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Tesla’s "Bioweapon Defense" Filter Can Purify Air That Would Kill You

"We’re trying to be a leader in apocalyptic defense scenarios."

Posted on May 2, 2016, at 5:36 p.m. ET

Tesla / Via

Tesla CEO Elon Musk doesn't go for half measures. His electric cars feature "Insane" and "Ludicrous" modes that deliver on that hyperbole, taking them from zero to 60 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. So it's hardly surprising to learn that the "bioweapon defense mode" Tesla has built into the air filtration systems of its Models S and X vehicles works largely as advertised.

The level of pollution Tesla is proving it can handle don't exist — it's a purely hypothetical feature, built simply because Tesla has the ability to build it. "We’re trying to be a leader in apocalyptic defense scenarios," Musk said, when unveiling the Model X last fall. The filter itself is a specifically designed high efficiency mechanical filter that Tesla claims can filter out bacteria, allergens, and viruses.

To prove that the filtration system could live up to its "bioweapon" name, Tesla engineers subjected a Model X to "extreme levels of pollution," exposing it to air close to 100 times more contaminated than what the EPA defines as "good." Then, they turned on "Bioweapon Defense Mode." According to a blog post Tesla published on Monday, the the car's filtration system took less than two minutes to scrub the air inside the care clean, making it safe enough for testers to remove their gas masks.

"Bioweapon Defense Mode is not a marketing statement, it is real," Tesla proclaims in its blog post. "You can literally survive a military grade bio attack by sitting in your car."

Of course, the company had to find a way to test that particular claim. So, since the levels of pollution necessary to put the filtration system through its paces don't exist on roads (a good thing, for everyone in the world not in a hospital clean room right now), the company had to build its own test environment — in this case, a giant bubble.

Interestingly, Tesla also measured the quality of the air around the Model X in the bubble and, evidently, the car's filtration system was able to clean it as well. According to Tesla's measurements, the contamination in the surrounding area dropped by 40%. So, if you're not on the waiting list to buy a Tesla right now, take solace in the fact that just being close to one could help in case of a bio attack.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.