A Tesla owner has filed a lawsuit against the electric vehicle maker, claiming the company limited the battery range of older vehicles via a software update to avoid a costly recall to fix what plaintiffs allege are defective batteries.
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Northern California federal court alleges fraud and seeks class action status for the potentially “thousands” of such Model S and X owners around the world who have seen the range of their older-generation batteries suddenly curtailed, some by as much as 40 miles (64 km).
The lost range has been a hot topic since May on online owner forums, such as TeslaMotorsClub.com, in which many owners detail how their battery range has fallen. Some users bought more expensive models because they offered greater range. They say Tesla took this away with the software update, thereby devaluing the car, limiting the distance they can travel and forcing them to recharge more frequently.
Plaintiff David Rasmussen’s 2014 Model S 85 lost battery capacity equivalent to about 8kWh but was told by Tesla the degradation was normal, the lawsuit says, Reuters writes.
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.
It added that it was working to mitigate the impact on range for affected owners and “have been rolling out over-the-air updates to address this issue since last week.”
The issue first came to light in May. After a Model S caught fire in Hong Kong, 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 Wi-Fi to avoid any software updates that could affect their range.