Marc Carter

"Bricked" Tesla Roadster Battery Launches Electric Vehicle Debate

by , 02/23/12

Tesla, battery, electric car battery, electric vehicle, elon musk, green car, green cars, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Tesla Roadster

The electric car community is up in arms about a story involving a “dead” Tesla Roadster and its owner. Max Drucker, a Tesla Roadster owner had the unfortunate experience of his beloved Roadster’s battery dying after being parked in a garage for two months. Drucker left the Roadster in the garage, unplugged, which caused the battery to die. Upon having it towed to a Tesla service center, Tesla determined that the battery in his Roadster needed to be replaced at an astronomical cost of $40,000. After receiving the bad news, Drucker sent a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk about his unhappiness with his “bricked” Roadster, claiming a design flaw caused the battery to die. But Tesla is denying these charges, saying that Drucker failed to properly care for the automobile.

Tesla, battery, electric car battery, electric vehicle, elon musk, green car, green cars, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Tesla Roadster

Michael Degusta wrote about the “bricked” Tesla on his blog, The Understatement, where he identified an apparent design flaw in which a Tesla Roadster can become a “brick” if it is parked without being plugged in. “The parasitic load from the car’s always-on subsystems continually drains the battery and if the battery’s charge is ever totally depleted, it is essentially destroyed.” Degusta also stated, “Complete discharge can happen even when the car is plugged in if it isn’t receiving sufficient current to charge, which can be caused by something as simple as using an extension cord.”

Degusta claims that at least five Tesla Roadsters have been “bricked.” But, is this unfortunate situation the fault of the owners’ neglect and failure to fully read the owner’s manual or a real design flaw?

Tesla is denying Degusta’s claims and released this statement:

All automobiles require some level of owner care. For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time.

Tesla also reportedly has buyers sign a document at the time of purchase to acknowledge the fact that they have been informed that it’s the owner’s responsibility to keep their vehicle plugged in. The document also says that not keeping their Tesla plugged in when it’s being stored could cause damage that is not covered under the vehicle’s warranty.

The electric car community is apparently also on the side of Tesla, in which Degusta’s statements are being labeled as not entirely correct. IT World in particular is claiming that it’s not possible to “brick” a Tesla by having a dead battery pack. According to IT World, the Tesla Roadster does not in fact have a battery pack, but instead its battery is a collection of more than 8,000 individual batteries. Each of the more than 8,000 batteries are individually managed making it hard for the entire system to fail. There are only two ways for it to actually fail: in the case of something catastrophic like a fire or if the battery management system tells the pack to shut down because it has detected a dangerous situation, such as an extremely low depth of discharge.

If the second situation were to happen, the vehicle would simply need to be recharged and the battery management system rebooted. IT World also claims that the battery management system in the Tesla Roadster keeps the battery from being fully discharged to a level that would damage the battery. Tesla also states that owners of Tesla Roadster 2.0 models and all subsequent Tesla products can also request that their Tesla alert them if the battery drops to a low level. Tesla claims that all its models emit various visual and audible warnings if the better falls below 5 percent.

It looks like Tesla took the necessary steps to inform Tesla owners, but could Tesla have done even more to educate its owners?

Via + IT World

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4 Comments

  1. jbfalaska June 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Volt has memory protection. Simply can’t happen. The Tesla should step up and take car of the design issue at the very least. 6,000 laptop batteries are hard to buy and configured. That’s a lot of foriegn battery cost.

  2. Wevenhuis February 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

    If the analogy by Tesla is correct they are actually advertising that fuel cars are still the better choice of electric. A stored fuel car in the garage will still function optimally after two months, with no bricking or need for an oil change, whilst an electric car unplugged will probably will have to be replaced for a preposterous amount of money. Thus it looks like we’ll still be stuck with fuel dependency till we get the formula right for longterm battery dependancy and less plugged in dependancy. That is after all, what we are all aiming for. It is us who determine when we power up and maintain the car properly, not the technology.

  3. caeman February 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

    This is going to be a PR disaster for Tesla. There is simply no excuse for this. Their example of “engines requiring oil changes” is so not the same thing as this problem. And at $40,000, that is price of new Prius. If this were an engine’d car, per their analogy, a new engine would only cost about a few thousand dollars, not $40k.

  4. mkitty February 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    They could have a better design. Other electric cars have a normal, cheap, 12V car (or even MC) battery for the always-on systems and only use the expensive batteries for actually driving the car, and disconnect the expensive batteries when parked without charging. Mind, the expensive batteries *will* discharge over time even disconnected, but it’ll take a year or two.

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