The lawsuit claims older batteries have lost up to 40 miles of range.
A Tesla Model S owner is suing the company in a Northern California federal court, alleging Tesla fraudulently cut the range of older Model S and Model X units through software updates. The lawsuit seeks class action status, as it claims “thousands” of older-generation batteries have seen their range drop by as much as 40 miles, according to a Reuters report.
Currently, Tesla’s Model S and Model X both manage over 300 miles on a charge, as certified by the EPA. However, the report points out that online owner forums like TeslaMotorsClub.com have owner stories regarding lost range. They claim Tesla arbitrarily lowered the range through a software update. That reduces the range and increases the frequency owners have to charge. The lawsuit alleges Tesla pushed the software update instead of instigating a costly recall over what plaintiffs say are defective batteries.
“Under the guise of ‘safety’ and ‘increasing the longevity’ of the batteries of the Class Vehicles, Tesla fraudulently manipulated its software with the intent to avoid its duties and legal obligations to customers to fix, repair, or replace the batteries of the Class Vehicles, all of which Tesla knew were defective, yet failed to inform its customers of the defect,” the lawsuit says. These allegations point to cases like in May 2019, where a Tesla Model S caught fire in Hong Kong.
A Tesla spokesperson said the company’s highest priority was ‘to deliver the best possible customer experience with the highest regard for safety,” according to the Reuters report. “A very small percentage of owners of older Model S and Model X vehicles may have noticed a small reduction in range when charging to a maximum state of charge following a software update designed to improve battery longevity.” For its part, Tesla said it was working to address the range issues and “have been rolling out over-the-air updates to address this issue since last week.”
Whether or not Tesla is directly tackling the issue at this point, the lawsuit does point to dissatisfied owners. Reuters covers the case of Nick Smith of Orlando, Florida, for instance. Smith said he was frustrated with Tesla’s poor customer service, including slow responses to his calls and e-mails. He said he was kept in the dark about the cause of his range degradation problem and what Tesla planned to do to fix it. “It’s as if you take your car to the shop and you have a 20 gallon tank but now you have a 10 gallon tank without your knowledge or permission,” he said in an interview.
Other owners claim their cars will no longer charge past 90 percent after the software update in question. Plaintiff David Rasmussen’s 2014 Tesla Model S P85 lost the equivalent of 8 kWh in range, or about 10 percent. The lawsuit says Tesla told Rasmussen that sort of degradation was normal. This Electrek report shows data from TeslaMotorsClub showing Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles should lose about half that over their first 50,000 miles.
Tesla’s battery warranty lasts 8 years or 125,000 miles on Model S and Model X, excluding original 60 kWh models built before 2015. “These warranties cover the repair or replacement necessary to correct defects in the materials or workmanship of any parts manufactured or supplied by Tesla, which occur under normal use,” according to Tesla’s website.