From the NYTimes: Tesla is issuing a recall action concerning about 29,000 charging adapters for its 2013 Model S electric cars because of a potential fire hazard, the automaker has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a letter sent to the agency over the weekend.
Tesla said in the letter, which was dated Jan. 12, that the NEMA 14-50 adapters used for 240-volt recharging of the Model S may overheat, which “could cause problems including melted adapters and, in a worst-case scenario, fire.” The adapter makes it possible to connect the car’s charging plug to a 240-volt household receptacle.
Tesla said that since late 2012 about 2.7 percent of the adapters were being returned because they stopped charging. At the time, Tesla did not consider these failures to be a safety problem because the damage was contained within the adapter. The damage caused by the overheating condition stopped the flow of electricity.
But late in 2013 Tesla told the safety agency it had learned of several cases in which there was damage outside the adapter, including a “highly publicized” garage fire in Irvine, Calif.
Tesla said its “initial analysis demonstrated that defective or improperly installed wall receptacles that the NEMA 14-50 adapter plugged into could cause problems including melted adapters and, in a worst-case scenario, fire. While the number of incidents remains small, and Tesla’s review to date points to the building receptacle or wiring as the primary cause of failed NEMA 14-50 adapters, the company has determined that a voluntary recall is appropriate as a precautionary measure.”
Asked about the Irvine fire, a Tesla spokeswoman, Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, wrote in an email Monday evening that “based on our inspection of the site, the car and the logs, we know that this was absolutely not the car, the battery or the charge electronics.”
While the safety agency listed the action as a recall of Tesla Model S vehicles, Tesla said only the adapter needed work and that was being done with an “over-the-air” software update, so there was no need for owners to bring their vehicles into a dealership.
In the documents Tesla said it had also engineered a new adapter for owners, telling the safety agency: “In addition, above and beyond the software update, which fully addresses the issue, Tesla is providing an additional layer of assurance by engineering a new NEMA 14-50 adapter plug that includes an internal thermal fuse.”
Tesla described the recall as voluntary but once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem it must – within five business days – inform the safety agency of its plan for a recall or face a civil fine.