Tesla to pay $1.5 million as settlement in battery throttling case

(Photo: Ma. Claribelle Deveza)

Tesla has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle claims that one of its over-the-air software updates ended up temporarily reducing the maximum battery voltage of over 1,700 Model S sedans. Owners of the vehicles would be receiving $625 each, partly because the settlement’s amount would also be utilized to cover lawyers’ fees. 

Proposed settlement documents filed earlier this week in the US District Court in San Francisco noted that the $625 that would be awarded to affected Model S owners is “many times the prorated value of the temporarily reduced maximum voltage,” as per a report from Reuters. Tesla, for its part, has remained silent about the issue. 

In May 2019, Tesla rolled out a battery safety update following an incident in Hong Kong involving a Model S catching fire. The update was aimed at improving the longevity of the Model S and Model X’s batteries by optimizing the thermal management system of the vehicles’ battery packs. 

A representative from Tesla explained the rationale behind the update in a statement. “As we continue our investigation of the root cause (of the Model S fire), out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity,” the Tesla spokesperson said. 

While the update ensured that Model S and Model X were as safe as possible, it also reduced the maximum voltage on which some Tesla Model S sedans could be charged. One of the affected Model S owners, David Rasmussen, complained to the court in August 2019, stating that Tesla had throttled his car’s battery. Filings to the court indicated that 1,743 Model S were adversely impacted by the update. 

Tesla eventually rolled out another software update in March 2020 to restore the batteries of the affected Model S vehicles back to their maximum voltage. As noted in a CNBC report, court filings this week have revealed that since then, 1,552 of the affected Model S sedans have already had their batteries’ voltage restored, while 57 vehicles ended up receiving full battery replacements. Other Model S owners whose vehicles were affected should also see their batteries’ maximum voltage restored over time. 

Apart from the $1.5 million settlement, Tesla would also have to “maintain diagnostic software for in-warranty vehicles to notify owners and lessees of vehicles that Tesla determines may need battery service or repair for certain battery issues.” This would allow affected owners to monitor the state of their vehicles as needed. 

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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