Tesla Bioweapon Defense Mode Can Keep Most Particles Out, but Not Viruses

A filtration system to keep particles and viruses out? Not really, as per experts.
Fabienne Lang
Elon Musk displaying the Bioweapon Defense FilterThe Fast Lane Car/YouTube

Tesla Model S and Model X come equipped with a Bioweapon Defense Mode complete with a sizeable High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. Impressively, the HEPA filter used in these Tesla models is 10 times bigger than regular car filters. 

Some people are trying to deduce whether or not Tesla's Bioweapon Defense Mode may be the answer to uber-safe transportation during these virus-stricken times. Let's have a look. 


Could the HEPA filter keep you safe?

According to Tesla, its filter is "100 times more effective than premium automotive filters." Moreover, it removes "at least 99.97% of fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, pollen, and mold spores."

Right now the word "viruses" stands out to anyone who's reading the news, and the above information may even have some people jumping onto Tesla's website to order their very own Tesla Model S or Model X complete with Bioweapon Defense Mode. We wouldn't blame them, especially if they have any form of respiratory issue.

However, it has to be mentioned that the chances of you catching the disease from within your sealed car are pretty limited, though we'll admit we're not doctors. 

As Tesla says "The result is a filtration system hundreds of times more efficient than standard automotive filters, capable of providing the driver and her passengers with the best possible cabin air quality no matter what is happening in the environment around them." 

And Tesla has pointed out that the HEPA filter can remove particles as small as 0.3 micrometers out of the air. That's impressively tiny. 

Regardless of how fantastic the filter is, it needs to be highlighted just how big the actual COVID-19 virus is. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus ranges in size from 0.06 micrometers to 0.14 micrometers. That's quite a range, and you'll notice that 0.06 micrometers are quite a bit smaller than 0.3 micrometers, meaning the virus can likely pass through the filter's mesh

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Michael J. Buchmeier, deputy director of the Pacific Southwest Regional Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases at the University of California, Irvine, told Gizmodo: "Now, if you’re worried about bacterial agents like anthrax or plague, a good filtering system would probably protect you."

But, he said, "0.3 micrometers won’t hold back viruses. It will hold back most bacteria, but it won’t hold back viruses. So, if you believe that all bioterrorist agents are bacteria, then you’ll get an increment of protection."

There's no denying it's an impressive filtering system that provides incredibly clean air, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty it may still not be the answer you're looking for as you drive around particularly forlorn streets these days.