Following a spate of fires late last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would investigate the Tesla Model S for a possible recall. As of today, that inquiry is closed, and it's all thanks to titanium. Go titanium!
Two fires last year in Washington State and Tennessee occurred after the Model S's undercarriage was struck by road debris, igniting the battery pack that lives in the floorpan of the vehicle. These fires sparked (pardon the pun) a NHTSA investigation into the car's safety, though fortunately no one was injured in either.
Tesla responded by releasing software update that raised the car's ride height, and then added a triple underbody shield that includes a layer of titanium onto new cars. Existing cars will be outfitted with the shield at no cost to owners.
Apparently, NHTSA is satisfied enough with these changes to say "case closed":
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decided to close our investigation of the Model S Vehicle. NHTSA believes the company's revision to the vehicle's ride height and increased underbody protection should reduce both the frequency of underbody strikes and the risk of resulting fires. Consumers should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive notification from Tesla Motors.
This is good news, and an example of how this process should work. The government raises questions about safety and the automaker makes changes on their own without necessitating a recall.
I also give a thumbs up to Musk for making good on his word from 2013:
"While we think it is highly unlikely, if something is discovered that would result in a material improvement in occupant fire safety, we will immediately apply that change to new cars and offer it as a free retrofit to all existing cars," Musk wrote.
And that's what they did. Titanium!
Photo credit AP