Tesla Model S Underbody Shield
Luke Ottaway's picture

Musk - Model S underbody shield would have prevented fire even in violent Mexico crash

Elon Musk recently gave details on the fiery Model S crash in Mexico last year, and it is no small wonder the vehicle caught fire. Even still, Musk claims if that Model S had been outfitted with the current titanium and aluminum underbody shields there would have been no flames.

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.

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Comments

It's hard to understand why anyone would put any weight on the word of Tesla or Elon Musk, they are crooked liars. The charger software "fix" didn't work. Chargers kept on overheating, melting and burning. Despite Tesla knowing that the charge connections or bad for about a year or more, Tesla kept on blaming wall outlets and housewarming. After a fire department ruled that Tesla charge connections was a possible source of a Tesla garage fire, Tesla came under more scrutiny from the media and government agencies. Tesla/Elon Musk promised that new charger adapters with thermal fuses would be mailed out in a couple weeks, it wasn't until months later that Tesla started mailing out charge connectors. Many customers still have not received the replacement adapters and are still living with a known fire hazard. Tesla had a clear disregard for safety for using such light weight charge connections and for locating their poorly protected lithium traction battery so low to the ground. Like many say T emblem more accurately represents TOASTER. Several people have been burned by Tesla's faulty designs.
Sam, I'm sure you're tired of being accused of being a Tesla short seller, but that's how it looks when you wildly inflate the hazards of a car charger above other hazards with which we all live. Any electrical or gas-powered appliance or tool can become a fire hazard unless due care is taken. The burden is on you to show there is excessive or unusual risk. The Tesla cables have proven reliable and safe for the vast majority of users, including me, and there is no inherent flaw in their design that I can see, though safety interlocks may reduce risks further. Even the breakers in your electrical entry box will burn up if corrosion or a loose screw affects their contacts. Some folks take insufficient care and defects occur that can easily escape notice, in all areas of our lives with technology. That's the proper target of your concern.
... as Sam gets into his GM vehicle.
The world would be a far safer place if every manufacturer went after every problem like Mr. Musk is going after "Problems" with the Tesla Model S.
Anyone who is looking to invest in Tesla only has to look at Elon's past earning call where he lays out his plans very clearly. You can then look up analyst who say how crazy he is and it will never work ... then research how he executes as he said he would. An honest CEO that aggresively goes after problems and has a policy of not turning service centers into profit centers! This is an amazing guy who has created a amazing company(4 if you count paypal, space x and solar city). I can not wait to get my Gen 3 !