Tesla’s been pretty adamant for a while now that lightning is no unusual hazard to its all-electric Model S, any more so than lightning is a hazard to any regular car. But what looks to be a freak occurrence just captured on video shows that a bolt from the sky can, indeed, at least screw up your Tesla Model S.
While the video doesn’t show much beyond the bolt hitting the car, the wipers swishing back and forth, and the pitter-patter of rain, the video description from Youtube user Sarah Day fills us in on what happened:
Lightning struck near my Tesla while supercharging. The car went nuts and the 12v battery almost died. It couldn’t even be towed because the supercharger cable couldn’t be disconnected.
She went on to explain in a comment that the whole “PARKING MODE DISABLED” bit was actually from the dashcam, not the car itself, and in an interview with Teslarati went on to detail the Christmas tree of warning lights now emanating from her dashboard:
I heard the crash, and just a second or two after about 9 errors popped up on the dashboard. Some of them were low charge warnings, saying it would disable some functions. Others were on how the car needs to be serviced. I was also getting that the car can’t be charged, and that the 12 volt battery is low.
Which sucks. The 12-volt battery eventually shut down, too, and with it, the car’s touchscreen system. The tow truck driver eventually got the 12-volt system up and running again, but it still took a few attempts.
Sarah went on to detail how Tesla’s support team was supremely helpful, but it was odd that the charging port wouldn’t come undone. Just as well, the Supercharger fast-charging system is supposed to have a number of internal systems to protect against a sudden power surge. Though it’s unclear if, in this case, a shot of lightning was powerful enough to overwhelm even those.
This is an incredibly odd development from a Tesla Model S, reflecting an interesting (if rare) vulnerability for the electric car. What looks to have happened, just from what we can see here, is that the Model S may have suffered an indirect, rather than a direct lightning strike. If the bolt landed right on the roof, nothing may have happened, much like how the body of any other car works as a Faraday Cage.
But it appears as if being connected to a Tesla Supercharger somehow gave the surge of electricity a line in to the car’s internal systems. So you’d basically need to be charging your car, at the same moment as a lightning storm is overhead, and you’d somehow need to get a bolt to hit your supercharger system.
So, like I said, pretty unusual. And even weirder, it was captured on video. Today is just a very weird day.
We don’t know exactly what happened for sure yet, but we’ve got a note in to Tesla, and will let you know if we hear back.