The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has issued a recall notice for the Tesla Model S over concerns for possible charging fires. The recall notice comes after another fire occurred, this one in a home in Irvine, California in which the Model S was charging. The recall involves two parts, including an already-deployed remote software upgrade and a charging adapter change.
That fire, however, is not necessarily what prompted the recall, though it is the latest in a string of fires the Model S has undergone – all of which have been made very, very public and received a lot of press attention. The recall comes after Tesla itself began receiving notices that internal chargers were disconnecting due to damage. The rate was at about 3 percent of the total vehicles on the road, though the damage rarely resulted in anything more than a required replacement of the charger or adapter.
In Tesla’s letter regarding the Model S recall, James Chen of Tesla says that “in late 2013 [Tesla] became aware of several events that resulted in thermal damage external to the UMC.” Tesla however maintains that the problem is with building wiring, not the Model S itself.
The recall means that Tesla will be updating Model S charging systems with a remote software update that will attempt to sense problems with charging and reduce current draw if any are found. A second change will be to physically upgrade charging adapters with an added heat-sensitive fuse for the NEMA 14-50, which Tesla will be sending to owners. The software update has already been deployed as per this Model S recall notice.
For those who contest that this is not a “recall”, which is a common theme among Tesla aficionados responding to articles regarding this, the recall notice is posted on the NHTSA website and involves specifically the software update with the wiring harness being secondary.
As for the fire in Irvine, fellow journalist and friend John Goreham did some excellent investigative reporting to find that the charging station installation for the owner’s Model S which caught fire was apparently not properly permitted or inspected, which is likely the reason for the fire. You can read that at this link.