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Why didn't Tesla combine the electronic door release button with the mechanical emergency handle?

Gauss Guzzler

Dec 27, 2020
Thousand Oaks, California
The emergency handles on the front doors are nicely made and well positioned in a familiar/intuitive location. Why did Tesla camouflage them and add separate electronic release buttons instead of simply integrating the electronic triggers into the mechanical handles?

The emergency handle requires a pretty long pull to finally release so they could have easily designed it to trigger the electronic release with the slightest pull such that the window sequence could still activate in time even if the handle was pulled all the way fairly quickly.

Style and ergonomics aside, there is a safety aspect to this that has always bothered me. Passengers may not know about the emergency handle as it's fairly well disguised and even the owner is likely to forget about it in a panic. I can certainly imagine someone buying an old Tesla on Craigslist and driving it for years without ever knowing about the release handle. That guy who was stuck in his own Cadillac clearly didn't know/remember the emergency release and while the Tesla handle is easier to find, it still needs to be found.

So now we have the Plaid S being delivered with a critical flaw that causes a complete shutdown of the 12V system and at least two of the first owners have had to use the mechanical handles to escape - one would have died had he not found the emergency handle as quickly as he did. They'll find the cause of these 12V failures and get all the cars updated promptly but there will surely be other 12V failures in the future accompanied by life-threatening fires/floods/etc. and one of these times someone is going to fail to find the emergency handle.

At some point in the Model 3 design stage a bunch of engineers gathered in a conference room for a PowerPoint presentation of the proposed handle design and surely someone must have asked:
"Wait, why do we need two separate release systems in two different locations? Can't they just be combined for better aesthetics, ergonomics, cost, and safety?"

Surely they discussed the safety implications of their decision to camouflage the emergency handle to prevent damage from accidental use.
"Wait, we're going to deliberately try to hide the emergency release?"

Surely they all knew about the Cadillac story and the many negative forum posts regarding the 3/Y emergency handles long before they even started designing the Plaid, yet they implemented the same system in the S refresh.

Why would they do that?


Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
Visalia, CA
2012 to 2020 Model S and Model X front doors' interior handles are functional with both electricity and without.

With electricity, it's lighter to pull the handle. Without electricity, that same handle also opens the front door but you might feel it's not as light.

Starting 2021, all front door handles are like the 3 and Y: 2 separate ways at 2 different locations to open front doors: push electronically or pull mechanically.

I have no idea why.


Mar 19, 2021
If pulling the manual handle might break the glass, then combining the electrical switch with it during the first few degrees of pull increases the chance that the manual release would be triggered too fast.

That also takes away from the 'future' aesthetic where features are activated by push / capacitive buttons that don't rely on simple mechanics, if possible, and the action is separated from the trigger.

I can see why they did it, but it doesn't work as well in real life. Definitely a nice blueprint dream, tho.

The emergency handle is well placed, imo. The first time in the car I pulled it up on the way out without realizing it. As does anyone else who isn't taught the proper way to exit. It's camouflaged in the right place where it will be if needed.

That said, the design of the entirety of the door is easily at the top of my list for worst features of the car. I like the design of the cubby holes and window buttons (thankfully they kept those physical and not on the screen!), everything else is awkward.
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Gauss Guzzler

Dec 27, 2020
Thousand Oaks, California
Oh, I didn't know that the S/X had used combined electronic/mechanical handles from the start! It's easy to imagine pulling one of those handles too quickly so I wonder if they saw excessive damage occurring and devised the 3 solution in response.

It'd be a bummer if that really was the case. They nearly had it right with the S and by simply changing to the more convoluted 3 handle they might have had it perfected.

If you haven't tried the emergency handle recently, roll down the window and give it a test. The spring force is uncomfortably strong and you have to pull it uncomfortably far before it even begins to engage the very firm mechanical resistance of the latch. There's just no way any sane person could yank it all the way open in a fraction of a second. Tesla could have easily made the first 5mm of travel be soft and triggered the release within that range. Yet they passed up two opportunities to do so, first with the S refresh, and again with the 3/Y door panel update.
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