Tesla Sued Over OTA Range Cut Claims

Tesla could be taken to court over an owner’s claims that it deliberately lowered the range of older vehicles to avoid a fix of allegedly defective batteries.

Reuters reported that the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Northern California federal court alleges the carmaker issued an OTA update that lowered the potential range of the older vehicles of Model S and Model X between charges. The suit claims potentially “thousands” of Tesla cars around the world could have seen range cut by up to 40 miles thanks to the software update.

Online owner forums, such as TeslaMotorsClub.com, have seen many owners detail how their battery range has fallen. They say Tesla has devalued their vehicles, limiting the distance they can travel and forcing them to recharge more frequently.

The issue first came to light in May after a Model S caught fire in Hong Kong, when Tesla said that out of an overabundance of caution it was revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and X vehicles via an over-the-air software update. The goal was “to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity,” it said. In June, it said it planned to improve the impact of the software update after some owners complained.

Some owners who have seen their cars no longer able to charge to 100% have sought redress through arbitration, while at least three have sold their cars, according to Teslamotorsclub.com forum posts. Others have disabled their wifi to avoid any software updates that could affect their range.

Plaintiff David Rasmussen alleges his 2014 Model S 85 lost battery capacity equivalent to about 8kWh but was told by Tesla the degradation was normal, the lawsuit says. A Tesla spokesperson said the company’s priority was to deliver the best possible customer experience with the highest regard for safety. “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,” Tesla said.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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