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Tesla owner who saw range slashed by software update filed class action lawsuit

Tesla is now facing a class-action lawsuit from an owner, who like several other Tesla owners earlier this year, saw the range of his car slashed by a software update.

Earlier this year, we reported on several reports from Tesla owners about seeing significant drops in range from 12 to 30 miles over a short period of time.

Only Model S and Model X vehicles with 85 kWh battery packs, which were discontinued in 2016, seem to be affected at this point.

For most owners, the range drop happened after updating to Tesla’s 2019.16.1 and .2 software updates.

Tesla owner David Rasmussen got one of the most severe drops we have seen so far.

At the time, he told Electrek:

“My 2014 Model S 85 was getting Rated Range of 247 miles until May 13. Now after the next update, it continued to drop to now 217 miles. This is an 11% drop in 5 weeks.”

Rasmussen has been plotting the battery capacity degradation of his Model S over the last 100,000 miles or so and the recent drop is quite obvious:

He went to his local Tesla service center with the issue and like most other owners reporting the same issue, he was told that is “normal degradation” of the battery pack.

After our report, Tesla said that the goal of the update is to “protect the battery and improve battery longevity” and it resulted in a range loss for only “a small percentage of owners.”

The automaker said that it was working on a solution, but nothing has changed months later.

Now Rasmussen is leading a class-action lawsuit over the issue filed in the Northern District of California today.

The suit can be confusing because it brings up 3 issues that are tightly intertwined.

Rasmussen explained in an email to Electrek:

“The obvious issue and the most direct effect is the reduced range due to software updates. The method Tesla used was to limit our (those few of us affected) range (ie. battery capacity) was by reducing the maximum charge voltage of the battery pack. Then Tesla’s response to requests for a refurbished battery under warranty was met with rejection and insulting assertions (such as drive with the AC off and the windows up to increase our range).”

The Tesla owner also says that he is seeing slower charging since the update.

Finally, he is also worried about the reason for the update in the first place since Tesla only said that it was to “protect” the battery pack.

He told Electrek:

“The timing seems that it was related to the unattended vehicle fires (Shanghai, San Francisco and Hong Kong?? and later Germany). I believe Tesla detected something in our batteries that warned them of impending danger. But Tesla denies this. I am not only annoyed at the software reduced range (NOT battery degradation) but a bit fearful of parking my car in my garage.”

Rasmussen also filed a complaint with NHTSA over the issue.

We contacted Tesla regarding the legal matter and the company didn’t respond to our request for comment.

Update: Tesla sent us the following response following the report:

“Delivering the best possible customer experience with the highest regard for safety has always been our priority, and we do not disregard either of these things as this complaint suggests. 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. As previously noted, we have been working to mitigate the impact on range for these owners and have been rolling out over-the-air updates to address this issue since last week.”

Here’s the lawsuit in full:

[scribd id=421241548 key=key-aYWkeWp4bdqrsJcXnPJE mode=scroll]

Electrek’s Take

That’s kind of dumb. I believe Tesla could have avoided this legal action, which win or lose is likely going to be costly, by simply communicating better.

Tesla should be clear about the reason for the update in the first place and what they are doing to give the range back to those people.

But the communication about this issue has been poor so far and now some owners are clearly frustrated enough to start legal action.

While I’m not a fan of that, I can’t really blame them.

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