James May Is Annoyed at His Tesla Model S Battery

James May knows his way around cars. As the co-presenter of Top Gear alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, he has been well-versed in automoviles for many years. After leaving his Tesla Model S plugged in while he was away, he returned to a dead electric vehicle in his garage.

Does James May own a Tesla Model S?

A Tesla Model S plugged in to charge
A charging cable sits plugged into a Tesla Model S | Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yes, yes, he does. James has been away for a bit filming his Amazon Video show, The Grand Tour. While he was away, the Tesla Model S plugged in and went off. Assuming his car would be charged and ready for his return, May instead returned to a dead battery.

May explains in the above Drivetribe video below that Tesla electric vehicles have two batteries. The first battery is the one that charges at home and at a station that powers the wheels. The second battery is a regular 12-volt battery that charges basically everything else.

If this one dies, the car won’t start. It also won’t keep the smaller battery charged, so in general, it can die after some time.

Apparently, when the larger battery is fully charged, the charging system of the car shuts off. Thus, the 12-volt battery under the frunk (front trunk) was no longer charging. Since the smaller battery powers things like the locks, May was unable to get into his car.

The frunk would not open due to the dead battery, so he couldn’t even access the battery. In order to get to the battery, he had to get in through the emergency releases. After that, there was a myriad of parts still in the way. The journey to the 12-volt was not over.

How to access the Tesla Model S battery

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May noted that the frunk would not open due to the dead battery, so he couldn’t even access the battery to charge it. In other words, to get to the battery, the hood must open. For the hood to open, the battery has to be working.

To get to the battery, May had to get in through the emergency releases. The plastic trim from the wheel has to be removed from both front tire areas to reach these emergency release cables. One must pull the emergency releases on both sides simultaneously.

After that, there was a myriad of parts still in the way. The journey to the 12-volt was not over. The battery is underneath a few panels, secured by some clips, and then under another panel or two.

As May fidgeted with the duct piece and the various panels, he noted it took an hour to finally get to. If it takes James May an hour to get to in his garage, surrounded by tools and knowledge, imagine how long it might take an individual with fewer resources?

Eventually, May was able to figure it out and get his Tesla charging.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E had a similar issue

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According to a service bulletin put out by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), early Ford Mustang Mach-E owners were having a similar issue. The bulletin notes that Mach-E electric vehicles built on or before February 3, 2021, might be impacted.

“Some 2021 Mustang Mach-E vehicles built on or before 3-Feb-2021 may exhibit the 12-volt battery becoming discharged while the vehicle is plugged in during the high voltage charging process. This may be due to the parameters in the powertrain control module (PCM).”

NHTSA

A software glitch was causing the 12-volt battery to discharge while the other battery was charging. This left drivers with a fully charged vehicle that was unable to start.

Dealerships were able to reprogram some of the electronic control modules to override the issue, but not before some drivers learned the hard way. Is this an issue that automakers can fix before it causes more headaches? That is to be determined.