It appears that Tesla’s rear casting and structure improvements for the Model Y have been designed to improve the safety of passengers who will occupy the vehicle’s future third row of seats.
As Sandy Munro continues to dive into the company’s new all-electric crossover, several clues hint toward the vehicle’s improved rear safety design. Munro mentions multiple design improvements that range from thicker longitudinal bars to prevent crunching in the even of an accident, to new bolt shapes that decrease weight and improve durability.
Munro first looks at the castings on the side rails of the Model Y. The attachment points on each side of the car indicate they are one piece and are not welded on. “They’re plenty strong, and you can see they’re just cast in place,” he said. Also, the under-seat points are 3 to 3.5mm thick. Munro suggests Tesla moved added density to other areas that may be more susceptible to being compromised in an accident. “There is a lot of good stuff here. I like that.”
According to Munro, Model Y has improved fixture points on the rear longitudinals that run from the front to the back of the car. While the two bolts on the front of the longitudinals are standard, the top bolt on the rear end is scooped out. “These are common on Japanese cars. See how it’s dished out? The Japanese use this for weight reduction, but it is also good for a shear bolt. So my guess is this may be something to do with crashworthiness,” Munro said.
Shear bolts are commonly used to protect equipment from sudden impact or excessive load. They are often referred to as “anti-theft bolts” and popular among assemblies that may be subjected to occurrences of excessive force. However, they are ideal for safety and an accident would maintain the structural integrity of the rear portion of the car, keeping those seated in the back safe from injury during a violent collision.
Speculation from the Detroit veteran suggests the Model Y’s third row of seats will be rear-facing, especially as the design of the mounting brackets only leads Munro to believe that the sixth and seventh passengers will be looking out of the vehicle’s rear windshield.
“We can’t see anything that says that we’re going to be putting front-facing seats. But, we sure can see where it could be a potential there for rear-facing seats,” Munro said.
A video Munro posted on April 4 to the company YouTube channel examined the Model Y’s potential for rear-facing third-row seats. Munro hopped into the trunk of the crossover and was impressed by the size and spaciousness, and mentioned that it was “semi-comfortable” and may be best for children based on its storage design.
Based on what is known about Tesla’s previous and upcoming third-row seating options, the design would likely be rear-facing. Jump seats in the Model S were popular among the sedan’s owners before the release of the Model X. Additionally, the upcoming release of the Plaid Mode Model S will include rear-facing jump seats that will support larger passengers instead of just children.
The Model Y was always aimed toward being the safest midsize SUV on the road. With the inclusion of an optional third row of seats, the Model Y’s rear collision safety had to be revamped and rejuvenated. The addition of shear bolts for durability and increased thickness in some areas for added strength was likely added to improve the safety of third-row passengers in an accident.
Watch Munro’s video of the improved rear castings and safety design of the Model Y below.