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Tesla Motors, Inc. Just Made the World's Best Car Even Better

Based on an exhaustive list of accolades, automotive experts and consumers have spoken: Tesla's (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) Model S is the best car ever built. But a few battery fires that occurred last year from high-speed impacts had investors worried that even the world's best car could be subject to a recall. Today, however, investors can rest easy. Tesla has addressed the issue of battery fires by adding a titanium underbody shield and aluminum deflector plates to the quarter-inch ballistic-grade aluminum armor plate that already protected the battery pack.

Tesla Model S. Source: Tesla Twitter feed.

The technology
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Medium, a new social blogging platform founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, to explain the new underbody protection.

The new battery pack protection consists of three layers. The first layer, a rounded, hollow aluminum bar, is designed to deflect debris. The second layer, a titanium plate, "which has exceptional strength-to-weight properties and is more commonly seen in aerospace or military applications," is designed to prevent damage. The third layer aims to eliminate any risk of penetration whatsoever.

"By this point, the vast majority of objects will have been deflected or crushed. For the rare piece of debris that remains intact, we added a third shield, which is a shallow angle, solid aluminum extrusion that further absorbs impact energy, provides another layer of deflection and finally causes the Model S to ramp up and over the object if it is essentially incompressible and immovable."

The new shield prevented battery penetration in 152 vehicle tests performed by the company. In fact, in some of the tests the underbody objects never made it to the existing layer already protecting the Model S' battery. Tesla went to extreme measures to inflict damage to the underbody, claiming it tried every worst-case debris impact it could think of. Musk described one of the extreme scenarios, saying it included "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." Musk says the impacts on driving are small, having a 0.1% on range and no effect on driving or handling.

All cars manufactured after March 6 have been outfitted with the underbody protection. Further, any owner can get the shield added to the battery upon request "as part of a normally scheduled service."

Why Tesla needed to go the extra mile
The Model S was already five times less likely to catch fire than the average gasoline car based on current statistics. Notably, however, there hasn't been any reported Tesla battery fires since the company sent an over-the-air update to boost the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds. Even more, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the car a perfect five-star rating in every category and no serious injuries or deaths have been reported so far.

But adding further protection was a necessary step for Tesla. Not only does it effectively address public misconception of the safety of electric vehicles, but it also reduces the risk of a recall. Since it currently produces just one vehicle, a recall is a major threat to Tesla. Not only would it be a financial setback for the company, but it would also hamper its incredibly important public image. Investors seem to be pleased. The stock rose about 2.5% on Friday.

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Read/Post Comments (37) | Recommend This Article (15)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On March 29, 2014, at 11:55 PM, RobertFaheyJr wrote:

    Nikola Tesla conceived a Tesla shield too:

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 4:25 PM, countrarian wrote:

    Its funny how some people STILL refuse to admit this a recall. The charger replacement was debatable but this one is not. Let me guess the timing of the NHTSA and the retrofit of all vehicles with shields just happen to be coincidence?

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...guess what it is.

    Momentum has clearly gone negative and its going to take blow out earnings and guidance to reverse it, regardless of the pumping or dumping.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 5:40 PM, btc909 wrote:

    I already sold Tesla but am just waiting for the bottom. Kudos on adding the extra protection.

    The bottom of the vehicle is the only place to put the batteries without destroying the people & cargo capacity. I see vehicles being taller, dual struts at each corner of the wheels, and powered running boards in future vehicles. This being an upgrade of the skateboard design. Weight won't be the primary concern, it'll be energy storage.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 5:48 PM, one4dwin wrote:

    @ Countrarian, How is this a recall. The strike that hit the shield that protects the battery pack only happened once. How many people died with the faulty ignition switch in those GM cars. In which GM knew about them even before selling them.

    I can tell you dont like Tesla and their success.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 6:49 PM, crazylarry wrote:

    I am completely dismayed by the fact that persons can not see the inequities in this product.

    They want to sell it from a store front just as you do insurance and then give you absolutely no protection when the vehicle breaks down.. There are only 4 service centers in the entire United States.

    For 100K I want to know that I am covered no mater where I am and not left out to dry by this Snake Oil type of sales and repair system.

    There at this point are way too many unknown factors to make this a #1 any thing.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 7:35 PM, ronwiserinvestor wrote:

    Great, now charge shielded Tesla with an home EV solar charging system equipped with new ultra high performance Hyper X Solar panels. Hyper X Solar's N-Type, thin film passivated, tunneling junction architecture provides higher efficiency, a smaller footprint and a much lower cost which makes Hyper X solar's price/performance ratio hard to compete against when compared to the conventional solar panel manufacturers.

    Hyper X solar offers a better PTC to STC ratio "Real World" performance according to the California Energy Commission's performance rating listings than over 100 of SunPower's solar panel models.

    Hyper X solar also offers an incredible -0.27%/degree C temperature coefficient rating for awesome performance in hot/warm climates and best of all Hyper X solar systems are priced thousands less and even tens of thousands less on larger systems than a SunPower solar system.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 8:28 PM, jasmith909 wrote:

    The biggest problem for Tesla isn't battery fires. It's the lack of sound. Because the vast majority of people who buy high-performance cars want their engine to rumble and snarl. Granted, silent acceleration is perfect for elderly Honda owners, and Lexus-driving soccer moms, but not for people who drive cars that pack 416 bhp, 442 lb-ft torque and run 0-60 in 4.2 secs. When you pay for that much power, you want to feel it.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 8:45 PM, shineridge wrote:

    I like the idea of electric cars, but no electric built so far will really sell very well. Not for the PRICE. Some millionaires will buy one, probably to have a new toy" to show off to their rich friends. And a few dedicated enviornmentalists may buy one as a dedication to their "cause". But, you'll find very FEW average folks buying an electric car, due to the price AND an electrics LIMITATIONS. For instance, you can't take an electric car on a road trip or a vacation. It's range per charge isn't far enough, AND, there's NO place to re-charge it on the road !!!! And even if there were "charge stations" all over the nation, like our gas stations now, you are not gonna re-charge an electric cars batteries in 3-5 minutes, like you fill your current cars gas tank. It takes HOURS to re-charge those batteries. Totally IMPRACTICAL !!!!! Until engineers find a way to give an electric car a range of 4-5 HUNDRED miles per charge, and, the batteries can be re-charged in just a few minutes (maybe 30 minutes at most), until these improvements are made, NO electric car will ever be sold by the millions. Not for the price they sell for now. Because of all this, I would NOT invest my money in ANY electric car company.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 8:59 PM, jsecamiglio wrote:

    @shineridge, if you are unaware, Tesla has plans for the gigafactory to produce their own batteries. Batteries are the highest cost for production, and their new factory will reduce costs by 30%. Also, if you are unaware, Tesla plans to have supercharging stations in most areas of North America within a few years. Charge taking too long? Check out this video by Elon Musk. Might change your mind.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 9:08 PM, rubin3 wrote:

    I can't believe how uninformed many of the people who comment on the Tesla are. If they had been paying attention, they would know the supercharger stations recharge in 30 minutes at no charge. I cannot afford a Model S, but hope to be able to afford the Model E when it comes out. However I live in Oklahoma and there are no charging stations here yet. There is presently scheduled to be one in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City. Maybe someday it will be feasible in the less populated states.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 9:56 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Why does Tesla get special treatment? No other manufacturer can sell direct to the public. They musta' contributed heavily to the Liar in Chief.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 9:58 PM, kca124cain wrote:

    1/4" aluminum is not "armor plate". I have had over 2,000 high speed road debris impacts in my Chevy, and no fires. Lets see a Tesla after 240,000 miles of hard driving.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 10:05 PM, TMFDanielSparks wrote:

    kca124cain, fortunately Tesla has added three extra layers on top of that aluminum layer. It's going to be tough to penetrate that, as displayed in these GIF images:

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 10:21 PM, KGerbil1 wrote:

    OMG, the idiots here should try out for the next Idiocracy movie.

    I just picked up my Tesla S P85 yesterday and had my first chance to try out the 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, the Porsche cornering, and the Lexus comfort, down Topanga Canyon Blvd on my way to the ocean.

    The experience was like having sex on wheels.

    It is literally everything the professionals say it is. It is the perfect car. Entering the corner at maximum speed, little over steer no under steer. Exit with immediate acceleration, no gas engine lag. All the while sitting in my comfortable Lexus.

    Is there any wonder that baby boomers are buying this car over a Corvette, Porsche or Ferrari? Who wants to crank ones back in those sports car seats when you can get the exact same sensation in comfort.

    You could not wipe the shitee eating grin off of my face. Case Closed!

    P.S. the jackass that said there are only 4 service centers really needs to learn how to read. Go to and read, please.

    Sure it is expensive, but way less than a Porsche Turbo, a Ferrari or a Bentley, and just as much FUN.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 10:51 PM, drzoon262 wrote:

    there is so much ignorance about this product .. "we need to hear the engine"? It takes six hours to recharge? WHAT?

    join the 21 century guys.... and do a little of your OWN research... current research!!

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 11:00 PM, jsecamiglio wrote:

    @RHO1953 check out this statement by Elon Musk . Maybe it'll explain to you the whole history of dealerships and the reason Tesla wants to sell direct.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2014, at 11:01 PM, drax7 wrote:

    Maybe the best thing that happened to the USA in the last 25 years, and will totally transform and disrupt our economy. The envy is grotesque .

    Eventually the mkt cap may reach 100s of billions.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 12:39 AM, JSD16 wrote:

    Elon Musk's goal is to eliminate the incorrect perception that surrounds the electric car. With this retrofit, he has done just that. It wasn't good enough that it was the safest car EVER tested, so he went a step further to appease the false perceptions around its safety. What else does he need to do to appease the shameless ignorance that is represented by certain people in this forum? Make it cheaper you say??? Well, he is doing just that by orchestrating the launch of the biggest Giga Factory ever The battery technology is here already and is getting better always, as a MS 85 owner I can attest to that, and the cost of future models will drop considerably with the steps he is taking. Whether people with no vision for the future can see it or not, you will all be happily driving an electric vehicle in the not so distant future. Tesla is simply paving the way for necessary change.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 12:41 AM, emailnodata wrote:

    these comments...they're like a Tesla owner criticizing the Ford F150 for having too much aluminum.

    Look, it's like this: the good cars go on for generations, and get reworked a bit each model year. I have 3 generations of the Lexus RX, a 2001, 2005, and 2010. Each is different (vastly, really), but all with the RX heritage.

    Tesla will be the same. And, as with the RX, it isn't for if you aren't fan, great, but why b##ch about something you don't want anyway?

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 12:49 AM, emailnodata wrote:

    BTW my one worry with our national movement to electric cars and personal home storage of power is the availability of any necessary chemical elements.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 1:38 AM, JackDoge wrote:

    @ emailnodata

    People want to bad mouth Tesla because 1.) They want to manipulate perception so it can favor them with stocks (selling/buying) 2.) Minions for big oil, through stocks and/or employee association. 3.) Insecure people that probably devoted their career/life to a highly inefficient engine machinery and polluting piece industry and simply can't stand they will be old news in the coming years.

    The cat's out of the bag...

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 3:13 AM, Terikan wrote:

    There's some pretty pathetic tesla fanboys out there. Tesla is really the enemy of the electric car movement, because essentially what they've said so far is that a good electric vehicle is too expensive to manage widespread adoption.

    call me when it's 30k.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 6:04 AM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    " There are only 4 service centers in the entire United States."


    Really? Are you actually that dumb or do you just play the part online? :-(

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 6:11 AM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    "The biggest problem for Tesla isn't battery fires. It's the lack of sound. Because the vast majority of people who buy high-performance cars want their engine to rumble and snarl."

    Then buy a gas car. Nobody is twisting anyone's arm into buying an Tesla (or any other electric car). They buy them because the WANT them.

    As for that "rumbling and snarl" sound? Last time I check, neither helped a car in crossing the finish line first. And the sound is nothing more than wasted energy. But I'm guessing you like wasting energy, as you're arguing with people that ENJOY the concept of the electric motor vs. the ICE. :-)

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 8:37 AM, hosehead wrote:

    Not a recall - in a recall, all the existing owners get to benefit from the modification.

    For those of you prematurely celebrating the collapse of Detroit, here's some homework for YOU: how many jobs will that cost, including suppliers?

    Who can tell me why Musk built Superchargers across the country instead of, say, in a 250mile radius around the centers of each of the areas where the cars have sold best? You don't have to answer that. The PR value was admitted right from the start.

    philipzx3: "Wasted energy"? Is it really worth measuring that? And you have the crust to call other people dumb?

    JackDoge:Why is the 'oil minions' theory so popular among Tesla non-owners? Keep reasoning like that and you'll never make enough money to buy a Tesla.

    jsecamiglio: The last person I would ask to present an objective story of the American car industry would be Musk.

    Kgerbil1:That's a very unconvincing post from a non-owner, simply another reason to call people on all these posts. When you read posts made by people who actually own and drive Tesla cars you find they're level-headed and can talk about their ownership experiences without hyperbole. Never do they discuss how great it would be to see America's dealership network go away, never do they suggest that anyone who disagrees with them is a 'hater' or is in the pocket of the oil industry. I haven't checked this week but I bet existing owners are already looking into how much Tesla will charge them to fit shield's to a car that up till two or three weeks ago was purportedly the safest car in the world.

    Drax7:"The envy is grotesque ." T'ain't likely. That, young man, is all in your head.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 9:54 AM, PS75425 wrote:

    Interesting Title ..."World's Best Car" ... not sure what that means ... it's not very good at offroading ... not very good at pulling a 10,000 boat ... the list goes..

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 10:30 AM, boyd wrote:

    The simple fact that the car relies on government subsidies to make a profit and pays no highway user fees, which will have to be paid someday should be worrisome.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 11:06 AM, jsecamiglio wrote:

    @hosehead, but rather large automobile companies like GM, Ford, and Chrysler would give a more objective story.... right.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 11:49 AM, hosehead wrote:


    And who suggested that? I simply stated the obvious, that there's a razor thin line between fact and PR at Tesla. For a company that has been selling cars for what, 3 years?(4?) it's pretty presumptuous for someone born and raised in Africa to come here and think he can give us a history lesson. Where does he think Americans were when all that took place? Um, Africa? He has an ax to grind and when you invite him to speak he's going to grind it. Better to hear the history from somebody with no horse in this race, like the NY Times or Christian Science Monitor, both with reputations for reasonable objectivity. You Tesla fans love the David and Goliath aspect of the story. We all love the underdog but Musk and Tesla aren't the underdog you take them for. Musk is clever, a better salesman than he'll admit, but he's not the world savior he's made out to be.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 12:42 PM, Muskysmell wrote:

    So adding all that armor does what for the ones that were setting still, not moving when the fire occurred?

    Investor need to be worried still, Lithium batteries will still ignite, Elon is blowing smoke, and you know what they say -- "where there is smoke there is fire".

    Tesla -- Thermal Energy Sets Lithium Ablaze

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 1:41 PM, Jason87467 wrote:

    Does Elon Musk need a pat on the back for every little thing he does? That man has a big ego.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 2:19 PM, fingerlakes54 wrote:

    Everything I have read about these cars indicates it is a real game changer. If adapted by American drivers--it will change the whole economy. I do hope Mr. Musk has watched the old movie Tucker. Something this big is sure to upset those in power.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 3:09 PM, duncan410y wrote:

    I just want to encourage people putting comment to test drive a car first before expressing your opinion. I enjoyed every single dynamic of the car driving experience as an owner. Elon is building a new future and new infrastructure of the car industry. And technology and infrastructure come with renovation and risk factor.

    If you're buying the stock, you basically buy into the speculation and risk.

    just fyi, i know they will have 7 more orders coming from my friends.. for model s and model x.

    and I am happy to put extra $60 electricity bills vs $450 gasoline bills.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 4:59 PM, websmith2 wrote:

    Nice car but, we already have nice cars. This is the best that we can do? How sad. Anyone who can afford this can afford to keep buying gas. Where's Henry Ford when you need him?

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 9:09 PM, rocketman262 wrote:

    If this car was $50K I would order one today, but at $100K it's over my budget.

    It would be great to no longer have to stop at a gas station twice a week.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 10:37 AM, friendofbear wrote:

    Horses will never get replaced by cars because they are reliable, and hay is everywhere. Gas engines will never catch on because there is no

    infrastructure for them and they constantly break.

    I can't count how many times I had to saddle up,

    and ride out with a can of gas for some car hugging hipster. I hate how cars drive over dry grass and start fires that wipe out needed hay crops. Worst part is they shoot off worse then my guns and scare horses into throwing the rider or crashing the wagon. There's a bunch of other reasons that I can't remember right now, let me go get my pamphlet from the Hay Growers Association.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 3:16 PM, LaureySmarty wrote:

    I have to say, I'm so impressed with how far motor technology has come. I feel like they make ways to improve cars everyday! What a smart idea to have a battery with three layers.

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