The owner of the Tesla S that caught fire last week (video below) probably doesn’t need to go to traffic school or back to driving school – but he maybe could use some financial advice.

Most of the online commentary has fretted about the Tesla’s batteries – that maybe they are an accident waiting to happen. Not likely. This is the first case of a Tesla going up in smoke – and the batteries it uses are not fundamentally different from the batteries that have been in use in other-brand electric (and hybrid-electric) cars for many years. The hot-selling Toyota Prius, for example, hasn’t given anyone the hot foot yet – and it’s been on the market for a decade, with hundreds of thousands of them sold.

The Prius – and all other current hybrids (and electric cars) use either nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion batteries. So does the Tesla. They’re no more dangerous – as such – than driving around with 15 gallons of highly volatile gasoline sloshing around underneath you. So long as the batteries – and the gasoline tank – are designed properly (and not handled irresponsibly) the risk of a fire is pretty low.

That wasn’t the case with Ford’s hot battery.

Back in the ’90s, Ford built an experimental electric vehicle called the Ecostar. It had a sodium-sulfur battery that had to be maintained at several hundred degrees for proper operation – and to prevent it from becoming a mobile Chernobyl.

Luckily, it was just an experiment.

A failed one.

Now, this Tesla.

I just don’t get it. Maybe you do – and can explain it to me.

It costs $70,000 – to start. Yes, I know. It is luxurious. But isn’t that kind of beside the point? I thought electric cars were – chiefly – about saving people money. Giving them a way to get around paying through the nose for gas. But if they’re paying through the nose for the car… ?

Well, you tell me.

Ah, but it is very quick. True. But only briefly. If you run the Tesla 0-06 at full tilt more than a couple of times – or drive it over 70 MPH for any length of time on the highway – the batteries will also deplete quickly. Then, you’re stuck waiting while the car recharges – which takes at least 45 minutes to an hour, if you have access to a special high-voltage charging station. If not, it’ll be hours.

Maybe overnight.

So, you’ve got a really quick car you’re more or less forced to drive like a Geo Metro. And you paid $70,000 for it.

Maybe you can explain it to me… .

The way I see it, if a person wanted to save money on driving, he’d buy a Prius – and put the $50,000 he just saved (vs. the Tesla) toward gassing it up…

For the next 50 years.

But hey, what do I know… .