Tesla Model S Gets Titanium Underbody Shield And Aluminum Deflectors – BREAKING (videos)

MAR 28 2014 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 60

First Of Three Model S Fires Happened In Early October 2013

First Of Three Model S Fires Happened In Early October 2013

3rd Tesla Fire via Twitter (E@nasvillain)

3rd Tesla Fire via Twitter (E@nasvillain)

“In 2013, two extremely unusual Model S collisions resulted in underbody damage that led to car fires.”

Writes Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Those fires and the resulting media coverage, put NHTSA on high alert.

Tesla responded with an over-the-air updatea few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.”

Says Musk.

Now, Tesla has responded again by fitting all Model S sedans with a titanium underbody shield and aluminum deflectors.  Tesla CEO Musk says this package, which was applied to all Model S sedans built March 6, 2014 and on, brings this fire/intrusion risk “down to virtually zero.”

Tesla extensively tested this protection package:

“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. 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 package is available as a retrofit to all current Model S owners free of charge upon request.

Tesla Model S Three Ball Tow Hitch

Tesla Model S Alternator Impact

Tesla Model S Concrete Block Impact

Here’s how Musk explains the underbody protection package:

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.

For more on the Tesla Model S underbody shield package, refer to Elon’s blog post below:

Tesla Adds Titanium Underbody Shield and Aluminum Deflector Plates to Model S

By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO

In 2013, two extremely unusual Model S collisions resulted in underbody damage that led to car fires. These incidents, unfortunately, received more national headlines than the other 200,000 gasoline car fires that happened last year in North America alone. In both cases, the occupants walked away unharmed, thanks to the car’s safety features. The onboard computer warned the occupants to exit the vehicles, which they did well before any fire was noticeable. However, even if the occupants had remained in the vehicle and the fire department had not arrived, they would still have been safely protected by the steel and ceramic firewall between the battery pack and the passenger compartment.

It is important to note that there have been no fire injuries (or serious, permanent injuries of any kind) in a Tesla at all. The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small. However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.

Nonetheless, 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

Thanks to high speed cameras fixed underneath the cars during testing, we have a close-up view of what happens to the objects on impact. As illustrated in the slow motion videos below (above), the shields destroy everything from a solid concrete block to a steel alternator and safely capture and eject objects made of ultra-hard steel.

The protective qualities of the underbody shields are substantial, but their effect on the overall structure of the vehicle is minimal. In total, the shields only have a 0.1 percent impact on range and don’t affect ride or handling. Wind tunnel testing shows no discernible change in drag or lift on the car.

As the empirical evidence suggests, the underbody shields are not needed for a high level of safety. 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.

– Elon

Categories: Tesla

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

60 Comments on "Tesla Model S Gets Titanium Underbody Shield And Aluminum Deflectors – BREAKING (videos)"

newest oldest most voted

Wow very impressive. I continue to be impressed with Tesla.

Dave R

No kidding, this is going well above and beyond, IMO.

Titanium isn’t cheap, I wonder how much this will add to the production cost of the Model S?

Eric

I don’t imagine there will be an increase in cost. I have a new MB SL which is made almost entirely of aluminum and titanium and the price was not increased from the prior year made of steel.

James

Count me impressed too! Wow!

GM fiddle farts around still hinting at a light hybrid v.3 that still won’t perform as well as Hybrid Synergy Drive – and deals with death lawsuits re: it’s faulty ignition issue over two decades old… and contrast this with Tesla and how it deals with things!

Man, I wish I could afford some stock!

Jay – what’s the latest on that Chicago garage fire? Anything yet? Was this a guy looking to effect the stock price? – Notice he backed the Lexus parked next to the MS out of the garage… hmmmm…

ModernMarvelFan

GM certainly handled the safety concerns with the Volt very fast and did a good job with it.

As far as the ignition issue go, it was terrible and should be fined like what they did with Toyota.

DaveMart

That should work.
I’d be interested to know whether the default highway speed ride height is going to be put back to where it was, or will continue to be higher than before the problem occurred so as to be a belt and braces solution.
Anyone?

paco3791

Latest software update that is still in the process of rolling out (5.9) makes the ride height on cars with the Air suspension option fully adjustable, with a warning the driver has to click through if they want to set the “very low” setting at highway speeds. But yes the very low setting is back with the latest software.

James

Sweet! This justifies me blabbing on about auto-lowering suspension at freeway speeds years back during development of Volt. Everyone thought I was nuts until Tesla did it…Then once again thought we both were nuts after the pack punctures, and now – maybe again….I’m a GENIUS!!!! LOL!

CherylG

As predicted months ago, this change was sure to happen as soon as NHTSA opened the investigation and required Tesla disclose all relevant design documents.

Kudos to NHTSA for finally being proactive (unlike the GM ignition switch fiasco).

Jouni Valkonen

Cheryl, I too predicted that Tesla needs and Tesla will take actions for improving safety towards high speed impacts.

So this is for also me a small personal satisfaction.

Very good job from Tesla!

Although Tesla’s “empirical” rethoric is just silly. It is impossible to make empirical conclusions from such a few incidents for a very new car.

Of course there are no reasons to think that Tesla’s final conclusions are false, but the arguments to support conclusions are irrelevant.

Nick

There’s no kill like overkill. 🙂

Stephen

Can I take credit too?
I suggested a sacrificial bar forward of the pack.
Did Tesla read my comment?
Can I claim a royalty?

Veselin

Does anybody know:
1- how heavier is Model S with that additional shield?
2- what about the battery swap?
3- how much does it cost to Tesla (titanium isn’t cheap)?

It doesn’t look like they changed to titanium for the entire battery plate. Titanium plate was added just in one section. The rest of the additions are the aluminum bar and the additional aluminum extruded ramping plate.

Looks like they did their homework!

Dave R

Both titanium and aluminum are very light for their strength, so I bet it doesn’t add a significant amount of weight.

I’d be surprised if it added more than 20 lbs.

Jouni Valkonen

Titanium is somewhat more expensive than aluminium, but the difference is not that significant. Anyway aluminium costs just about $1500 per ton and titanium about $19 per kg, so raw materials are not significant cost factors.

R&D spendings were probably more significant.

pjwood

Not sure if it is materials, or process, but titanium makes for better engine parts and yet it is still not used because of expense. Strength/weight and low inertia. It would surprise me if the marginal “fix” costs were only $400 per ton.

Jouni Valkonen

The same reason, why cars are made from steel although aluminium is only slightly more expensive than steel but aluminium’s properties are superiour to steel in almost every aspect. But car companies are doing everything to minimize costs.

Aluminium frame for car would decresease the profit margins with less than $1000 per car, so car companies just do not manufacture cars that are made from aluminium. Period.

To my knowledge, only Audi and Tesla have made significant quantities of cars from Aluminium.

Leptoquark

“essentially equivalent to driving a car at highway speed into a steel spear braced on the tarmac.”

Hyperbole will get you nowhere 🙂

Those videos were pretty cool to look at. They ought to use the improved Model S as road smoothing equipment on paving operations.

Look out, here comes “The Crusher”.

Well Done Tesla. Continuing to set the bar for other EV automakers.

Anon

Tesla Motors appears to be FAR more proactive over safety than the established automakers… The firmware tweak went out almost immediately. Toyota and GM have known about issues for years, knowingly letting people die– before issuing recalls.

Kudos to the engineers and caring corporate culture that made this product improvement / tweak happen so quickly. Impressive.

ModernMarvelFan

GM certainly handled Volt’s battery concern with similar attitude.

Maybe GM is really into plugin cars instead of their gas cars.

=)

arne-nl

Does this mark the first use of titanium in a ‘normal’ car? (not talking about supercars)

Probably the cost/benefit ratio is totally ludicrous. IOW, it would be cheaper to let a Model S burn every now and then instead of outfitting all with what seems a costly protection that likely ends up making the car heavier.

However, given the absurd attention these two incidents got and the fact that EV reporting in the general press is slanted heavily towards the negatives, what else can Tesla do?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Titanium connecting rods have been available in high-performance vehicles for many years. Not to mention exhausts.

But as a body component? I don’t know.

Nick

Neat!

Do you know which car has titanium exhaust components?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Corvette Z06 I believe has stock Ti con rods, valves, and exhaust. It’s an expensive car, but it’s no Bugatti.

Ti exhausts are also pretty common in the aftermarket, particularly for motorcycles.

Nick

That’s so cool.

We’re truly living in the future. 🙂

Eric

The MB SL is now made entirely of aluminum and titanium. I wouldn’t consider it a super car but it is over $115k.

The reality of any manufacturing process is there is continual improvement. Such is true for all EVs including the Model S. This is a very nice upgrade that you know got a lot of attention from their engineers due to the press over the the two fires.

It just can’t be said enough though how more frequent and dangerous the fires are in ICEs. I was driving just last week on the I-5 in LA and saw three cars burnt to a crisp. Not one of them electric. So for all drivers that are concerned about fires, know where the real danger exists.
http://insideevs.com/op-ed-top-10-causes-of-automobile-fires-ev-vs-ice/

i3 fan

Glad they finally did the recall, good news for Model S owners

Recall?
Did I miss that?

Stephen Pace

@i3 Fan: Doesn’t appear to be a recall since Tesla already pushed the ride-height change last November. Text says the retrofit option will be free for existing owners “upon request” or when you have it in for service. If it were mandated, I doubt they would say “upon request.”

MDEV

What recall are you talking about?

Frickin’ amazing.
They already have it in production.

New voice command: “Tesla, deflector shields up! “

Anon

+1

Priusmaniac

I like the “take whatever” approach. If it is Titanium, well let it be, Titanium plate.

We can feel the space X influence here. You need a part that has more resistance, simply ramp up the materials list.

Aaron

“…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.”

Holy s–t! I knew that crash was bad, but this is the first time I heard about the specifics. I can’t imagine many other vehicles you could walk away from such a crash.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Paul Walker shoulda been in a Tesla.

TomArt

My reaction exactly – the thing is a tank!

Imagine the concrete block is a human body.

Blind Guy

I am trying to understand exactly what the meaning of your point is.

Anon

Do not let Surprise Cat drive your Tesla! 😉

Douglas

This is great. Now I wonder when the ICE manufacturers will follow suit. I mean, ICE cars are more prone to fires resulting from undercarriage damage, so if Tesla was pressured to do this upgrade, it’s only natural to presume that the ICE manufactures will be scrambling to do the same…right? The press is going to be all over those other car companies until they do that…right?

Blind Guy

I wouldn’t mind seeing some ICE vehicles going through these same road hazard tests to observe how much damage other vehicles might experience.

pjwood

They were going to try one of the new Porsches, but it already burned 😉

James

This shoots to hell my idea of debris radar in the grille and tiny laser guns to pulverize the oncoming road hazard at 20 feet!

Darn!

Chris O

It’s odd that not all cars (certainly the lower riding ones)are legally obliged to have this sort of underbody shield.

After all the chance of the underside being penetrated appear to be quitey high if the experience of the relative handful of Model S is any indications and with other cars it’s people’s lower limbs on the line rather than a batterypack.

Or maybe that chance isn’t really that big and is there something off about what happened to Model S?

Bonaire

Just how many Wh/Mile is driving “low’ really saving those drivers dozen or two? And doesn’t driving “low” imply people want to be driving at speeds well above the posted speed limits (at least in the US – Germany aside…)

James

You may be surprised. It would be great if anybody had some solid data to share.

Here’s my experience: I drove the same route in very similar conditions – weather, temp and traffic. In a 2nd generation Prius Touring model which rides slightly higher due to one inch larger wheels and tires. Some of the 3-5 mpg of that Touring model was also because the larger tire is also slightly wider = friction and more drag.

Enter my large brother-in-law ( 350lb. ) and my 6ft tall nephew + myself at 220lb. Add 70lb of luggage and my ride height dropped one inch. With 40MPG my regular average year-round, the trip to the airport, 1/5 local roads, the rest freeway at 65%. I always try to pulse-and-glide, but distracted and conversing, I just drove. At the airport I averaged 56mpg! Return trip, just me and no luggage – 48mpg. Picked them up at the airport and got 53mpg against the wind. The car is heavier, so what gives? The only thing I can come up with is ride height.

I think the lower car at speed = lots less wind resistance. The protective shield is a must for this.

James

*65mpg – not 65%

pjwood

Now, maybe a few more will appreciate the three-ball hitch one of the Teslas actually hit.

Nix

I’m cutting and pasting this as a response to anyone in the future who brings up a Tesla fire, cuz it pretty much ends any conversation about Tesla fires:

“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.”

Phr3d

+1 – quite the advertising literature, that.

Nix

Dear whiners who complain about Tesla fires: Please write an essay comparing and contrasting Tesla’s response and solution compared to Ford’s response to Pinto and Mustang gas tank fires. To GM’s response to outboard side frame truck fires. To Jeep’s rear end collision fires, etc…

Anon

+1

But how well does it handle IEDs? 😉

Steven

When Tesla gets the contract, we’ll find out. And if the answer is “not good enough”, I imagine Elon will make it right.

Anon

Tesla seems to have outdone even Volvo, with safety– crushproof roof, bottom deflector shield…

Toss in some bullet proof glass and you’ve got a Diplomat’s Dream Car. 😉

Chris O

Ford’s response to the Pinto fires after weighing cost of lawsuits vs cost of improving the car: Let them burn!

TomArt

Sad, but true.