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Tesla Beefs Up Model S Shield to Prevent Battery Fires, Federal Probe Ends

Tesla Motors revealed last Friday that it did some updates to its Model S sedan, which would help prevent the car from catching fire due to road debris. The company added more armor to its all-electric sedan that includes a titanium plate, which according to company’s own tests can hold out well against forceful contact even with steel and cement.

The updates were found safe enough by the federal auto safety officials that it has ended the probe on Tesla Motors concerning the episodes of fires on its vehicles last year. It could be remembered that three Model S sedan’s caught fire after apparently running over debris. Two of which occurred in the US, while the other one was in Mexico. While there were no reported injuries, the said incidents raised a concern among Model S owners, prompting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open a probe into two of the fires.

The government said that Tesla’s revision to the Model S ride height and the addition of protection to the car’s underbody should reduce the frequency of debris striking its battery pack, which in turn could minimize the risk of catching fire.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, noted in a public letter that the Model S remains as the safest vehicle around, noting that since their vehicles went into productions in 2009 there were no reported deaths or injuries to this day. He also added that the probability of a fire in their electric sedan is 1 in 8,000 or five times lower than a fire in the usual vehicles on the road.

Despite such level of safety, Musk said they wanted to ensure Model S owners will have complete peace of mind. So they deem it necessary to bring the risk level down to zero. To make that happen, all vehicles manufactured by Tesla as of March 6 are outfitted with a new triple underbody shield. The same shield may also be retrofitted for free to existing Model S upon the request of owners or as part of their cars’ scheduled service.

The said shield boasts three key pieces: aluminum ahead of the battery pack; a titanium cover to protect the battery; and additional aluminum shield that will push the vehicle up when it comes in contact with debris on the road. Musk said they carried out 152 tests on the armor, including exposing the new armor on hardened steel structures at high speed. The tests prove that the batteries are safe from any type of penetration.

Musk said the changes they made will not have a major impact on the range of Model S. He also added that despite the fire reports, sales for their vehicles continue to grow. Even so, the repairs do not indicate that NHTSA will keep Tesla off the hook. According to the government agency, they still reserve the right to do the necessary actions against the car manufacturer should new circumstances of safety-related circumstances arise.

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