Tesla’s Model S sedan has demonstrated its “seaworthiness” in a recent video that depicts the electric vehicle navigating through deep water in a flooded tunnel. Tesla CEO Elon Musk later confirmed the Model S’ nautical abilities.
“We def don’t recommended this, but Model S floats well enough to turn it into a boat for short periods of time,” said Musk in a statement posted on Twitter. He went on to elaborate on the Model S’ propulsion through the water, stating, “Thrust via wheel rotation.”
Working through the physics of this brief amphibious feat, we can postulate that the layout of the all-electric Model S bestows the sedan with inherent qualities that render it fit for brief stints on the water.
Firstly, the floor-based battery pack serves as ballast would on a ship, giving the sedan stability on the water with the majority of its weight centered at the bottom of the car, well below the water line.
Second, the Model S – like all electric cars – eschews an air intake in favour of its battery-based electrochemical propulsion system. Forgoing an internal-combustion engine means the Model S is impervious to drowning its motor regardless of whether water laps up above the fenders.
Of course, the electric propulsion system’s effectiveness and reliability upon the water is limited to how well it is internally sealed from the water it’s submerged in or splashed with, which leads us to another design element that bestows the Model S with boat-like qualities: the well-sealed body and passenger compartment of the vehicle.
We suspect that this characteristic is incidental to efforts the designers made to reduce noise levels and to equip the car with a measure of protection from atmospheric hazards, such as when the car is placed in “bio-weapon defense mode.”
While the Model S’ victorious trek through a water-logged tunnel is certainly impressive, we’d steer clear of boat-launches until a drop-down propeller and rudder is available on the options list.