It seems that Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] may not have to look too far for a solution if it turns out the Model S has a safety issue with its underbody protection. In a patent filed on 5 December 2011 Tesla themselves laid out plans for a ‘Vehicle battery pack ballistic shield’ which would help with situations where the battery is impacted from below.
Over the last month we have seen three separate Model S fires which has caused a bit of a PR storm for Tesla. While Elon Musk, CEO and co-founder of Tesla, has stated that he has no plans for a Model S recall, some people are questioning the safety of the car.
The patent filed by Tesla all those years ago calls for ‘a ballistic shield mounted under the electric vehicle and interposed between the battery pack enclosure and the driving surface, where the ballistic shield is spaced apart from the enclosure bottom panel. A layer of a compressible material may be interposed between the ballistic shield and the battery pack enclosure.’
As two of the three fires were caused by the upward impact of an object that the cars drove over, this patent would seem to provide a possible solution. In both cases the metal debris punched upwards, through the solid underbody of the car and caused one of the battery compartments to catch fire.
All of the fires were confined to one battery compartment only and the cars allowed the drivers to pull over safely and exit the vehicle without problem.
Tesla’s own estimates suggest that the upward force needed to push through metal base of the Model S would be in the region of 25 US tons of force; something that could have been far more devastating for a non-electric car.
But three fires in such quick succession has led some people to wonder if there is a potential safety issue here. If this is the case, the patent would seem to be a potential solution. That is, if it hasn’t been implemented already.
The date on the application is such that, if Tesla had got their skates on, this technology could already be implemented in modern production Model Ss. For various reasons Tesla is very cagey about the exact make up of their battery pack and its containment, so this is just about possible.
At the moment, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is monitoring the performance of Tesla vehicles but has not begun an official investigation. And it should be noted that in their own safety tests the Model S got record scores – making it one of the safest cars ever made.
What do you think? Is this all being blow out of proportion? Let us know below.
Story via John C. Briggs and GreenCarReports.com.
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