In a move that is likely to get the attention of those who worry about an epidemic worse than COVID-19, Tesla has made the Bioweapon Defense Mode standard in the Model Y.
The system includes a HEPA air filter capable of eliminating most airborne pollutants from outside air coming into the vehicle. This air filter is more capable than a standard vehicle air filter and more on par with the air filters that hospitals use to keep the worst allergens and pollutants out of their facilities. It may be somewhat debatable whether the filter can block viruses that may or may not be bioweapons, but test data indicates that it can definitely help people who suffer from seasonal allergies or want to be able to ride through places with poor air quality with fewer worries about it affecting their respiratory systems.
So the Bioweapon Defense Mode may be useful for blocking pollutants and allergens, but Tesla has simply chosen a name for it that is as grandiose as Full Self-Driving (FSD) without the added benefit of being something that can truly counter bioweapons. FSD is capable of doing things like pulling over to the side of the road and turning on hazard lights if a driver loses consciousness, as it recently did for a drunk driver in Norway. However, as Tesla will often warn owners of its electric vehicles, FSD is not yet ready for fully autonomous driving and users should stay alert if possible.
Even so, the Model Y may become a top pick for people who live in areas with heavy pollution. Even before COVID-19, it was normal for people in some cities around the world to mask up due to heavy smog and allergen levels. Even in places with strong environmental protections, it’s possible for some companies to get around having to make the upfront investment in “greener” operations by buying carbon credits from companies like Tesla, which frequently exceeds emission standards that apply to the automotive industry with its manufacture of electric vehicles.
The profits from selling carbon credits have prompted Tesla to file a legal challenge to delays in the implementation of the Obama Administration’s strict emissions standards, which it says has hurt the carbon credit market. Despite the obvious criticisms, the sale of carbon credits could be seen as a tacit reward for making the upfront investment to exceed current environmental standards.
Tesla has not yet said whether it is working on an enhanced Bioweapon Defense Mode that could filter out a theoretical future bioweapon. If it can develop such a thing, the Bioweapon Defense Mode alone could make the Model Y Long Range well worth its $89,990 base price before available rebates to people who may be a trifle paranoid about a future bioweapon being released.
Tesla may be waiting on the possibility of manufacturing or sourcing smaller HEPA filters for more compact models like the Model 3. The Model Y with the Bioweapon Defense Mode is currently manufactured at the factory in Fremont, California.