How Teslas are saving people from wildfires

Its name makes it sound like something from science fiction, but Tesla’s Bioweapon Defence Mode has been saving lives in California.
Californian wildfire
Californian wildfire. Photo: Jeff Head via Flickr

The worst wildfires in California’s history

This year’s Calilfornia wildfires have been the worst wildfires in California’s history. Thousands of buildings have been completely destroyed and hundred of thousands of people had to be evacuated.

People near the California wildfires were being warned about dangerous air conditions and some people died, but Tesla owners were safe because the air inside their Teslas was being kept clean by their vehicles.

Elon Musk even suggested in a Tweet that his company’s vehicles could be used to help transport people safely during the emergency thanks to their “hospital grade HEPA filters”.

A “life saver”

One Twitter user in Los Angeles claimed that Tesla’s Bioweapon Defence Mode had been a “life saver”. He thanked Elon Musk for helping him with breathing issues due to the bad air quality.

How does it work?

Tesla claims that its Bioweapon Defence Mode, which is available on Tesla’s Model X and Model S, is 100 times more effective than the air filters used in standard vehicles. It is based on an extremely large HEPA filter. Tesla claims that this is capable of removing at least 99.97% of pollutants, including bacteria and viruses as well as pollen and mould spores.

Some people were sceptical, thinking that the Bioweapon Defence Mode was little more than a marketing device. So Tesla put it to the test.

A Model X was subjected to a pollution level of 1,000 µg/m3 and within two minutes the air inside the vehicle was so clean that any residual pollution was undetectable. For comparison, the pollution level in London is just 16 µg/m3.

Once the air inside the Model X had been cleaned, the vehicle actually started cleaning the air outside.

It’s not all good news

Tesla Supercharger
Tesla Supercharger Photo: Flickr

Tesla’s Bioweapon Defence Mode only works while the vehicle itself is working. Pacific Gas & Electric  has been rolling out planned power outages in an attempt to minimise the risk of wildfires. Obviously during those power outages, Tesla owners are not able to charge their vehicles.

Tesla issued over-the-air advice to the owners of its vehicles suggesting that they kept their vehicles fully charged whenever possible. The company ensured that the in-car maps showed which of its supercharging stations are online and which are offline.

Tesla also increased the battery range of its vehicles temporarily and offered free supercharging in the affected areas. The company said it would install solar-powered power banks at supercharger locations in the affected areas to minimise the impact of any power outages.

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