An incident on Sunday in which a Tesla vehicle caught fire in a Shanghai parking garage may have been caused by a battery short circuit, a preliminary investigation has found.

Tao Wei, an automobile defect expert at China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, who is part of the investigation, told The Paper (in Chinese) that the finding came as a result of an initial check on Wednesday morning, though no data could be recovered as the car’s chip and battery had been destroyed. The evaluation was carried out at a Tesla test center in Shanghai.

In a statement on microblogging platform Weibo, Tesla said no preliminary conclusions had been formed, and that it would announce the results in a timely manner. “Please do not spread rumors,” the company added.

Closed-circuit video footage of a Tesla Model S billowing smoke and catching fire began making the rounds on social media earlier this week. The car was mostly destroyed while surrounding vehicles also sustained damage. Tesla responded by saying it was sending a team to Shanghai to investigate the incident.

The fire comes at a sensitive time for Tesla. The company has been trying to boost flagging sales in China and will report its first-quarter results on Wednesday, in which it is expected to post a loss.

Rival EV maker Nio said it was launching a similar investigation after one of its SUVs caught fire on Monday at a service center in Xi’an, a city in central China. Nio said at the time that no there were no casualties or other property damage as a result of the fire.

Sunday’s incident is not the first time a Tesla vehicle has self-ignited in China. In 2017, a Model S caught fire at a charging station in the city, damaging a vehicle nearby. The company has previously claimed that its vehicles are 10 times less likely to catch fire than gas-driven cars.

According to China’s State Administration for Market Regulation, around 40 new energy vehicles, including electrics and hybrids, caught fire in China last year.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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