Tesla is literally crushing concerns about fire safety.
Tesla Motors today announced that it’s adding a titanium underbody shield and aluminum deflector plates to the Model S. The new shields will further protect the electric car’s battery pack, preventing the kind of underbody damage that leads to car fires.
Oh, and they can also crush concrete blocks.
Despite those fire concerns, the Model S already has the highest safety rating of any car ever tested. But for any worriers out there, these new shields should provide additional peace of mind.
“During the course of 152 vehicle level tests, the shields prevented any damage that could cause a fire or penetrate the existing quarter inch of ballistic grade aluminum armor plate that already protects the battery pack,” wrote Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a blog post detailing the Model S additions. “We have tried every worst case debris impact we can think of, including hardened steel structures set in the ideal position for a piking event, essentially equivalent to driving a car at highway speed into a steel spear braced on the tarmac.”
The three shields, from outermost to innermost, are an aluminum bar designed to deflect objects or absorb their impact; a military-grade titanium plate designed to prevent damage to sensitive underbody components; and a final aluminum extrusion that further absorbs and deflects debris impact energy.
Musk promises the shields barely affect Model S performance. He said they only have a 0.1 percent impact on driving range and don’t affect handling, drag, or lift.
Tesla has added the underbody shields to all Model S vehicle bodies manufactured as of March 6 and will retrofit existing models free of charge upon request or as part of normally scheduled service.
There were only two Tesla Model S fires last year — the result of collisions — but they both received major media attention. That stands in stark contrast to the 200,000 gasoline car fires last year, noted Musk.
“As the empirical evidence suggests, the underbody shields are not needed for a high level of safety,” he wrote. “However, there is significant value to minimizing owner inconvenience in the event of an impact and addressing any lingering public misperception about electric vehicle safety. With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla. The addition of the underbody shields simply takes it a step further.”