[UPDATE] Video previously embedded above removed from YouTube - AXA Insurance Company aimed to prove that electric car batteries could catch fire during a crash, which is true, though not very common. At any rate, in order to show people exactly how that could happen, the company staged a crash of a Tesla Model S.
As you'll see when you watch the brief video, the Model S undergoes a real crash test, though it was carefully calculated and staged by AXA. The Tesla saloon is launched up over a ramp, it scrapes its battery pack and then flips over and lands upside down. Not long after it comes to a stop, the underside of the car bursts into flames.
Weirdly, the Model S used for the crash test is one of the older models. In fact, it's so old it still has the original nosecone. Perhaps the insurance company didn't want to spend the big bucks on a new Tesla only to destroy it.
Anyway, in the video description on YouTube, AXA does admit that the fire wasn't an actual battery fire. However, you'd have to look carefully to realise. Moreover, based on the translated text from the description, there is plenty of text related to the car's damage, and it makes it seem as though this is all too real.
The company shares that the underbody of the Tesla was severely damaged and speculates that the damage could have caused a real fire. AXA writes:
"Note on the crash test: In the Axa crash test with the Tesla, the underbody was severely damaged, which the Axa researchers believe could lead to a fire. However, the fire itself was staged using pyrotechnics because, according to its press office, Axa did not want to risk a real battery fire at an event with 500 spectators for safety reasons. However, they wanted to point out the risk of battery fires caused by underbody damage in electric cars. For further context: During the actual Axa crash test the Teslas undercarriage was heavily damaged."
To be 100 percent clear here, the old Tesla Model S used in the crash test didn't actually have a battery pack in it at all. Instead, the pack was removed for safety reasons. The fire that suddenly ignited was produced by pyrotechnics that had been installed inside the Tesla before the crash test.
It's also important to note that the crash test wasn't actually performed with the electric car driving as it would be on a real road. Without its battery pack, the Model S is inoperable. In order to carry out the test, AXA Insurance Company had to pull the Model S and simulate the crash conditions.
While this is also often the case with other official crash tests, they don't typically remove the powertrain. For very obvious reasons related to weight, equipment, the centre of gravity, trajectory, etc., cars are typically crash-tested in stock form.
We're not talking about a working car here with a functional powertrain, but rather, the sheet metal of an old Tesla Model S with a controlled bomb of sorts inside. The car isn't even close to factory spec in any way, which makes the whole situation even more misleading.
We appreciate that AXA admitted the truth, but putting a video like this out on social media is arguably an issue in and of itself.