Tesla CEO Elon Musk is no stranger to dealing with negative publicity against electric cars. Having led Tesla since the days of the original Roadster, Musk knows how challenging it is to go against the narrative that EVs are dangerous, unreliable, and prone to catching fire.
Recently, however, Musk stated that he believes reports covering electric vehicle fire incidents are about to see a substantial decline. This, according to Musk, is partly due to the fact that large automotive companies which invest heavily in advertising — such as General Motors and Ford — are now making electric vehicles themselves.
“Now that the big automotive advertisers are making EVs, you will see far fewer articles about EVs catching on fire. It is not surprising that internal combustion engine cars have a tendency to combust externally too,” Musk wrote in a post on Twitter. The CEO was commenting on a study which revealed that EVs catch fire far less frequently than internal combustion and hybrid cars.
As per the study, which involves an analysis of data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), and government recall data from Recalls.gov, the United States sees 3,475 hybrid fires, 1,530 gas-powered fires, and 25 electric vehicle fires, for every 100,000 vehicles sold.
One could argue that Musk’s comments come from a place of experience. Tesla, after all, has made a name for itself as a company that does not spend a single dollar on traditional advertisements. This meant that entities whose businesses are helped by advertising, such as traditional news agencies, do not get advertising revenue from Tesla. While this is in no way a direct source of bias, one cannot deny that Tesla fires and crashes get a surprising amount of news coverage.
It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the extensive coverage of Tesla fire incidents over the years helped propagate the pervading falsehood that EVs are prone to catching fire. And it’s not just Tesla too. The Chevy Bolt is a victim of the same thing, with the vehicle effectively becoming a fire joke online despite the fact that only a very tiny fraction of the cars actually caught fire before they were recalled.
If Elon Musk’s prediction does come to pass, then perhaps there would soon come a time when EV or Tesla fires are reported with the same frequency as hybrid or ICE fires. Such a change would benefit the electric vehicle movement as a whole, as it would further establish the idea that EVs are just like every other mode of personal transportation out there in the market.
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