Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the technologist that he is, took to Medium with some animated GIFs today to announce that the company would now be offering triple protection to Model S buyers in the form of underbody plates and as a free add on to current owners. You’ll recall that the two
overly highly-publicized fires involved puncturing of the battery protective plates.
…we felt it was important to bring this risk down to virtually zero to give Model S owners complete peace of mind. Starting with vehicle bodies manufactured as of March 6, all cars have been outfitted with a triple underbody shield. Tesla service will also retrofit the shields, free of charge, to existing cars upon request or as part of a normally scheduled service.
The shields is pretty impressive and sounds like something you’d see on the Space Shuttle:
The first of the three shields is a rounded, hollow aluminum bar that is designed to either deflect objects entirely or, in the case of a self-stabilizing, ultra high strength object, like a three ball steel tow hitch, absorb the impact and force it to pike upwards well forward of the battery pack. This pierces the plastic aeroshield and front trunk liner, but causes no damage affecting safety and the car remains in control and driveable before, during and after the impact.
This is followed by a titanium plate, which has exceptional strength-to-weight properties and is more commonly seen in aerospace or military applications. The titanium plate prevents sensitive front underbody components from being damaged and aids in neutralizing the road debris.
By this point, the vast majority of objects will have been deflected or crushed. For the rare piece of debris that remains intact, we added a third shield, which is a shallow angle, solid aluminum extrusion that further absorbs impact energy, provides another layer of deflection and finally causes the Model S to ramp up and over the object if it is essentially incompressible and immovable.
As Musk states, this is purely voluntary and not required by any regulations. The cost is Tesla’s to bear.
It might also help the NHTSA clear those fires however.