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Bioweapons experts seriously doubt Tesla’s new apocalypse mode

Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., demonstrates the falcon doors unveils the Model X sports utility vehicle (SUV) during an event in Fremont, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc., the smallest publicly held U.S. automaker, hands over the first of its Model X sport utility vehicles Tuesday evening amid growing scrutiny of Volkswagen AG, one of the world's biggest car companies, after the admission that it cheated on emissions tests. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Elon MuskElon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., demonstrates the falcon doors unveils the Model X sports utility vehicle (SUV) during an event in Fremont, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc., the smallest publicly held U.S. automaker, hands over the first of its Model X sport utility vehicles Tuesday evening amid growing scrutiny of Volkswagen AG, one of the world's biggest car companies, after the admission that it cheated on emissions tests. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Elon Musk
Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., demonstrates the falcon doors unveils the Model X sports utility vehicle (SUV) during an event in Fremont, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla’s new Model X, unveiled Tuesday night, boasts zero-to-sixty acceleration in 3.8 seconds, falcon wing doors, and the ability to travel 250 miles in-between charges. It also has a “bioweapon defense mode” button in case of, say, biological attack.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said drivers can push the button “if there’s ever an apocalyptic scenario of some kind,” according to The Verge. Musk says the Model X comes equipped with a medical-grade HEPA filter activated by the button. Activating the special mode will also increase the Model X cabin’s air pressure to keep outside air from getting in.

Putting aside the low chances a Tesla will have to deal with a bioweapon attack, Gizmodo reports that Musk might be exaggerating the car’s capabilities. A HEPA filter is great at catching large bacteria like anthrax or the plague, as well as pollution and allergens, but some viruses would still be able to slip through. Smallpox and Influenza A virus, for example, are probably tiny enough to get through the filter.

As experts pointed out to Gizmodo, it’s also pretty hard to tell when a bioweapon has been triggered. There’s often no clear sign like an explosion, so a Model X driver probably wouldn’t know to engage the bioweapon defense mode until it’s too late.

But the filter certainly has more real-world benefits, too: Tesla says it’s 500 times better at filtering allergens than normal air filters, and 700 times better at filtering smog.