Tesla Motors Inc., of Palo Alto, California announced in the early hours of 1st April the launch of its latest electric car safety system, causing its share price to rise substantially as soon as the stock market opened, Fuel Included (http://fuelincluded.com/news/press-release/) can exclusively reveal.
Tesla has been in the forefront of many safety developments since the launch of its original Roadster and has enhanced them significantly during the development of the Model S. In NHTSA safety testing in 2013 it achieved a 5 star rating, and it did the same in 2014 in the European NCAP system. Following some issues with collisions with road debris the Model S was the first car to be retrofitted with a titanium undershield. At the end of 2014 it was announced that any Model S manufactured from September 2014 would get auto-pilot features including automatic steering, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
The latest Tesla safety system solves a known susceptibility of electric cars to water ingress into the electrical systems. It builds on earlier work begun by other manufacturers. One of the earliest of these was developed by Mercedes-Benz (part of the Daimler group) for its Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. This protected the vehicle from water ingress even during a heavy rainstorm. It was ground-mounted, however, which limited its use to the owner’s home.
When Toyota followed up the success of its Prius hybrid with the launch of the Prius Plug-In electric car it produced an enhanced rain protection system. Like the Smart system it was deployed to shield the car’s electrical systems from water ingress but unlike that system it could be transported in the car. Therefore at any time that it was required the driver was able to pull over and deploy the system without the need to return home to shelter.
The Tesla system, however, is significantly more advanced than any previous system. It is fully integrated into the Model S and can be deployed at speed without restriction. Its umbrella configuration allows it to fully protect the car’s electrical system from even a powerful rainstorm.
In one impressive step forward Tesla has demonstrated that it can achieve the ‘holy grail’ of deploying an electric car that can be driven in severe environmental conditions. In this way Tesla has become the first electric car manufacturer to eliminate ‘rain anxiety’.
Those familiar with the company’s plans have suggested that Tesla may build on this success by adding a kite-deployed conductor to the next-generation Model X and so produce an electric car that can charge itself in a thunderstorm.