Tesla Software Updates Cut Range New Lawsuit Claims

On Wednesday, Tesla was slapped with a class-action lawsuit, according to Reuters.  The lawsuit claims a software update meant to band-aid what plaintiffs claim are defective batteries to avoid a recall, shortened battery range significantly. The suit says this affects thousands of older Model S and Model X cars.

Lost Range Details

The lost range is said to be 40 miles. Tesla cars have stepped pricing based on the range, with each higher cost version offering more miles between charges. Since values are partially based on a car’s range, the lawsuit says their value is reduced. 

“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,” a Tesla spokesperson said. Tesla says it has been working on the problem and “have been rolling out over-the-air updates to address this issue since last week.”

Teslas Safer On Average

Multiple updates were prompted by a series of fires over the last year. On Tesla’s website, they say their cars catching on fire from overheated batteries is exceptionally rare. From 2012 to 2018 they claim one Tesla caught fire for every 170 million miles traveled. That is compared to the National Fire Protection Association and the US Department of Transportation data showing that for all vehicles on the road one vehicle catches on fire for every 19 million miles of use, on average.

“Behind Customers Backs”

The suit claims Tesla “chose to go behind the backs of its customers and use software updates and throttling of the battery to avoid liability.” Some owners have sought a remedy to the problem through arbitration, while others have sold their Teslas outright. Still, others have blocked their Wi-Fi so as not to receive further software updates. 

“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 defects,” the lawsuit states.

Battery Degradation

Tesla notes that the batteries are covered with an eight-year warranty and that shorter range is part of the battery’s normal degradation. 

After a fire in May, Tesla changed charging and thermal management settings “to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity,” they stated. After complaints from owners, Tesla planned in June to change the software again. At the time Tesla said their cars were 10-times less likely to catch fire as a gasoline-powered car.