How Do You Explain What A Tesla Model S Is To Children? (+ Driving A Model S Through Flood Water, What Happens?)

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How does one go about explaining what an electric car is to children? Or, even more specifically, what a Tesla Model S is?

Bit of a strange question, and probably not one that you’ve ever considered before, but… probably one worth considering. After all, if you can’t convince a child of the advantages, reasons for use, and environmental benefits of electric vehicles, then who can you convince?


The question first came to my attention via a topic on the Tesla Motors Club forum, where a user by the name of “Footbag” recounted his experience speaking to a couple of classrooms full of children about his new Model S.

Some of his comments on the experience are quite funny, so here’s a direct quote:

It was an interesting experience! First off, all the boys loved ‘getting out of class’ to hear about cars/EVs (no surprise there). The most popular question was ‘can a kid get into/ride/hide in the frunk?’. I wasn’t quite prepared for that… they really seemed fascinated by the concept of a frunk (while I have a P85D, the pictures I was showing was a RWD frunk, obviously a lot larger). The best question of the day came from a girl who asked if driving through very large puddles would be safe, given that electricity and water don’t mix. I would have been pretty stumped for an answer had there not been a fair bit of talk on the forum about that very topic due to the floods in California. The next most popular topic (again, no surprise) was ‘can you play games on the 17″ screen?’.

Lol. Interestingly, though, the kids did seem to be interested in the concept of regenerative braking — which was apparently explained to them by getting them to rub their hands together generating heat, and using that as a metaphor to explain the transfer of energy from “friction.”

The actual showing of the car itself took the cake, though (unsurprisingly). As he recounted:

But, alas, I am no match for the car. Any level of excitement/engagement they showed towards my talk was quickly outdone by the excitement of going out to see the car. Of course the touchscreen got a lot of attention, but again they were absolutely most fascinated by the frunk (and observantly noted it was smaller than the picture earlier).

Hmm, interesting. I’ve yet to have to explain the mechanics behind, and the reason for the use of, electric vehicles to young people. Anybody have any thoughts on the matter?

Worth noting is that the question about driving through puddles was certainly one worth asking — until reading this I had (amazingly) just assumed that everything that could be damaged by water is completely sealed off. But that is just an assumption after all…

One of the commenters on the forum thread made note of the fact that all of the high-voltage components in the model are “sealed and waterproof” — but this was responded to by another (tip of the hat to “bollar”) who made mention of the fact that Teslas are known to have some issues with water, and posted a link to a forum topic on the matter.

And thankfully so, as said topic has provided us with a very interesting recounting of an experience driving a Model S through 2–2.5 feet of standing water (not something that I’d guess many Model S owners are willing to try).

Here it is in the word’s of the original writer (thanks, “Arnold Panz“):

We’ve had over ten inches of rain today in Miami and the street I have to take to get to my development was completely flooded. I drove through slowly and got a warning message saying that my car needed service and “may not restart.” When I got home the charge port opened, but wouldn’t charge (got a red light instead of green around the port), though the car started again.

I’m hopeful that with time the water will drain and the car will work fine. This is bad news for the summer because that street floods easily and usually does so several times every summer. I really hope I didn’t screw up the car (and am really glad the battery is warrantied no matter what!).

A few extra notes on that: the driver (according to the what he wrote on the thread) did raise the suspension before driving through; and he didn’t observe any water draining from under his car afterwards.

Hmmm, interesting!

Not to be dismissive about the outcome, but a contribution for the “greater good,” right? Sacrifices must be made…


But that’s note the end. That driver later provided this update:

I took the car to the service center. The warning I’m getting is low power on the 12v battery, and preliminary thoughts are that the water somehow degraded that battery a bit. If so, they’ll replace the battery and all should be well. They had at least five cars (so far) taken or towed there today by midday when I was there. One car was parked in a lot near the beach and was completely submerged apparently. They needed a diver to get the car moved so it could hook up the car to the tow truck.

The inside of my car was totally dry, including the frunk. I may be wrong about how deep the water was — it’s not like I took a ruler and measured it! I was just guessing, so it may not have been over two feet. Still too deep, of course, but really there was no chance I’d float away.

Followed by this final one:

I got my car back this weekend. Apparently, the issues/warnings (related to the 12v battery) I had pre-dated the flood when they checked the logs. The water may have accelerated things, but actually the guys at the Service Center said the car held up remarkably well in the water. No real damage to anything structurally and the water didn’t get into anything it shouldn’t have. Kudos to Tesla for building such a structurally sound car!

They did say that other cars weren’t so lucky. I guess for cars that sat in water for awhile the water eventually got into places within the car it shouldn’t have. So, for anyone who is stuck having to go through water, just treat it like a regular ICE and try to drive through slowly and at a steady speed to try to minimize damage. The alternative (sitting in water for awhile) seems to be a worse option.

Very interesting.

Anybody else have any experience driving through deep waters with their Model S (or other electric vehicle models)?

Image Credit: Tesla Motors

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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