Safety: Why I Bought My Wife a Model S

In our house, my wife generally looks to me for all things tech.  When she needs a new car, I usually ask about her contemporary needs and then propose some qualified options.

In this case, we did it quite differently.  The reason why is an object lesson in one of many things team Tesla did very, very right.

I had aleady ordered a Model S for me. Although I love that it doesn't burn gas, I chose it because it offers the best combination of performance and ride quality on the market.  When I considered cars for her, I thought about it for all of 5 seconds. Then I promptly ordered a second model S just for her.  The reason?  Safety.

I thought about my wife and kids being swaddled in a state of the art cocoon, ingenuously designed by the world's most aggressive automotive engineers, to shield people better than any other car.  That instantly trumped everything else.

Safety engineers like to say that there are actually three collisions in an accident. The first is when your car hits the other.  The second is when your body hits the interior.  And the third is when your brain hits the inside of your skull.

Because there is no motor in front, and lots of smart structure, the Model S crumple zone is 3X longer than other cars.  Because of this, the striking reality is that even the biggest BMW 7 or Mercedes S would expose my family to 3X greater G forces in a head-on collision.  That's 3X greater trauma to all their internal organs.  When you can do something that so materially improves the survivability of your loved ones, you don't hem and haw.  You just do it.  

Funny thing, this is.  There are so many nuanced dimensions to deciding a capital purchase like a car.  Yet because of TM's groundbreaking work on EV-enabled safety, it reduced a complicated decision to a very simple one.  

For me, the compelling logic was that any other choice would expose my wife and kids to materially greater risk of death.

By accepting the challenge of being not merely as good, but in fact meaningfully better on every key metric, TM radically changed our thinking ... and doubled their revenue from my house.

While we were all so impatiently waiting, those engineers were not idle.  They actually got something seriously significant done.  

For my family, it could turn out to be life-changing.

If others will drive your S, does safety weigh in your choice?

Timo, guess what: I knew that! :-)

I find these definitions helpful:

"Behind the driver" is no technical term for a drive train layout, as far as I can tell... I said I was in nit-picky mode. If you're not in the mood, ignore that post, but don't try to top my nit-picky-ness! ;-)

uh oh. Model S is neither a rear engine/motor or a mid engine/motor. hmm we need a new term.

Volker is correct as far as car parlance goes. A 911 is rear engine, and a Boxster or Ferrari is mid.

Clearly though, in the context of the crumple zone in front of the passengers, I meant rear in the sense of being behind the passenger cabin.

German precision (in engineering or in diction) is something we in other countries truly love, actually. From the time I was 18, every single car I've ever bought for myself has been Deutsch.

I fully expect a highly disciplined EV from the Swabians in the near future.

Any country with a particle physicist for its leader will not sit out the EV revolution.

@beaker, what about cars with hub-motors? Or Model X two motors, or Rimac four motors? Electric ruins those wikipedia definitions I guess.

That's easy: they're all ELECTRIC cars :P

Any country with a particle physicist for its leader will not sit out the EV revolution. (Mark K)

Or so one would expect. I'm not so sure though, the ICE lobby is incredibly strong over here, and you know, the employment and all... At some point a green party minister threatened to use a Prius as her official car. Now that was a fun move and even though unfortunately she did not follow through with it, the message was loud and clear.

Today, I do not see any support for EVs at all, just talk talk talk. Well, they waive the vehicle tax for the Model S which saves in the order of 200 bucks a year, depending on which car you would drive otherwise. That's peanuts; they'd better waive the 19% VAT while they are at it! German car manufacturers still seem to defend the ICE tooth and nail.

uh oh. Model S is neither a rear engine/motor or a mid engine/motor. hmm we need a new term. (Beaker)

That's easy: they're all ELECTRIC cars :P (Vawlkus)

+1 exactly! :-)

tesla model s has a rear inline motor or drive train, or rear axel motor?

Do you think Daimler will use its connection with TM to "steal a march" on the other German mfrs., or is it all just for show?

Brian H, I have absolutely no idea and my guess is just as good as anybody's, so I'll spare you the unfounded speculation. As of today, BMW seems to be tad more serious in the alt fuel department with their i-series announcements, but whether Daimler is secretly working on something even more advanced, or whether BMW's i-series marketing drumming is just a red herring... who knows?

Part of my decision to buy a Tesla and drive it on German roads is to send a (minuscule) political message to those manufacturers (and the government).

Volker - Mercedes has always made a point to advance safety. I very much doubt they will simply wait in the bleachers while Tesla delivers the new state of the art.

TM is here today because of a bold move at very a defining moment for Teslla. Elon has consistently expressed his gratitude for Daimler's lifeline investment.

Daimler did it for a reason. They now have special access to TM technology, and I believe they will leverage it.

BMW does not have a similar partnership, so they have made an effort to build their eco-credentials with advance press about their i3 / i5 effort.

I think MB will simply announce their Tesla -powered EV offering very near to when they ship it.

My guess is that effort is well under way right now, and the two partners, each for diffferent reasons, simply don't need to broadcast it.

When Daimler does ship its first mainstream EV, Elon's higher level objective will materially advance, and the auto industry (along with the German conservatism) will change faster than folks currently expect.

Heck with sending the kids to defensive and performance driving at the local race track - -I- am going once my X is here. The test drive in the S made it clear I've never driven a car anywhere close to the S in performance; I need to learn some control :)

(And come back grinning like a loon)

At the end of Q3 TM did not declare any income from the MB arrangement because they were still in negotiations. Wonder what's going on there ...

Daimler did it for a reason. They now have special access to TM technology, and I believe they will leverage it. (Mark K)

Sound totally reasonable. It's just that I have yet to see anything along those lines from Daimler. Either they are going for a big bang, and do surprisingly well in keeping it all secret along the way, or they are still in "wait and see" mode...

BMW does not have a similar partnership, so they have made an effort to build their eco-credentials with advance press about their i3 / i5 effort. (Mark K)

They own control stock of SGL, the only European carbon fiber manufacturer. It's not battery or drive train, but it's nothing to sneeze at, either. Particularly when you are the competition and want to mass-produce lightweight cars in Europe...

When Daimler does ship its first mainstream EV, Elon's higher level objective will materially advance, and the auto industry (along with the German conservatism) will change faster than folks currently expect. (Mark K)

"When" -> "if". You can tell I've got a real hard time imagining that this big ol' steamboat called Daimler has the turning radius it needs to jump on the EV bandwagon any time soon. And sorry, the Smart only counts as a compulsory exercise, it's not a serious mainstream EV in my mind.

If you'd ask me to put some money on BMW or Daimler, I'd put it on BMW. But as it stands now, I wouldn't bet on either of the two... as I said, big ol' steamboats, with billions invested in ICE technology. They'll beat that horse until it's dead, and then some.

VB, how about this?

Poor range for an EV of that size though...

sims, that's news to me. Thanks for the link! If I didn't miss anything, no date given though. Interesting times!

The article itself is 10 days old or so (October 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm by Justin Berkowitz). Sounds like it's referring to this (2013) model year, though. Hm.

Mentions the Tesla drivetrain, but doesn't quite extend the observation that EV-exclusive designs do better than "mfr. conversion" jobs to the TM line. But they will learn!

Interesting that neither the Toyota RAV4EV nor the MB B Class venture beyond the 100-125 mi. range mark. Maybe it's a result of decisions made in geographically constrained densely populated countries.

The B Class Electric is a start, but it's just dipping toes into the water, just like Nissan's Leaf. It's a redo of an existing model rather than an EV from the ground up.

These are both cars that are very limited in capability in order to meet a price target.

I expect the B to sell a bit better than the Leaf, but it won't fly off the lots.

TM's strategy of penetrating at the premium end with a car that can seriously compete ... this is the most viable plan to get market traction along with worthwhile margins.

MB won't do that initially for two reasons: 1. They are partnered with TM. 2. Their overhead structure won't initially support it.

TM was organized very differently, with the intent to have sufficient vertical integration and low overhead to allow good margins on an EV. EV's currently cost more to make (for now), so TM had to rethink manufacturing and distribution with innovative new models to enable a 25% margin.

However, a little ways out, Daimler will have to respond at the high end.

I am a long time Mercedes customer, with lots of SL and S Class purchases. A TM Model S is honestly smoother, quieter, and faster than an S Class. Right now the MB interior is certainly more luxurious, but TM's all-glass cockpit instruments are way better than MB's electronics. Both will be forced to improve on each front to compete.

And right now, as to safety, the cold logic is that your family is meaningfully safer in a Model S than in an MB S. That is a scary disparity for MB, that goes to the very heart of MB's brand strength.

It's simply not sustainable for MB to continue fielding their high end S Class, when it becomes discernibly less capable than a Model S.

It will take perhaps 24 months, but I think MB will have to answer in the premium segment. For now, the inertia of traditional tastes, and doubts about the rudimentary charge network, will be what MB relies on to keep sales steady.

But if there isn't an answer 3 years out, it's going to be very destructive to MB's brand. So to me, you can debate if it's 2014 or 2015, but it seems inevitable.

I would expect that MB has already started work on this.

This BTW, underlines the elegant, catalytic power of Elon's drive to make simply the best car car you can buy.

Mark K +1

Interview with Ola Källenius (AMG) and Thomas Weber (Daimler) on the three EVs they presented in Paris (SLS, B-class, Smart) and their outlook on the market for electric cars, unfortunately only available in German:

The same in approximative English - hey Brian, can you spot Google's mistakes, typos and logic errors here?|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8

No thanks! The evolution of computer translation towards coherence has some way to go yet.

I particularly like this line: "No, you do not exist." (Nein, den gibt es nicht.)
German pronouns are still a mystery to Google Translate.

Here's a nice article about the interesting illogic of the 911's rear-engine layout. Unfortunately, it's only available in German (except for the headline ;-):

Just joined the forums and found this thread. A little stale but worth resurrecting. Considering a Model S and I live in New England, so I'm researching how well it would do in uphill wintry conditions. Hence the Google hit.

@ Mark K: nice comments and a laudible sentiment, but I'm not sure your physics are sound. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I strongly doubt the energy dissipation of a crumple zone is linear with available hood length. That is, a functionally 3X longer crumple zone doesn't translate to 1/3 the energy your body experiences when it strikes the front of the interior. The materials and dynamics between you and the bumper are far more complicated than that. And that's assuming your wife never uses the frunk.

In deciding a car is "safest" we're of course not discussing crashes at other impact points (over 40% of accidents), things like seatbelt mounts and pretensioners, air bags, etc, as well as crash-avoidance variables like braking, handling, traction and stability control, suspension, wheels/tires, etc. Complicated stuff we probably won't know until vehicle-specific injury rates start returning in high enough numbers to be statistically valid (heaven forbid!). Fortunately, Tesla's safety mojo looks state-of-the-art and Ill bet the Model S stacks up among the best.

Human error alone is responsible for over half of all accidents, so let's all drive safely regardless of the motor!


Based on today's announcement of the NHTSA test results, my wife is a very happy camper.

Our second Model S arrives soon, and my family is much safer now.

Thanks to Elon and team Tesla for all of the brilliant hard work that made this possible.

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