- Saying it wants to give owners "complete peace of mind," Tesla on Friday said it will fit three new underbody components to all electric Tesla Model S sedans to add further protection against impacts from road debris and subsequent fires.
- As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed a probe into an estimated 13,108 2013 Model S cars.
- Installation of the shield began March 6 for new Model S cars; Tesla will also retrofit the shield to all existing Model S cars for free.
PALO ALTO, California — Saying it wants to give owners "complete peace of mind," Tesla on Friday said it will fit three new underbody components to all electric Tesla Model S sedans to add further protection against impacts from road debris and subsequent fires.
The protective devices include a titanium plate, a hollow round aluminum bar and a shallow-angle solid-aluminum extrusion.
Installation of the triple underbody shield began March 6 for new Model S cars; Tesla will also retrofit the shield to all existing Model S cars for free upon request or as part of a normally scheduled service.
The action comes after two Model S cars were damaged in the U.S. when their battery packs were pierced by road debris and caught fire. A third Tesla fire happened in Mexico after a Model S was driven at high speeds through a concrete wall, totaling the car.
As a result of the addition of new components, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday said it has closed an investigation into an estimated 13,108 2013 Model S cars to study whether deformation/intrusion into the propulsion battery by roadway debris may result in a thermal reaction and fire.
"In this case, Tesla's revision of vehicle ride height and addition of increased underbody protection should reduce both the frequency of underbody strikes and the resultant fire risk," said NHTSA in its closing summary. "A defect trend has not been identified. Accordingly, the investigation is closed."
The statement by Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday noted that no one has been injured or killed in any Tesla Model S fire. Musk noted that 200,000 fires in gasoline cars occur in North America each year. He pegged the odds of a fire in a Model S at roughly one in 8,000 vehicles or "five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small."
But Musk said the company decided to "bring this risk down to virtually zero to give Model S owners complete peace of mind."
The new components cut the range of a Model S by 0.1 percent, according to Tesla — about less than one mile. The company said they do not affect ride or handling.
Edmunds says: Tesla takes extra steps to reassure consumers with these new additions to the Model S.