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M3 excellent for those with chemical/environmental sensitivity...with slight modification

I wanted to report back on the model 3 in regards to chemical sensitivities and environmental illness (EI). Everyone with EI will be different in their tolerance level and specific sensitivities, so take this all with that in mind.

The 3 started off not being nearly as bad for me as the model S was when we got it (leather). It was six months or so before I could even be in the model S for 10 to 15 minutes without feeling mildly ill for a day or two. The 3 was a couple months old according to the VIN, which would've helped (unless tires have improved it certainly seemed to help the tires from offgassing to the garage as much), and also I had asked for no detailing/processing to happen at the delivery location that might add chemicals, which we didn't think to do with the S, and we took delivery outside instead of inside.

It still had some unusual chemical odor; but over time I was able to be in it for increasing periods without headaches, nausea, dizziness, or other symptoms I get from different classes of slight amounts of toxins (amounts I would have scoffed at before acquiring this disease). I was leaving it in the sun with the windows partially open, but at a certain point it didn't seem to change very much over time . I decided I would just live with it and see if I got used to it. That was after less than 3 months of ownership, when I expected to not drive it for at least six months as my primary vehicle (my husband got to drive it and I drove his S.)

So before switching I was cleaning out the car, to see if I could get it less reaction inducing, and there was no film on the glass indicative of offgassing, a positive sign. Then I went to clean under the rubber mats in the console, and noticed that they had that same scent, just a bit stronger than the car. I took out all the various pieces I could find –one in each of the four doors (where pens might go), and in the console there were a few, and put them in the trunk. That helped enough that I decided to take them out of the trunk (which I read vents into the cabin) and put a container in the garage. the only one I even noticed missing is the one that the phones rested on.

The next day the car was noticeably better but I still detected the same slight odor. What really surprised me was how long it took the last of the odor to completely disappear from the car. At least a couple weeks, maybe a month, though I didn't note it or write it down. But now, that odor is completely gone to my senses. my senses may have acclimated,but I have had breaks when traveling, and usually that's enough to reverse it. I'm not as sensitive as some people I've met, of course, so YMMV, but compared to the normal population, I'm fairly ridiculously sensitive. ( as a sidenote, in case you're curious, it was triggered as a cross reaction to severe toxic mold we found in our house several years ago plus exposure to chemicals in the remodeling process) .

I think if Tesla ran some testing measuring VOC offgassing without these mats in the car, they could sell this "VOC free" feature particularly with the clientele that Tesla attracts. What they should consider doing for now is giving the customer these rubber mats separately, ideally after some in-house offgassing. I suspect that for most people, a few days to a few weeks in the sun or even open air would be enough to help quite a lot, without all those fumes permeating the car first. Even now when I take them out of their plastic tub, they aren't obviously stinky. Of course the better option long-term is to swap out the material for something more chemically inert, but this one would be an easy solution.

In the meantime, any ideas for replacing the rubber mat under the phones that hides the power cord wiring? I was thinking something simple maybe like black felt or craft foam. I don't need thickness, because my phone has a case and it was tight with the rubber mat anyway.


  • Informative
Reactions: njsrikar


Active Member
Aug 8, 2016
I notice little or no new car smell in my 3. We picked up a Mercedes at the factory in Germany and had to drive with all 4 windows down and the AC on full to dilute the VOCs. It probably would not have been so bad if it had not literally come straight from the factory with no time to outgas.

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