Is Model S drivetrain waterproof?

Hi, everyone

I'm new on this forum but follow Tesla's news for a while. I have a question about a drivetrain. I hope someone can answer. As the topic, I want to know if Model S' electric motor waterproof. I'm quite sure that it can withstand car wash and running in the rain perfectly. But can it run on flooded road?

Fuel car can run in shallow water as long as it's not too high. If so, water could get into tailpipe and engine and destroy everything inside. And for purely electric car, in theory, if motor and battery are waterproof, it can run even when totally submerged. How high a water Model S can run through?

Hope you understand my question.

There is no public data available for the Model S but it would come as a great surprise if the Model S wouldn't at least live up to the Volt's standard, which is pretty high:

"Do Electric Cars Make You Worry About Toasters in Bathtubs?"

Here is a related tongue-in-cheek article:

"Myth Busting Electric Car Myths: Yes, You Can Use a Car Wash"

Thanks, Volker.

I don't worry about car wash though. It's quite typical. :)

Volt testing is interesting. I'm not concern much about electrocute. But, at least, Volt could run through considerable height of water. So I assume that Model S could do the same. And electric car could run through water as long as driver isn't drowned. :P


It's not a good idea no matter what you are driving. Tires full of air float in the water, and even if the battery itself does not float, it weighs significantly less under water. Secondly the wet road causes the now lighter car to lose traction. Finaly, moving water, even slowly moving water can put thousands of pounds of pressure on the vehicle. These three things combined can easily sweep a car off the road in surprisingly shallow water. People die each year doing this.

Be very carefull.

Thanks for the advice, jbunn.

I don't want to intentionally drive into water, not for fun, of course. I couldn't help asking since there is a chance that I would have to drive in that condition.

You saw news about flood in Thailand, right? I know Tesla doesn't have office here but I'm really interested buying Model S. It's a superb car.

@Chaiyawut I think there is surprisingly little news of the flooding here in the US. I am really not sure why not. I've been following it since we have customers and plants in Thailand, but without actively searching for updates my normal "world news" sources seem only interested in the Greek financial crisis and the mid-east. I hope things are improving for you!

If the flanges on the rear wheels are angled properly, you should be able to drive amphibiously. With large twin rooster tails!


@Leofingal Thank you for your reply. You have customers and plants in Thailand? What company you are working for?

@Brian H Sorry but I don't understand what you were trying to say. Driving amphibiously sounds interesting though. :)

@Chaiyawut: I think Brian meant (jokingly) you can use the turbine wheels of the Beta like the propulsion of an old paddle boat, assuming the car would float of course.

I vaguely recall someone saying that a Tesla car is fine provided the water level does come past 1/2 way up the tire. Can't put my hands on a link, can't remember if it was the Roadster.

@gjunky Haha. I see. Considering flood in Thailand, it would be good if we have transforming car that can switch between road mode and water mode. Futuristic vehicle indeed.

Tesla S "Water Sport" option

Great question.

I was asking a friend about this very subject recently. My concern about the model S is not the drivetrain but the location of the battery and the fact that it is designed to be, "swapped out easily". I'm not worried about being electrocuted or fires but I am concerned about irreparable damage to what may be the most expensive and delicate part of the vehicle.

I wonder how useful comparisons to other EVs or Hybrids (including the Roadster) would be given that their batteries are located much higher relatively to the wheels and passenger compartment and are not designed to be removed.

Signature 482

The battery engineer at the factory event answered this question. He said that everything is sealed. No concerns beyond the standard float off, damage interior, or eventually seep into something. It is not a submarine or boat. Do not test the car this way.

How 'bout skiing? Can we take it skiing? That flat bottom should come in verrry handy! :-D

@Chaiyawut: I work for Corning, my division has a small plant outside Bangkok, but my group has several customers in the area. We are hoping their families and plants are OK and will be able to recover from the flooding quickly, but the news indicates that the flooding will be there for a long time. Good Luck!

William 13

Thanks ! I really should have attended 10/01/11 :-(

Signature 482

Just to mention, this waterproofing does not require extreme flooding, just heavy rain in place where water has not enough "escape routes" (too much water for street rain water systems to handle). This can cause short term flooding in the city streets (few tens of minutes).

This happens quite regularly here, about once a year at least. That water rarely gets into buildings, but cars parked at the streets can be in rather deep water for several minutes.

For that reason Model S needs to handle that kind of situation more than just seconds.

William13 above says that everything is sealed, I hope that means water doesn't get in the battery connectors even in prolonged period of time being underwater.

@My5bAby As far as I know, battery is one of the strongest part of Model S. It helps improve passenger cabin structure and safety. Also it helps lower center of gravity of the whole car, improve driving performance and safety, less body roll, for instance.

@William13 I don't think anyone would be silly enough to test the car like that. It's just a concern.

Maybe they should loan/give one of the test vehicles to Mythbusters. I'm sure both parties would have an excellent PR payout on doing some of their typical tests on it.

Some of the stuff on the forum would be more than enough to fill a show:
- what's the impact of hauling a battery on the drag/efficiency/range
- where could/would you attach a tow hitch and how is range impacted
- does the range improve if you remove the 3rd (and 2nd) row(s) of seat
- should the turbine wheel polarity be opposite on the left/right side of the vehicle for performance, or is there positive effect in not doing so
- how far under water can you drive it before it stalls
- how far under water can you drive it before something shorts or otherwise becomes a human hazard

Given that the Mythbusters' motto and raison d'etre is "Let's blow some stuff up!", I'm not sure that's a good ideer.


I agree, Myth Busters does not always take things to the breaking limit. I've seen a fair number of things/myths that were reviewed and proven to be true/accurate. I also think it would be a win win for both the show and Tesla.

Signature 482

Chai Kee

Structural strength is not synonymous with waterproof.

Answer to for how deep that car could be driven before it stalls is as deep as you can keep the tires connected to bottom. If you crash it into swimming pool and it stays upright (as it should thanks to very heavy battery at bottom) you could just wait until it reaches the bottom and drive it to shallow end before exiting the car.

That would require that battery pack is truly waterproof though. If it isn't then there is real concern of getting electrocuted by very high power ~500V system.

I just recently saw a Mythbusters episode where they did a bit more realistic version of sinking car. Apparently normal car goes belly up in deep water, which makes escaping from it a lot more difficult. I wonder if that happens in Model S too.

I'm guessing it has something to do with air pocket shape in passenger compartment and tires being in practice flotation devices, and buoyancy of the air in those could still turn the car wrong way up. Low profile tires and heavy battery at bottom helps for that for Model S.

Timo, if you would use just a little bit your "scarily smart" brain, you would know that either water fills (at least partially) the car or you float (hint: 66 cubic feet of storage ~ 1.86 cubic meter and the density of water is around 1kg / l, 1000l = 1 cubic meter, car weights less than 2t, 1t = 1000kg - now even a 6 year old could solve the puzzle, somebody get me a 6 year old !). No effing way to drive like a crazily crazy child on the bottom of the river unless you use diving equipment while driving (at least one would have some problems with the pedals LOL).

The battery needs a couple of MHD jets on the bottom. Then you could surf over whatever water you encountered!

I also think the doors are so thick because Elon wants to surprise everyone with retractable wings, so his electric plane will land among us sooner than everyone suspected :p (powered by the turbine wheels, of course ... only that it will fly sideways because they are not mirrored :D )

@My5bAby It was you who concerned about battery damage and how useful it is with lower battery location. I just pointed about its spec.

If flooding in your area is a problem, buy a boat.

@stephen.kamichi, it's not funny. Read the news.

Nicu, you are technologically preverted. But funny!


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