang erupts from the engine and the front half of the car bursts into flames as those in attendance applaud.
On Thursday, Axa Switzerland said in a statement that it regretted that the crash test gave a “false impression” and caused “confusion”.
The company said it had to take measures to protect onlookers during the demonstration of a battery-powered car going up in flames. The car’s battery was removed and the fire was extinguished “under controlled conditions,” the company said.
“In addition, the crash test of a Tesla vehicle did not cause the type of damage to the undercarriage that would likely cause a battery fire, as the images seem to suggest,” Axa added.
The company admitted in a statement to the German website 24auto.de that it used pyrotechnics to ignite the fire.
Axa, which conducts crash tests to address road safety concerns, said its own data shows that electric vehicles do not catch fire any faster than internal combustion engine cars.
Axa Switzerland’s statement also noted its support for the electric vehicle industry: “We firmly believe that e-vehicles will play a key role in the automotive future. That is why we believe it is so important to to take an in-depth look at electromobility and its safety.”
Experts estimate that electric cars may catch fire less often than their petrol counterparts, but the blazing fires can be more difficult to put out.
Still, there is a risk that electric vehicle batteries could ignite, and several automakers have issued recalls in recent years over concerns that their batteries could catch fire.