Tesla drivers praise ‘bioweapon defense mode’

Elon Musk’s electric vehicles are equipped with HEPA filters that can supposedly cleanse air of even wildfire particulates

Many Tesla drivers responded to the air quality ‘red alerts’ flashing up and down the eastern US on Wednesday by switching on their vehicles’ ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ feature – and singing its praises on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s social network.

The apocalyptic-sounding ‘Bioweapon Defense’ option cranks up the vehicle’s HEPA filtration system, allowing the driver inside the Tesla to breathe clean air without having to endlessly recycle what’s inside the car or risk inhaling the wildfire smoke that has poured south from Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario for nearly a week. 

The worst wildfire season Canada has seen in over a decade has suffocated dozens of major US cities, creating brownish orange skies with a red sun that wouldn’t look out of place on Musk’s  hypothetical Mars colony.

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According to several Tesla owners’ tweets, the filtration feature – something few had seen as anything more than a novelty biohazard symbol next to the usual air conditioner buttons – is able to cleanse even the dirtiest, most particulate-ridden outside air before circulating it through the car’s interior. 

Drivers tweeted their thanks to Musk, who sang the praises of his Model S and Model X’s “hospital-grade HEPA air filters,” capable of “protecting you from dust, bacteria, pollen (allergies), spores & many toxic gases” from his own Twitter account. The billionaire added that his Model 3 and Model Y are also capable of master filtration, but are “too small to fit the monster HEPA filters.

US health authorities in several states have warned residents against going outside, or even using standard air conditioners, which pull in air from the exterior. The dirty air containing particulates from tens of thousands of acres of burnt forest can cause respiratory distress, burning eyes and throat, and chest pains, while contributing to the development of cancer and other chronic diseases. 

Tesla touts its vehicles’ unique capability on its website, explaining “Bioweapon Defense Mode is not a marketing statement, it is real. You can literally survive a military-grade bio attack by sitting in your car.” This convenience doesn’t come cheap – upgrading a Tesla Model S made between 2012 and 2020 with HEPA air filtration and the Bioweapon Defense Mode feature costs $500 – but then neither does the vehicle itself. A 2023 Model S can cost up to $105,000, according to car price index Edmunds. 

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