Dozens of original Tesla Roadsters lost in Gruber Motors fire


Over the weekend, tragedy struck Gruber Motors in Arizona again. A power failure sparked a fire in their main service building and managed to ignite a car’s lithium batteries before firefighters could arrive and extinguish the blaze, making it very difficult to save anything. either in the building. Unfortunately, there were at least 25 original Tesla Roadsters in the building, and they were totally destroyed.

“Each of the owners affected by our fire last night has been contacted. I have personally contacted each of you affected by a lost Roadster, rather than having you discovered through the media, ”the company said in a social media statement.

“As I speak to each of you, I once again remember how expensive these cars are, how much they meant to you and what a special place they have carved out for themselves in automotive history. sincere apologies and I feel your pain, I also lost three in this mishap. I wish it were otherwise.

The company has three buildings that it uses for repairing older electric vehicles, typically original Tesla Roadsters or early Model S sedans. The main building for the ongoing work has been the one that suffered what appears to be an electrical panel failure, according to fire investigators, but the investigation is still ongoing. More information on the cause of the initial fire will likely be found.

As in a previous fire to which the company was a victim in 2017, the fire consumed the entire building. A fire in most other facilities could be put out more easily, but once lithium batteries catch fire they are incredibly difficult to extinguish. This created a very difficult situation for the fire department to resolve, and it appears that virtually everything in the building has been destroyed.

Not all vehicles were destroyed

Fortunately, many other Tesla Roadsters were not inside the building at the time of the fire. Some were known to be outside and were uninjured by the blaze, while others may have been in other company buildings.

A lucky owner posted his experience on the Tesla Motors Club forums:

“I was supposed to pick up my car there today after its maintenance. I got an email from Gruber early in the morning saying they unfortunately had a fire in their store and even though my car was in order as it was parked outside my key was destroyed in the store. ‘fire. They wanted to make sure I had a spare key to collect the car. I assumed this must have been a relatively small fire as they took the time to confirm that I was still coming to pick up the car today and that I had the spare key. When I went to pick up the car this afternoon, I was shocked to see what had happened at the Gruber factory. Unfortunately, it appears that much of the interior of the building and the workshop has been destroyed. The roof seemed to be completely gone and there was a large crew of people cleaning up the hazardous materials (I’m guessing from the batteries and other electrical components that had burned in the fire.) ”

The owner also indicated that he was always very impressed with the Gruber service, even though he had seen something that would scare any owner.

“I don’t know much else at the moment, although I had a brief phone conversation with Peter Gruber today to coordinate my car pick-up. He seemed understandably exhausted, but was still so customer-focused. He told me that they had not yet determined the cause of the fire. While my car was covered in a light coating of ash when I picked it up today, it was otherwise undamaged and all the issues I asked them to fix had been resolved – for a fraction of what the local Tesla SC had cited for the repairs. , as usual.”

Why were there so many roadsters in one place?

If you are not familiar with Gruber Motors, you might be wondering why there were so many original Tesla Roadsters in one place. The answer is that they are one of the few facilities that can work on it. Yes, you can still do limited work at a Tesla service center, but if a major component fails, you will need to replace the entire component (like a battery). This can result in a relatively minor problem costing tens of thousands of dollars to fix, but Gruber’s team can break down something like a battery and fix it for a fraction of what Tesla would charge.

For some components, replacement modules simply do not exist and have not been manufactured for over a decade. In these cases, even Tesla cannot help the owner. This is where Gruber Motors really shines, as it can repair and refurbish expensive components, making a repair possible.

As Tesla age, more and more of them end up at Gruber Motors for repair. You can learn more about the issues owners face with aging EVs and the repair process in this video:

With all of that in mind, it makes sense that so many original Roadsters and other aging EVs are in one place. Their owners love them and won’t just throw them in the trash when other options are available!

What can be done to avoid these widespread losses?

This is not the first time that Gruber Motors has had a fire. The first time, in 2017, was caused by a battery in a Tesla Roadster that “went nuclear” during repair. At that time, the Phoenix Fire Department had no idea how to put out a lithium fire and had to sit down and watch it burn. In the process, a rare tZero electric car (the predecessor of all Tesla vehicles) was burnt to the chassis.

Since this is the second time that a fire has destroyed the cars of Gruber Motors customers, some readers are probably wondering if there are ways to avoid this problem in the future. The answer to this question is ‘yes’ and the Gruber team is already working to avoid future losses.

One of the new buildings in which the company is expanding will already be fully equipped with sprinklers. While fire sprinklers would likely not provide the volume needed to extinguish a lithium fire, they could prevent fire from other sources (such as fires the company has experienced) from spreading to a battery pack. car and destroy everything.

It is possible that a car will still be damaged by a sprinkler system if it is not reassembled or covered in some way to prevent it from entering, but this is something the Gruber team could easily solve in various ways. Critical components can be covered with a tarp or drop cloth overnight if left open or placed in a secure container. The more sophisticated options include halon fire extinguishing systems, as are commonly used in buildings with servers or other sensitive electronic devices.

Given that Gruber Motors is already taking steps to mitigate the risk of another catastrophic fire and options are available to prevent water damage, it is highly unlikely that we will see this kind of big loss again.

Future electric vehicle stores must learn from this

It is important to note that Gruber Motors is a true pioneer in maintaining aging electric vehicles. It opens up new avenues that many other independent electric vehicle stores are sure to follow in the decades to come. But, like the pioneers of old, the first people to do something face the greatest challenges as they move up this learning curve. The people who come after don’t have to go through the school of hard knocks.

So it is very important that future electric vehicle repair facilities learn from this stuff and start with a great fire safety situation. Gruber Motors learned the hard way, so there’s no excuse that future stores won’t learn from this lesson as they plan their new businesses.

Featured Image: Screenshot from Gruber Motor Company’s YouTube video showing the aftermath of the fire.

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