More than twice the number of people that die in vehicle accidents die from air pollution — that’s over three million people every single year. Statistically, according to the World Health Organisation, you’re more likely to die from the air you breathe than the car you drive.
With Tesla’s focus on health and safety, it decided to take this into consideration with the design of the Model S and Model X cars. But of course, being Telsa, the protection doesn’t stop with your everyday garden variety smog.
A HEPA filtration system (as used in hospitals, clean rooms and the space industry) was developed to remove any trace of pollen, bacteria, and pollution from both the air entering the car and already in the cabin.
Tests were carried out in a number of real-world environments. California freeways during rush hour, smelly marshes, landfills, cow pastures in the central valley of California, and major cities in China were all on the list.
“We wanted to ensure that it captured fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, pollen and mold spores,” Tesla states. “We then decided to take things a step further and test the complete system as we would on the road, but in an environment where we could precisely control and carefully monitor atmospheric conditions.”
For this test a Model X was placed in a large bubble contaminated with extreme levels of pollution (1,000 µg/m3 of PM2.5 vs. the EPA’s “good” air quality index limit of 12 µg/m3). Then the doors were closed and “Bioweapon Defense Mode” was activated.
The plot below shows the pollution levels inside the vehicle and inside the bubble. In less than two minutes, the HEPA filtration system had brought down the pollution levels from an “extremely dangerous” 1,000 µg/m3 to levels so low as to be undetectable (below the noise floor) by Tesla’s instruments.
The test subjects inside the vehicle were able to remove their gas masks and breathe fresh air while sitting inside a bubble of pollution. With the air inside the cabin taken care of, the filtration system began work on the air outside the car as well — reducing PM2.5 levels by 40 per cent.
“Bioweapon Defense Mode is not a marketing statement,” Telsa says. “It is real. You can literally survive a military grade bio attack by sitting in your car.”
“We will continue to improve the micro-geometry and chemical passivation defenses in the primary and secondary filters, which are easily replaceable, so this will get better the longer you own your car,” Telsa says. “Suggestions for improvement are welcome.”