Here's Why You Shouldn't Drive Teslas Through High Water

Electric Vehicles / 12 Comments

EVs are not inherently waterproof.

When EVs first started showing up, an initial concern was dealing with wet conditions, and Tesla mechanic Jason Hughes is here to tell you it's still a legitimate concern.

When a Tesla Model S owner came into Hughes' shop, 057 Technology, having been through water deeper than the average puddle, he had to tell them the battery was dead and had no value in a battery exchange.

Hughes posted on Twitter that a customer had driven through "high water." He defines high water as "water near or above the bottom of the rocker panel." The rocker panels on a car are the structurally integral beams under the doors, running between the front and rear wheel wells.

The customer initially didn't realize what caused the issue as they drove through fresh water, so it took longer than salt water to cause the corrosion, triggering an error warning to display before complete failure. This is what happens when you claim a car can be used as a boat. According to Hughes, a client referred to Musk's claims that Teslas could be used as a boat for short period as proof that he must be wrong about the water seepage issue. This may also be the reason why Tesla owners think they can drive through floods right up until the point where it all goes horribly wrong.

According to Elon Musk, the batteries are sealed, but the reality is that EV batteries need venting and valves to release heat. In the case of Tesla packs, they aren't designed to resist water pressure or are defective in this car.

"As soon as the valves are covered in water of any depth (not just splashed or whatever), some (water) will get through," claims Hughes. "The more depth or pressure from motion, the more will get in."
Twitter/John Hughes

Of course, road cars aren't designed to traverse deep water, so whatever you drive through a flood can fail from water getting into electronics or sucked into the engine. Even trucks or SUVs with higher ride heights.

However, weather sealing is usually good enough even if the water level reaches the rocker panels, and it's not always fatal for the drivetrain if water gets in somewhere. However, a battery getting water inside is never going to end well.

Some Twitter users pointed out to Hughes this may be an older battery, and Tesla has improved the sealing on batteries. Indeed, there's a wonderful video of a Tesla driving through deep water out there, but then again, some people have driven all their lives without using a seatbelt and have never been injured.

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