Two Florida teens lost their lives on May 9 when the Model S they were traveling in erupted into flames after striking a concrete barrier. As in previous incidents – at least three others – a large portion of the car was quickly and almost completely consumed before the fire was put out.
Since Teslas are electric cars and don't burn gas, this one wasn't burned to a cinder by gasoline.
It was the lithium-ion battery pack that caught fire.
This happens when the physical structure of the battery pack is compromised and the materials within come into uncontrolled contact. Just the same as exposing gasoline to an ignition source. It can happen as the result of a design defect, or an impact such as an accident.
What's not the same is the way electric car battery packs are shaped – and where they're installed in the car.