Sunday, September 15, 2013

More Surprising...Safety Features

Arnie's Model S, P-85 moved silently across the plains states of America. The only audible noise—even at 80 miles per hour—was the friction of its tires on the paved highway road. When exiting the highway on a smooth surface, a spooky silence existed—as if he and his writer were gliding above the surface. Pedestrians, bicyclists and deer, beware; a Tesla may be on your tail.

The silence might well have been the only feature of the Tesla, Model S that was unsafe. Though crash test ratings were not performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on most luxury cars, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Tesla Model S scored the highest of any car in NHTSA history.

Tesla Motors attributed the accolades to its electric drive train and low center of gravity. They had this to say in an August 9, 2013 press release:

The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high speed impact. This is fundamentally a force over distance problem – the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries. Just like jumping into a pool of water from a tall height, it is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks. The Model S motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle.

Other notable safety items from Tesla’s website:

Tesla…nested multiple deep aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that absorb the impact energy (a similar approach was used by the Apollo Lunar Lander) and transfer load to the rest of the vehicle. This causes the pole to be either sheared off or to stop the car before the pole hits an occupant...

Of note, during validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial facility, the testing machine failed at just above 4 g's. While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner's car without the roof caving in. (Arnie’s Adventure editor’s bold.)

As Arnie’s Model S floated safely through the plains, the bodacious scenery disappeared. National Parks were few and far between South Dakota and Pennsylvania. Arnie disrupted Reggie’s daydream of flying the Tesla to the moon and asked him to search his company’s website on Tesla’s navigation system.

“Type in ‘Jeff Ritter’ and see what comes up.”

Arnie left a message at Jeff’s office, but could not find a mobile phone number—but his home address was listed. It was about noon on Saturday, so Arnie decided to surprise Jeff at his home in Ohio, on Buckeye Lake, and ask him out to lunch while he charged his new toy.

The Tesla glided into a fashionable neighborhood and into Jeff’s driveway. A car was parked and one of the garage doors was open. Although Arnie’s car was silent, a little dog--a corki--sensed an intruding presence and barked his way outside to sniff around. Jeff followed shortly behind; his eyes nearly popped the glasses off his face.

“Well, you never know who’s going to pop in,” Jeff said with a grin.

He accepted Arnie’s lunch offer, but before they left the neighborhood they had another stop to make.

“You know Bill Gibson?” Jeff said. “Not long ago he bought a house across the way.” He pointed over a small body of water that was recently extended from Buckeye Lake to provide boat access. 

The trio drove around the block, parked and walked to Bill’s back patio where he was entertaining company. He was similarly shocked at Arnie’s visit—and further shocked at the new Tesla parked in front of his house.

“Let’s go have a look,” he said.

The group inspected Arnie’s new toy: the navigation system, under the hood, the pop-out door handles.

Arnie then gave the Tesla key fob to Jeff. He took the wheel with Reggie as his guide and as Arnie followed in Jeff’s car to the KOA campground. They charged up and took Jeff’s wheels to the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club.

“So what’d you think of the drive?” Arnie asked.

“Boy, that was awesome,” Jeff said. “Very smooth drive. Impressive.”

Buckeye Lake was an ancient glacial lake that, over centuries, dried into shallow marshes and bogs. In the 1800s Ohio constructed a canal system which evolved into a reservoir and eventually a state park. A yacht club was established in 1906. Arnie’s colleague Jeff joined the club two years ago.

A wedding ceremony was held on the outdoor patio overlooking the water that day, so the guys dined next to a birthday party before a large window in the sunshine.

“So what was the most memorable part of your trip?” Jeff was no stranger to cross-country excursions. He rode a bicycle cross-country during the country’s bicentennial when he was 18.

Arnie told the story of nearly running out of juice in Virginia City, Montana. The Thrivent colleagues met ten years ago at a business meeting in Minneapolis after a merger. They were on the same operation team. Arnie explained how he planned to incorporate the Tesla into his work at Thrivent.

“Arnie doesn’t do anything unless there’s a business reason,” Jeff said with a laugh.

During lunch Arnie noticed fish jumping from the lake—walleye or catfish. After lunch Reggie spied a bald eagle swooping above the water.

“Wow, you’re right,” Jeff said. “Look at the white tail! That’s the first one I’ve seen all year.”

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