Tesla Model 3 Cabin Air Filter Put To Real-World Test


The Tesla Model 3 doesn’t offer Bioweapon Defense Mode, so how good is its air filter?

As California deals with some of the worst wildfires in its history, Tesla’s Bioweapon Defense Mode, which many naysayers have called a silly marketing scheme, has proven extremely helpful to those escaping from the smoke-filled areas. Not to shed light on something that none of us ever want to think about, but those naysayers will be really bent out of shape if we ever do experience a chemical attack and Tesla vehicles are truly able to keep people safe.

The Tesla Model S and Model X come standard with an industry-leading, extra-large, hospital-grade HEPA filter that’s capable of providing clean air to passengers, despite outside conditions. While the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t have enough usable space to accommodate such a filter, its system is seemingly above-average and has been able to help people flee without having a cabin filled with toxic air.

The above situation has moved many people to test the air quality inside their Tesla vehicles. YouTuber sensohax shares his story and tests the air quality in his Model 3. He also suggests what equipment to use, as well as some valuable information about how these tests works. The related links are available in the video description below.

For those unaware of the background here, Tesla CEO Elon Musk mentioned that Tesla vehicles could help people fleeing from these dangerous areas:

After that tweet, people were asking questions about the Tesla Model 3’s air purification system. Musk reiterated that it does not have the same hospital-grade filters as the S and X, but measures can be taken to make it work to the best of its ability. He said that the air must be recirculated and pass through the filter multiple times to get the best results. Hence, you need to crank up those blowers and set the car to “recirc” to benefit the most:

Video Description via sensohax on YouTube:

I decided to do a little test with a handheld air quality / particle sensor and the Model 3’s cabin air filter system (no HEPA filter or “biodefense mode”).

With the PM2.5 sensor reading 150 μg/m^3 (unhealthy) this afternoon in the San Jose area (due to smoke from the Camp fire (Paradise, CA), I found that the Model 3’s air filter would bring things down to the 20’s in the cabin in just a few minutes when recycle was turned on.

Later, I stopped and made a video to record it falling from 135 to 5 μg/m^3 in less than 10 minutes. It climbed back up to the 80’s pretty quickly though when I turned off recycle air and let it bring in fresh air.

Here’s the results of a follow-up test to compare the Model 3 to my 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV:

Here’s more info on PM2.5 readings:

I wanted to link to the air quality sensor I used in this video, but it looks like the one I ordered from Amazon has been replaced with this one (which looks a little different):

Source: YouTube via Teslarati

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6 Comments on "Tesla Model 3 Cabin Air Filter Put To Real-World Test"

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HEPA filters are great for filtering out particulates–they won’t save you from CO or oxygen depletion. It’s best not to drive directly through combustion zones unless you can help it.


Well, obviously you should try to avoid driving right through a thick cloud of fresh smoke… I can’t imagine CO concentration would reach dangerous levels otherwise?


Most luxury cars with HEPA cabin filters can pretty much do this on recirc mode.


Yes, I would love to see a comparison to other cars


Does Model 3 channel air through the filter in recirc mode? Most cars i know only filter air from outside.

john Doe
Some cars have a double filter. One to clean air from the outside, and one for recirc. Depending on the brands/models the outside filter may have an active carbon part, but on the inside filter it appears to be very similar to dust filters used in air filters used in ventilation systems for house and more advanced heat pump systems that collects heat from the air exiting the house. I’ve never seen a car with a filter with the same size as Model X though. They tend to be 1/3 or maybe 1/2 the size. My Ford had no filter at all, just a mesh – preventing bees, leaves and stuff like that from entering the cabin. Pollen, road dust and things like that entered with no problem. The first thing I really needed, that I 3D printed was a new air filter unit for the car. Got a Volvo airfilter unit I scanned, and copied (and changed so I could mount it in my vehicle. That was close to 80 !! hours printing. . . and a lot of time in SolidWorks (not because it was highly complex, but I’m slow in SW). Later I also made a slot… Read more »