Tesla Car's Air Filter Tested Against Simulated Bioweapons

Also works against pollution

Tesla Model X In Biohazard Bubble

Tesla Model X In Biohazard Bubble

The one Silicon Valley bubble no one wants to see pop.Tesla

Modern cars are cocoons of safety. From the 1930s to the 1970s, traffic fatalities in the United States regularly hit peaks of 25 to 30 fatalities per 100,000 people. Now, even 2015, which saw a rare significant uptick in driving deaths, saw only 12.5 fatalities per 100,000 people, up from 2014’s 11.1. Elon Musk, the technology billionaire responsible for both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, wants to make his cars safe not just against anticipated dangers, like poor human driving, but also almost unheard-of ones, like biological attacks.

With a high-efficiency particulate filter, the Tesla Model X can keep the lungs of the occupants inside relatively free from external danger. Although it's billed as a "bioweapon defense" system, bioweapon attacks are astoundingly rare. Unless the occupant plans to drive their Tesla through parts of ISIS-held Iraq and Syria, they're not likely to ever encounter such attacks, and even then, a myriad other hazards would make the quality of the filter mostly irrelevant.

A filter that strong has another, less-flashy use. If the air is just awful, thanks to pollution, the same system can protect everyone inside the car. From Tesla:

The air filtration system was put to the test 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. We wanted to ensure that it captured fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, pollen and mold spores. 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. 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). We then closed the falcon doors and activated Bioweapon Defense Mode.

The filtration system apparently held up to lab testing, and even, according to Tesla, started cleaning the air outside the car. I remain skeptical of an automotive company's self-reported emissions success, but if it works as well as promised, it'd be a car that can drive through the worst air humanity can produce.