It’s always wonderful to see life imitate art, particularly when the “art” is an Ayn Rand book. Remember that part in Atlas Shrugged where Hank and Dagny ride the first locomotive over the Rearden Metal bridge? (Um, that was a spoiler, sorry about that.) Now we have the real-life Hank Rearden (or is that Howard Roark?) in the form of Elon Musk, showing the world how his technological ideas are stronger than the media’s ability to destroy them.
You can read the whole story on Tesla’s website, but it boils down to this: To address concerns about impact-related battery fires in the Tesla Model S, the company will be fitting (and retrofitting, to existing models) titanium underbody plates to the vehicles.
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 final paragraph is the best part:
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.
Brilliant, really — and stupid. Given that this happened at the same time that revelations about GM’s concerted efforts to deny responsibility for the Cobalt ignition switches, this out-in-front response to potential issues is refreshing. But the fact that Mr. Musk allows his withering contempt for the media, and the general public it serves, to shine through undisguised doesn’t bode well for the company’s future. Remember all the misery that Ayn Rand’s heroes suffer, when the media-governmental complex decides to lean on them?