Norway has issued a penalty of $16,000 per vehicle in a case against Tesla that accuses the company of “throttling” both battery capacity and charging time in a 2019 software update. Tesla says that the update was meant to increase the battery life in Model S and Model X vehicles with 85 kWh batteries. The software update decreased vehicle range by between 12 and 30 miles per charge and increased charging time.
The matter sparked a series of lawsuits against Tesla and 30 of them were combined into Norway’s equivalent of a class action lawsuit. The $16,000 per vehicle owner penalty will be distributed among Tesla vehicle owners who choose to claim it, which could result in millions of U.S. dollars being paid out by Tesla. There are more than 10,000 Tesla vehicle owners in Norway.
Charging time is a major factor in what industry insiders call “range anxiety,” in which electric vehicle owners worry that their vehicles may not have enough range to reach their destination and they could be stranded. Efforts to solve this problem include public and private investments in infrastructure designed to support electric vehicles, such as more charging stations. This is likely to be a challenge in some cases, considering that experts say that the UK alone will need up to 2.3 million chargers to have enough infrastructure to meet its requirement that all new vehicles sold in the UK will have to be fully electric by 2030.
The Oxford City Council has recently partnered with privately owned businesses to develop the Oxford Superhub, which will include a few Tesla Superchargers. The European company Fastned is currently working on developing a network of 1,000 solar powered charging stations throughout Europe, starting with one in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Other companies such as the Israeli company SlashDot are working on improvements to electric car batteries that could speed up charging times. SlashDot already has a prototype for a battery that could add up to 100 miles of charge in five minutes, which is comparable to how long it usually takes to fill up an average vehicle’s gas tank. It was talking to manufacturers such as China’s Eve Energy to produce the batteries for market. SlashDot CEO Doron Myersdorf said the company was primarily interested in solving the range anxiety problem.
“You’re either afraid that you’re going to get stuck on the highway or you’re going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fueling [a petrol car], this whole anxiety goes away,” he said when the new battery was introduced.
Tesla’s throttling of its own batteries apparently went completely in the other direction by reducing range and increasing charging times. Although it has plans to recycle critical EV components like batteries at some facilities like Gigafactory Shanghai, the relevant software update might have been sparked by concerns about the costs involved in producing replacement batteries. It has not issued a statement in response to Norway’s ruling in the related lawsuit and there is not yet any word on whether it intends to appeal.