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Published on July 31st, 2019 | by Jennifer Sensiba


Texas Track Bans EVs, Cites Fire Concerns. Many Tesla Owners Aren’t Buying It.

July 31st, 2019 by  

Photo of a Tesla Model S goldified by Unplugged Performance. Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Recently, the Texas Motor Speedway decided to not allow electric vehicles to participate in their “Friday Night Drags” event. When asked by Teslarati why this was, the track’s spokesman said the track wasn’t prepared to deal with battery fires, should one occur. While this certainly is a plausible explanation, it seems that a vast majority of Tesla owners and other EV enthusiasts think it’s an excuse.

“SO the race organizers basically admit non EVs can’t keep up with EVs,” one Teslarati commenter said. “What a bunch of babies. Time to call this ‘B league’ racing,” said another. Other commenters raised doubts about how difficult it would really be to prepare for a battery fire, whether they were ready for any kind of fire, or expressed doubts about the likelihood of even having of having a battery fire at all. Some believed the track was being honest, but most did not.

It’s worth noting that there’s no way to actually know the track’s motivations. They really could believe that they aren’t prepared to fight a battery fire, and it could be their primary reason for not allowing EVs. Or, it could be that the event’s 1/8 mile length and a “run what you brung” style is just too good of a fit for the strengths of an EV. Over 1/8 of a mile, all but the best gas-powered drag cars struggle to catch up to the fastest Teslas or other custom EVs. The truth is, we really don’t know and should be careful judging. Personally, I’m not going to take a position here.

After reading those comments, and comments on other websites reporting on this issue, I saw much of the same. Internet trolls can be harsh, especially in the comments section, so I remained skeptical of whether this represented Tesla owners more widely. I don’t have the time or resources to conduct a scientific poll, but I did post in a popular group of Tesla owners and enthusiasts that has over 60,000 members. It’s a group that I know to be well-moderated and generally reasonable.

Out of over 313 votes, 275 said they thought it was an excuse, and that the real reason was that ICE (gasoline/diesel) cars were losing. 39, on the other hand, thought it was a legitimate, true concern.

While it’s hard to compare this to the comment sections I viewed, the unscientific poll did seem to lean slightly more toward it being a legitimate concern than the comments. However, the results were still overwhelmingly against believing the “fire” explanation.

Tesla fans and EV enthusiasts in general can be fanatical at times, and I’m sure many ICE enthusiasts would take the position that The Drive did. Plus, as I pointed out before, we simply can’t know for sure. That’s a problem, and an opportunity.

We Need Better Dialogue On This

Photo of EVANNEX Tesla Batmobile by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica

The important takeaway is that we are probably going to see more of this in the future, whether for legitimate reasons or not. While we could do what we are doing now and let suspicion and division rule, that wouldn’t be in the long-term best interest. EV enthusiasts and ICE enthusiasts, along with businesses like tracks, need to all get together and find common ground.

For us on the EV side, we need to be patient with situations like this. Even if a track puts us out because they are having trouble with competition, because of left vs. right politics, or any other bogus thing, we need to take the high road and be mature.

On the other side of the coin, tracks and other businesses need to reach out more after things like this. If the real reason for banning EVs from a track is safety related, they need to work with EV owners and other manufacturers to address the concerns and get us back on the track. That might not always be possible, but involving us in the process would go a long way toward building the bridges we all need during a time of rapid technological change in automobiles.

Either way, we are all in this together as car enthusiasts. We need to act like it.

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About the Author

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals.

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