Tesla upgrades car charging software, adapter to prevent fires

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:21pm EST

A Tesla model S car with an electric vehicle charging station is displayed during a media preview day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) September 10, 2013. The world's biggest auto show is open to the public September 14 -22. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

A Tesla model S car with an electric vehicle charging station is displayed during a media preview day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) September 10, 2013. The world's biggest auto show is open to the public September 14 -22.

Credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc is taking steps to prevent overheating of its charging systems, including giving customers upgraded wall adapters and providing charging-software upgrades, the electric-car company said Friday.

The moves come after a November garage fire involving a Model S in Irvine, California, which the Orange County Fire Authority said may have been caused by a Tesla charging system or by a connection at the electricity panel on the wall of the garage.

At the time, Tesla disagreed with the fire officials' findings, denying that the charging electronics were related to the fire. A Tesla spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a question on Friday about whether the upgrades were related to the Irvine fire.

In a Friday press release, Tesla said that its goal was to prevent excessive heating of the adapters used to charge its cars. A variety of factors ranging from corrosion to inappropriate wiring of electrical outlets can cause overheating, the company said.

A December tweak to its charging software tackles the issue through reducing charging by 25 percent if the charging system detects fluctuations in power entering the vehicle, Tesla said.

"Tesla believes that this software update fully addresses any potential risks," the release said. But as a precaution, it said it would make available an improved wall adapter with a thermal fuse for affected customers, staring in a few weeks.

Separately, three road fires in Model S sedans caused Tesla's stock to fall sharply in October.

The fires occurred in Washington state, Tennessee and Mexico. In the U.S. incidents, Model S sedans caught fire after running over road debris. In Mexico, a Model S caught fire after striking a concrete wall.

On Friday, Tesla's stock fell 1.23 percent to $145.72, up from levels under $120 in late November but down from its high of $194.50 in late September.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride)

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