Tesla Model S owners will be getting a little titanium upgrade as a result of the recent vehicle fires. The news was announced by CEO Elon Musk in a post on the Tesla blog.
There were several vehicle fires during 2013 due to owners running over significant road debris that caused damage to the batteries. In both cases, no one was hurt and the cars operated exactly as specified by warning the owners to pull over long before the fire posed a risk to occupants.
Despite the unusual circumstances of these incidents, with owners running over large and damaging pieces of road debris at high speeds, Tesla has decided to mitigate this type of fire risk by installing special triple layer underbody shields. The shields will automatically be installed on every Tesla Model S manufactured from March 6th forward, with owners of existing vehicles getting a retrofit with no charge.
Tesla performed 152 different tests on this new shield to see if it could manage to penetrate the barrier and damage the battery, including one that simulated driving the car at high speeds directly over a steel spear sticking out of the road.
The shield is composed of three parts starting with a rounded, hollow aluminum bar designed to deflect objects or direct an object up toward the trunk liner instead of toward the battery. The second part of the shield is a titanium plate designed to protect the front underbody and has strength-to-weight properties usually seen in aerospace or military applications.
The final layer closest to the vehicle is a shallow angle, solid aluminum extrusion that will absorb the impact, deflect the object it if possible, and finally cause the Tesla Model S to go up and over the object so that it does not pierce the bottom of the vehicle. Tesla says that this three-layer shield will do its job without impacting the vehicle’s ride or handling and will affect range only by .1 percent.
Tesla maintains that the Model S did not fail in its handling of the original accidents that caused fires and that it is safe even without this new shield. They say their goal is to make sure customer minds are at ease and that in the event of an accident, customers are inconvenienced as little as possible.
Nicole Wakelin fell in love with cars as a teenager when she got to go for a ride in a Ferrari. It was red and it was fast and that was all that mattered. Game over. She considers things a bit more carefully now, but still has a weakness for fast, beautiful cars. Nicole also writes for NerdApproved and GeekMom.