Electric car maker Tesla has a flair for the dramatic. Aside from having ridiculously fast and eye-catching cars, the company, helmed by you-can’t-prove-he’s-not-Tony-Stark Elon Musk, boasts a suite of needlessly sweet additional features. You can see Rainbow Road if you mess around with a Tesla’s autopilot feature. The S models have a “ludicrous mode” that will take you from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds.
One feature that was fun yet ominously serious was the “Bioweapon Defense Mode,” which activated filters strong enough to remove pathogens from the air during a biological attack (during which you’d be sitting in your car). Tesla’s reasons for including the feature were sound–air pollution is one of the world’s greatest health risks–but it came off like a marketing stunt. According to new data published by Tesla, it probably isn’t.
In a blog post yesterday, Tesla made good on their promise of protection and self-published the results of an air quality test using the Bioweapon Defense Mode in the Tesla Model X. The car’s HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate arrestance filters that are hundreds of times finer that your standard car’s) apparently performed well in “real-world environments from California freeways during rush hour, to smelly marshes, landfills, and cow pastures in the central valley of California, to major cities in China.”
However, to prove that the Model X could really protect you from allergens, bacteria, viruses, and other airborne badness, Tesla put a Model X in a controlled environment–a bubble filled with pollution at almost one hundred times the safe level.
It looks like Elon wasn’t kiding.
The graph above shows two things. First, after activating the car’s filters, air pollution inside the car plummeted to safe levels within two minutes. Second, the air filters in the car were working so well that the air in the bubble surrounding the car got cleaner.
Though the results are undoubtedly impressive, note that Tesla conducted these tests themselves. We have no reason to think that the company would be lying about a feature that most consumers will never need, but after scandals like the one Volkswagen pulled off, we’d be more confident in independent confirmation. And although the tests didn’t use viruses or toxic gases, Tesla seems confident regardless.
“Bioweapon Defense Mode is not a marketing statement, it is real,” writes Tesla. “You can literally survive a military grade bio attack by sitting in your car.”