Driving the Model S through a thunderstorm?

Driving the Model S through a thunderstorm?

I am just curious if there is any risk of weird things happening if you are caught driving your model s and encounter a powerful thunderstorm with lots of static charge around. Has anyone driven through a t-storm is the S? Any issues? Lightning strikes nearby, anything happen?

Sorry if this has been discussed somewhere before, I searched and found almost no info on this subject.

riceuguy | 23. März 2013

I can't with all (working) cars you are grounded by four rubber tires...

christurbeville | 23. März 2013

@riceguy I think you mean insulated. Pretty much the opposite of grounded. Not to steal Brian H's thunder;)

riceuguy | 23. März 2013

Sorry...still a bit jet lagged! Indeed I did mean insulated. :-)

jat | 23. März 2013

The sensitive things would be the computers, which are present in any modern car whether ICE or EV.

I have driven through thunderstorms, and my only worry was if it would start to hail while I am out in the open.

agiangone | 23. März 2013

With the appropriate rod one could fully charge the battery in one zap :)

shop | 23. März 2013

Quick, who is going to build a lighting charging adapter :-)

shepski | 23. März 2013


Jarvis: "Power at 400-percent capacity."

Tony: "How 'bout that?"

Brian H | 23. März 2013

Do wet tires in a T-storm insulate?

Robert22 | 23. März 2013

Perhaps now would be a good time to google Faraday cage.

So lightning travels thousands of feet through air and is miraculously stopped by 6 inches of rubber? That myth never made much sense to me.

cerjor | 23. März 2013

Wet tires are not insulators during a t/s. The water is dirty and is a good conductor. Things inside the metallic shell of the car should not be affected by external static.

July10Models | 23. März 2013

+1 Robert
current flowing through the car is the problem. more specifically over the skin of the car. This current flow generates a powerful magnetic field. when this field intersects wires, current is induced, frying the electronics. The electronics and power cables and wire harness just have to be shielded. The Model S shields the power electronic module in an aluminum box that sits on top of the shielded battery pack. You are as safe in your MS as you are in a jet airplane in a thunder storm. Wether the MS survives a strike or not depends on how much energy flows through the car.

stevenmaifert | 23. März 2013

I wouldn't be too concerned with electrocution. It's the electrostatic charge from the lightning that could potentially cause induced currents and harm unshielded electronics.

herkimer | 23. März 2013

So the Model S is made as a kind of Faraday Cage? Because of the aluminum?

I have several times been uncomfortably near to a lightning strike, and there was a tremendous amount of static charge in the air moments before the lightning hit. I was wondering if this static charge could cause problems even if the car is "insulated" against an actual "strike."

scottch | 23. März 2013

"So lightning travels thousands of feet through air and is miraculously stopped by 6 inches of rubber? That myth never made much sense to me."

Lightning is not really a spear hurled by Zeus in arbitrary directions.
Electric sparks (e.g., lightning) develop where the electric field strength is strongest, which depends upon potential ("voltage") and shape of the object, among other factors. The tips of pointy objects like trees, mountain tops, spark plug electrodes and golf clubs are where electric fields are strongest. An insulated rubber tire will not "stop" a lightning bolt; the bolt would simply never arise. However, a wet tire is conductive anyway. What protects the passengers in a car is the conductive metal shell. I don't know how an occupant in a carbon-fiber Tesla Roadster would fair in a lightning strike, but a Model S passenger is just like an airline passenger. Airliners are routinely struck by lightning-- several times a year per plane.

GeirT | 23. März 2013
Robert22 | 23. März 2013


Yes, thanks for explaining it much better than I ever could. The most common consequence of a vehicular lightning strike is flattening of at least one tire as opposed to occupant injury. I was attempting to speak to the myth of rubber tires as insulators.

This is a clever tech twist on a Farraday cage someone sent me this week:

kyleket | 24. März 2013

Can't believe I'm the first here to mention 1.21 gigawatts.

hfcolvin | 24. März 2013

Cars with supercharging = instant charge

Brian H | 24. März 2013

From where? Using what superconducting or 6" thick cable? Delivering how many MW power? Dream on.

rwang | 26. März 2013

who needs a supercharger if you get hit? =)

Robert22 | 26. März 2013

The ultimate driving experience.....hooked to a morphine drip.

jackhub | 27. März 2013

I believe the greatest danger would be trees falling on you ;>]

jbunn | 27. März 2013

Car travels through time with enough charge and speed.

ghillair | 28. März 2013

The biggest danger is a direct hit ignites the fuel tank and the car explodes!

Oh wait that is the danger of the last hundred years and we eliminated it with the MS.

bevguy | 08. April 2014

They add carbon to the rubber in car tires to make them electro conductive. I am more worried about charging in a thunderstorm, a strong surge conducted through the wiring might fry the battery and electronics

thomas2V | 08. April 2014

You will be supercharged ;)

Brian H | 08. April 2014

CapZap would enjoy it!

lagann | 31. Mai 2015

So, lightning struck really close to my car when I was supercharging and caused a bunch of problems. I posted a lot of info over at TMC

Brian H | 03. Juni 2015

Fast charge to a jigaWatt. | 03. Juni 2015

As one of the world's leading authorities on the subject of lightning (self-appointed--but I did study lightning effects on telephone networks once upon a time.), please allow me to clarify a few things. First of all, whether rubber tires are conductive at all is irrelevant for a direct stroke of lightning to a car. The voltage available for a lightning strike from cloud to earth or car is in the order of 10 billion volts. This is far more than enough to cause a spark between the metal body and structure of the car and ground across a few inches of wet rubber once the lightning discharge has reached the car. The current through a lightning discharge to earth is in the form of a pulse or more likely a succession of pulses that vary in intensity from about 10 kilo-amperes to more than 100 kilo-amperes. There is a lot more power than energy in a lightning discharge because the duration of the pulse is only 100 microseconds or so to a couple of milliseconds. It is the higher current, longer lasting pulses that have enough energy to start fires for example. The dozens of microcontrollers and associated microelectronics in a Tesla are the most vulnerable parts of the car but are generally well shielded by the aluminum body to minimize the possibility of damage. People are well advised to stay inside the car during a thunderstorm where they will be safe. It is possible for residual energy to find its way into internal circuit boards because the extremely high current in a lightning pulse can generate significant voltage across a conductive path that has milliohms of resistance. Therefore, it can't be guaranteed that in a complex system like a Model S there won't be some damage to electronics, though I think it is unlikely. More likely there may be some transient effects on some sensitive circuits. At the point or points where lightning sparks to the car body there may be enough energy to cause pitting of the paint and the aluminum skin of the car but nothing more. | 03. Juni 2015
nbrianjohnston | 03. Juni 2015

My only worry about driving through a lightning storm is if I happen to be going 88 miles per hour. | 03. Juni 2015

I drove through a thunderstorm here in Virginia on Monday. No worries about lightning but I was disappointed that the windshield wipers are not particularly fast in the highest setting. I had to slow down to 30-40MPH because the wipers couldn't keep the water off the windshield. Other vehicles I own have better wipers.