Why Are Tesla Cars Exploding?

An exploding car in China is just the latest ugly safety incident in which Tesla has become embroiled, but Elon Musk has called out "double standards" over how incidents with his vehicles are reported.

CCTV footage, shared on Chinese social media, purported to show smoke belching from a Tesla Model S car, before it exploded in flames in a car park in Shanghai.

"We immediately sent a team on-site and we're supporting local authorities to establish the facts," Tesla said in a statement following the incident.

Footage from the CCTV, showing smoke billowing from the car. Photo: Weibo

At this stage, it is unclear how the incident occurred.

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It's not the first high-profile incident surrounding Tesla's fleet. In February, a Model S crashed and burst into flames in Florida, with reports the battery ignited several times after the car had been impounded. A 2018 crash, also in Florida, led to a family attempting to sue the company over allegations of defective batteries -- with lawyers claiming a dozen cases of batteries bursting into flames.

In June 2018, actress Mary McCormack shared a video on Twitter claiming to show her husband's Model S vehicle in flames on a street in Los Angeles.

"No accident, out of the blue, in traffic on Santa Monica Blvd," she wrote.

In February, an American driver claimed the autopilot in his Tesla malfunctioned and caused him to crash on a highway.

Tesla constantly talks up its safety record, claiming its vehicles "are engineered to be the safest cars in the world."

In the latest safety report on its website, for the first quarter of 2019, Tesla claimed it had "registered one accident for every 1.76 million miles [2.83 million kilometres] driven" by human drivers, and "one accident for every 2.87 million miles [4.62 million km] driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged."

"By comparison, [the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 436,000 miles [701,000 km]," Tesla said.

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Tesla claims its cars are far times less likely to burst into flames than regular petrol vehicles. However, some experts say battery fires can be harder to extinguish than petrol-fuelled ones.

Musk has defended his company's safety record in a series of tweets on Wednesday, pointing to evidence that gasoline cars are more dangerous.

Musk also criticised media reporting of Tesla issues, saying undue focus was given to incidents surrounding the battery vehicles.

Musk settled a fraud suit with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year, agreeing to pay a $AU 27 million fine after being accused of misleading investors when he tweeted that he was thinking of taking Tesla private.

Tesla shares have dropped in value in recent times, amid criticism the company has been slow in delivering new vehicles to buyers.