Tesla Settles Lawsuit Alleging Company Reduced Battery Capacity

Tesla has settled a class-action lawsuit alleging that it reduced its vehicles’ battery capacity in a 2019 software update. The settlement, worth a total of $1.5 million, will be split among the owners of the 1,743 vehicles that were affected by the update.

The class-action suit had been filed by the owner of a Model S named David Rasmussen in August 2019. The software update had reduced the maximum available charge in the battery by 10%, which was later reduced to 7%. Tesla undid the reduction in a May 2020 update.

Norway also recently fined Tesla $16,000 per vehicle in a similar case in which Tesla vehicles lost between 12 and 30 miles of range and saw an increase in charging time due to the 2019 update.

Elon Musk acknowledged the settlement in a series of tweets implying that Tesla would have fought the lawsuit to its natural conclusion if it thought that the Tesla owners were only looking for a quick buck without anything actually being wrong with their vehicles.

Musk did recently testify in a lawsuit brought by holders of Tesla stock claiming that the company’s acquisition of SolarCity was purely a bailout of his cousins. Testimony has also been recorded in a case alleging a prevalent racist culture in Tesla’s workplaces. So Musk isn’t afraid to duke it out in court when he thinks the plaintiffs are in the wrong.

It may have baffled some people why Tesla would have effectively “throttled” its vehicle batteries in an environment where improvements to battery technology include one Israeli company’s battery that can add an average of 100 miles of range in 5 minutes and is already ready to be manufactured. Elon Musk also announced a more efficient battery-making process during last year’s Battery Day event.

Some experts did theorize that the move was meant to extend the battery life. A battery can only be charged so many times before it loses its effectiveness and not charging it fully each time can reduce the frequency with which it would have to be replaced. In some countries, regulations require that automakers like Tesla accept the return of old batteries, typically for recycling or safe disposal. Tesla especially plans to recycle critical vehicle components like batteries at Gigafactory Shanghai. On the flip side, it did recently get fined by Germany for not issuing public notifications detailing its plans to accept battery returns.

The Tesla owners who brought the complaints about battery throttling in Norway and the United States may have been annoyed despite concerns about battery life due to “range anxiety,” or worries about the amount of time it takes to charge an electric vehicle and how far they could go on a single charge. Tesla’s efforts to combat range anxiety include its investment in an ever-growing network of Superchargers, which it says will be made available to electric vehicles made by other manufacturers in the near future. It has also partnered with other companies like Fastned to place a few Superchargers at their charging stations.