Last year the thing we all feared occurred – Electric cars, catching fire, blowing up even, the battery packs clearly on fire, spread all over international news. This was something to be feared because it might spook the buying public into thinking electric cars are dangerous. Tesla Motors, fortunately, were able to use the Model S car fires to educate the public about the actual risks, especially compared to the rate of gasoline car fires every year. The company seems have not only survived the media frenzy over Model S car fires, but is continuing to knock it out of the park on all fronts. Today, Tesla announced a plan to mitigate the Model S car fire risk by adding more shielding to the Model S underbody.
The idea is obvious enough – the clear cause of the fires was clearly road debris that, when caught by the Model S underbody, spiked into the battery pack causing a fire. It turns out that it’s fairly common for cars to be damage from impalement by road debris. Sometimes people die just from driving over road debris that goes through the floorboards.
The design includes three separate shields, that are meant to deflect objects, absorb energy, and otherwise ensure road debris doesn’t cause a fire. The company says it wasn’t necessary to develop those shields, because the Model S is already incredibly safe, but it will reduce the inconvenience to Model S owners who’d otherwise have to replace their car in case of a fire.
- “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”
- “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.”
- “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.”
It’s claimed the shields will even help not just for road debris, but for extreme crashes like the third Model S car fire in Mexico.
We believe these changes will also help prevent a fire resulting from an extremely high speed impact that tears the wheels off the car, like the other Model S impact fire, which occurred last year in Mexico. This happened after the vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curbwall and tearing off the left front wheel, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road and tearing off the right front wheel, before crashing into a tree. The driver stepped out and walked away with no permanent injuries and a fire, again limited to the front section of the vehicle, started several minutes later. The underbody shields will help prevent a fire even in such a scenario.
That’s the kind of crash where you hear all occupants died on the scene. Instead, he was able to walk away.
The blog post included these videos demonstrating the effectiveness of the shields in crushing or deflecting road debris.
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