Musk - Model S underbody shield would have prevented fire even in violent Mexico crash
The Model S crash in Mexico that occurred in October 2013 was somewhat overlooked compared with the two fiery incidents that bookended it in a 6-week span. Maybe because it occurred in a foreign country, maybe because the other two involved routine highway driving, maybe because the Mexico driver was drunk and traveling at – he was traveling at 110 mph?
Late last month Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a statement in a blog post highlighting the benefits of the new underbody shields and revealing exact details of that Mexico crash. According to Musk:
“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.”
Given this information, the fact that the driver was able to walk away from the scene (actually, he fled) is a minor miracle and a testament to the crashworthiness of Model S. The vehicle’s engineers clearly took full advantage of the clean slate provided by a vehicle without an engine up front.
Musk’s ensuing claim, however, is equally interesting to us. He went on to say that the newly installed underbody shields would have prevented a fire in the Mexico incident, and that the changes should protect the vehicle from fire in similar high speed impacts that “tear the wheels off the car.”
Though he offered no details on how exactly the shields would have helped in that scenario, if Musk is correct we shouldn’t expect to see any Model S collision fires anytime soon. The company was thorough with its improvements in response to the fires; the initial over-the-air suspension lift was a good immediate change, but it is clear that Tesla assigned the design of the underbody shields to some of their finest engineers because it is of such great importance to the company and was executed well.
Surely we haven’t seen the last Tesla vehicle go up in flames, especially as their numbers increase. Unforeseeable accidents are bound to happen, and the batteries certainly aren’t perfect. But it appears that the measures Tesla has taken will protect Model S and future models from the impact-related fires that so plagued the company toward the end of last year.