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Tesla adds battery protection to Model S electric car after battery fires

The protection is Tesla’s response to two high profile car fires last year, where the battery pack was piked by objects on the ground during an accident. However, the company pointed out that nobody was injured in either incident, and the car warned drivers to get out before the fire caught hold.

Every Model S is fitted with a steel and ceramic firewall between the battery and passenger compartment, and the additional under-body protection follows a recent over-the-air software update which raised the body slightly at motorway speeds to lift the battery away from potential hazards.

From the 6th March, all cars are factory-fitted with a three-stage battery protection mechanism under the car. This hollow aluminium bar, deflects objects or forces them to pike upwards ahead of the battery pack, a titanium plate to protect front underbody components and a shallow angle aluminium extrusion which can lift the chassis over objects which can’t be crushed or moved.

Cars built before this date can have the protection retro-fitted, free of charge, at a Tesla service centre. The company said it reduces the range by a menial 0.1%, with no effect on ride, handling or aerodynamics.

Tesla CEO and co-founder, Elon Musk, said: ‘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.'

Tesla is not the only manufacturer to add protection to its battery packs. In 2011, two Chevrolet Volt battery packs caught fire after crash tests in the United States, leading to an additional chassis brace and temperature sensor being added at the front of the vehicle on all Volt and Ampera models built since. 

Launching in the UK, in right hand drive, in the second quarter of 2014, the Tesla Model S will be available for early test drives at the Fleet World Fleet Show at Silverstone on the 8th April.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.

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