back to article Achievement unlocked: Tesla boosts batteries for Irma refugees

Over the weekend Tesla began pushing a software update to certain Model S and Model X vehicles to increase battery capacity, in the hope that extended vehicle range might help customers fleeing Hurricane Irma and successive storms in Florida. "Due to these exceptional circumstances, and to help you better prepare to evacuate …

  1. Sureo

    additional battery capacity

    This might be a good time to disable updates, if you can. Or maybe the car will just refuse to go anymore. Not really your car, is it?

    1. Prosthetic Conscience
      Joke

      Re: additional battery capacity

      Locks the doors and cuts off the air supply presumably. The problem is it can't distinguish between that and losing mobile signal to the controlling servers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: additional battery capacity

      This might be a good time to disable updates, if you can.

      I don't believe you can unless you sabotage the cellular modem in your car. That will most likely invalidate your car's warranty and you'll be stuck with the "car needs service" warning being displayed forever.

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: additional battery capacity

      " Or maybe the car will just refuse to go anymore"

      You mean like if Elon decides "Naughty peons - for you 24 hours without car" ?

      Is that likely? or do you mean failed update means no boot?

      or hackers get in and screw it?

      Either way, same set up as your pc , and I think we agree updates are a good idea.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: I think we agree updates are a good idea.

        We agree security patches are a good idea. Using an update to remove functionality is not something most of us would agree with. If i buy a product i like to know what it can do, i don't expect it's capabilities to be restricted later by the manufacturer, certainly not without my consent...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think we agree updates are a good idea.

          ...and even enhancements are a problem. I might like the way things are and not want what the manufacturer calls an enhancement.

          With my PC I used to be able to pick and choose with Windows and even today there are things like classic shell... or there's Linux which works on the same hardware and doesn't invalidate my warranty.

          If I had a Tesla I'd be stuck. I get what they give me and I can't get it from anywhere else.....

          Personally I don't want to go down that road.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: and I think we agree updates are a good idea.

        In theory, but in practice?

        I think here we have yet another car crash arising from theory meeting the real world...

      3. ToddRundgrensUtopia

        Re: additional battery capacity

        "Is that likely? or do you mean failed update means no boot?"

        Do you mean trunk?

  2. Florida1920

    A nice gesture, but

    It's at least 350 miles from Miami to the Georgia border, on Interstate 95. To escape Irma you'd have had to go farther. So the limited mileage available in a Tesla before needing a recharge was no way good enough, even with the boost. If you need to run for the border, you still need gas.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: A nice gesture, but

      Yes, there is a certain irony that if I was fleeing from the consequences of global warming I'd definitely choose dino fuel.

      You can't argue with an energy source that can be topped up in 5 minutes and can be augmented by a couple of 5-gallon jerry cans in the boot. Plus, discounting firearms, nobody can remotely disable those jerry cans.

  3. razorfishsl

    YAWN......

    IBM have done this for years.... pay for a full server with 4 network ports KVM and two CPU... but only get 2 NW 1CPU and no KVM, unless you enter the software codes.

    1. Scroticus Canis

      YAWN...... IBM have done this for years - more like decades

      On the old 360/370 MVS systems (1980s) the cheaper to 'buy' models were only different in the CPU's microcode having an inbuilt slug (count to a thousand before doing the next instruction type stuff). True even of the IBM clones like Persetel.

      You could temporarily lower or remove the slug to improve performance for busy periods, like year end or a big DB reorganisation and IBM would bill you for the time it was removed in the next monthly support invoice.

  4. Martin Summers

    Wasting battery capacity and holding it to ransom like that is a cheap trick. I'm amazed they do this. Can you imagine a pop up on a phone losing battery power saying you can unlock extra power to give you an hour longer for an extra £10? I just wouldn't buy it. We are all used to unlocking extra software features and that's fair enough, but hardware? Come on really? I hate to be cynical in the face of supposed altruism but Tesla owners are hardly poor and this just sounds like a sales trick to fleece them out of more cash when they've got used to the extra range.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Can you imagine a CPU that could run at 3.0Ghz being locked to 2.0 and sold at a lower price?

      Or would it make more sense for Tesla to build two separate production lines to make two separate battery packs and pass on the increased costs to both sets of customers

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        "Can you imagine a CPU that could run at 3.0Ghz being locked to 2.0 and sold at a lower price?"

        Yeah i can , what a dirty marketing trick.

        The 2ghz price was obviously the correct price for the 3ghz.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Remember the AMD processors that were sold with 4 cores but, if you were lucky, actually had 6 cores. Activating the extra cores was a risk because the Chip had failed some test to a greater (bad) or lesser (good) degree.

          Still don't know it this was just an internet story or actual fact. My 4 core very much stayed at 4.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Well, not exactly. We are all used to paying more to get more functionality. Although the reason for this is rarely questioned, the underlying rationale is that we believe that it costs the manufacturer/supplier more to provide us an improved product/service.

      But what happens when it costs the same or less to the manufacturer/supplier to provide a better product/service than a worse one? Basically all the intuition about what the cost to the customer should be breaks down, but just because it is counter-intuitive does not mean it isn't right. This has been happening for a while in the automotive industry, not just Tesla (I belive it started with Audi). Basically it costs more to fit every single car with a customised part list than it does to fit every car with a full spec of all available options, because all the gadgets, sensors, electronics etc are cheaper than the labour it takes to customise each vehicle.*

      If some people are not willing to pay the full price for a full spec list and are willing to pay a reduced price for a reduced spec list, why does it matter if the missing (not paid for) functionality is missing in hardware or software? It's true that the manufacturer could retain the technical capability of removing existing (paid for) functionality with a software update. But that would be a contractual breach** not to mention a PR nightmare for whoever did it.

      By the way, every time you go into a coffee shop, notice how all the tea / coffee / frappe / macchiato lungo espresso vanigliato all have a different price? The shop's costs are mostly rent and labour, it costs them pretty much the same almost to the cent to serve you a drink, whichever drink you choose. I doubt that anyone objects to paying more for the fancy drink than for the plain coffee even though it costs the shop the same to make.

      *In the Tesla case however, I am quite surprised that this is also the case for the battery - after all there are only 2 or 3 configurations and battery is supposed to be a very expensive part. Maybe teh battert is not that expensive for Tesla to produce after all?

      **T&Cs of an individual contract eg Tesla purchase contract cannot overrule existing country laws, so no matter what was in teh T&Cs, removal of paid-for functionality would be illegal The only plausible scenario where this would be legal would be a dangerous defect that needs to be rectified (similair to a physical product recall), and even in this case the manufacturer is legally obliged to fix to safely restore the functionality or if not possible, compensate the customer.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wasting battery capacity and holding it to ransom like that is a cheap trick. I'm amazed they do this.

      The buyers got a discount for this restriction, so it isn't like they were being robbed.

      And the idea of witholding capability is no different to the business model of other car makers. My car is a regular VW group vehicle, pretty low in the broader VW group range. It has two rear fog lights installed. But only on the higher spec vehicles is the near side foglight enabled in the Canbus software. The radio has display mirroring capability, and even built in satnav, both are disabled in software. Now, I've paid for all of the parts, the software enablement would have cost zilch at build time, but the only way I can access them is by paying the dealer several hundred quid to reset a couple of bits to 1 instead of zero.

      Most car makers only make a profit on options, extras, higher trim models and accessories (and of course, finance). If you want the makers to give up the "trickery" involved in scooping margin on all the nice to have toys and extras, then they would need to charge more for all models, most notably the base models. And they won't do that because unless all makers do it, the one who moved first would lose market share because their cars appeared more expensive, and the higher volume at the lower end of the range would be where they took most of the sales hit.

      This is how markets interact with the economics of mass production and the reality of marketing. I'd say Tesla's contribution is a very modest one, but its actually rather good, doing what little they can to help their customers. if those customers want the full 75 kWh, then they had (and still have) the option to pony up the cash for it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The buyers got a discount for this restriction,

        No, the people who got the unrestricted versions were screwed for more money to have an identical car delivered with a switch set to "A" instead of "B".

        1. jmch Silver badge

          "No, the people who got the unrestricted versions were screwed for more money to have an identical car delivered with a switch set to "A" instead of "B"."

          So what you're saying is that in your imagined alternative reality, if all Teslas are of the same, higher, spec, then Tesla would charge everyone the lower price for them? Meanwhile in teh real world, stuff costs what people are willing to pay, and people are willing to pay more for more value, and are willing to accept less value by paying less.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            value != price

            people are willing to pay more for more value, and are willing to accept less value by paying less

            If you're willing to pay $9K to have a $30K battery pack shipped with a switch flipped to a different position I have a river-crossng opportunity I'd like you to invest in...

      2. DropBear

        Just because it's an established economic policy to restrict existing identical capability for pricing purposes does not make it acceptable - not in my book. It's your choice to put something in there or not as you see fit, but if you DO put it in and then try to keep it from me two things are going to happen: a) I'll learn how to unlock it in short order and b) I'll never ever do business with you again if there's any way in hell I can help it.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          "Just because it's an established economic policy to restrict existing identical capability for pricing purposes..."

          Did it occur to you that this is established policy not because the car (or any other item, really) manufacturer wants to shaft richer customers, but because they want to accommodate less rich customers?

          Tesla are a capitalist company. That means if it were cheaper for them to provide a 60kWh battery than to provide a 75kWh one and restrict it to 60kWh via software, that's exactly what they would do. And if their market research showed them that customers were willing to pay more for a car that physically has a 60kWh battery than for a car with a 75kWh battery restricted to 60kWh, that's what they would produce.

          They do it the way they do it exactly because this is accepted by their customers. You don;t like it, I get it. So don't buy any software-restricted product. I'm sure you can live a lon gand happy life without.

          " a) I'll learn how to unlock it in short order and b) I'll never ever do business with you again"

          That's no different to buying a software license for a software X home edition, and hacking the key to upgrade it to the Pro version. If you are really so upset by the practice, jump straight to (b) and don't do business with them in the first place

    4. ridley

      Isn't it Apple that already does this with the battery capacity indicator, so that it appears that your phone/laptop can last as long on a full charge after a few years as it did when first bought?

    5. Valerion

      Wasting battery capacity and holding it to ransom like that is a cheap trick. I'm amazed they do this.

      I'm amazed anyone has a problem with it and can't see the actual situation.

      Customers were after cheaper cars with a smaller range and smaller battery. Rather than develop the smaller battery, tool up to provide it, and then have to worry about 2 production lines, it is much cheaper and more efficient for them to provide the larger battery and not worry about the smaller one at all.

      Customer pays for a 60kw car and they get one. Other customers pay for a 75kw car and they get one.

      Added bonus (for Tesla) - they don't have to worry about adjusting production for demand.

      Added bonus (for the customer) - they can unlock the rest of the range if they decide to pay extra, rather than having to buy an entire new car.

      This is in pretty much the same way as how car manufacturers produce identical engines with different power outputs. My wife's car, for example, had 110BHP and 135BHP options (IIRC). The 135 is more expensive by a couple of grand, but the engines are identical - just tuned differently and with the ECU programmed differently.

      Tesla are not ripping anyone off.

    6. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      @ Martin Summers and Others

      By restricting the battery capacity there is a reduced possibility of battery failure, hence reduced warranty liability. I know this because I am an experienced engineer. Tesler should just be upfront about reasons behind the extra cost for extra capacity (may be they are?).

  5. The Nazz

    Even unlimited battery capacity

    isn't much use when there's barely any power grid supply in the majority of the state.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even unlimited battery capacity

      Well neither is there any gasoline even if they hadn't already run dry, when the station lacks electricity.

  6. JustWondering
    Unhappy

    Ummm ...

    So, does this mean you are generally using more power and getting less range because you are hauling around a bigger battery than you may use?

    1. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: Ummm ...

      "generally using more power and getting less range because"

      Yes although the battery life will be extended a bit.

      1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: Ummm ...

        Yes although the battery life will be extended a bit.

        Will it? I can see that is would if the additional cells are used for wear levelling like the extra capacity in an SSD. But is there any evidence the cells are used that way rather than being ballast?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. battery locking

    My Samsung notebook has this.

    In actual fact it does extend battery life a bit; a good trick if the capacity has started to drop is to disable "Battery life extension" in uEFI and this gets it back.

    Tesla's limit on battery packs is to get reasonable usage lifetime out of essentially consumer grade Li-ion also overdischarge is usually what hoses cells so you can see the reasoning.

    Irony: the Prius does the same thing, runs their cells between 20 and 65% SoC as at extremes the mechanical stress is bad.

  8. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    People seem perfectly happy to rent the whole car from the manufacturer these days.

    "Ah well , you know , depreciation, servicing , MOT's , blah blah --- its just worth it"

    I've gotta admit when they spell it out I struggle to refute it , but it just seems wrong to me. Lazy . Also I guess they are comparing to a new a very nearly new car , whereas people used to make their cars last.

    Now that car bodys dont rust to pieces in 10 years , and engines can easily go 200k miles - we seem to throw them away even earlier for some reason.

    Not Green!

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      "we seem to throw them away even earlier for some reason."

      Indeed we do, due in no small part to the pervasive advertising. Friend of mine has a 12 year old Merc that still looks like a showroom model thanks to being well maintained, cleaned and polished.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "we seem to throw them away even earlier for some reason."

        Last year, we replaced a 16 year old car (which we had owned since new) with a 17 year old one, but we're expecting to get a minimum of 5 years of use out of our "new" car, because it's been really well looked after by it's previous owners. I still see our old car pootling around town at least once a week:- we sold it because we needed a bigger car, not because it was knackered.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "People seem perfectly happy to rent the whole car from the manufacturer these days."

      I'm guessing the cost of new cars has something to do with it. My Skoda was £12k new a little over 10 years ago - it's now marginally under £20k for the equivalent model.

      "Now that car bodys dont rust to pieces in 10 years , and engines can easily go 200k miles - we seem to throw them away even earlier for some reason."

      Indeed. It actually irks me a lot. Mine looks and drives like new, as do my parents' two cars (Skoda and SAAB) (ignoring a couple of touched-in stone chips) - all are over 10 years old, and aren't getting replaced any time soon (if it's not broke, don't fix it mentality).

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "what you're signing up for is a service relationship"

    And I do not like service relationships in a product that is legally MINE.

    Update my car when I bring it to the garage for its yearly check-up: The rest of the time, keep your grubby digital mitts out of my private life.

  10. nickx89

    Cool

    Just reading it sounds so cool, battery capacity being updated like on the go. Traditional cars would require dedicated time to do such a thing.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Cool

      >Traditional cars would require dedicated time to do such a thing.

      No it is a standard feature on most cars with fuel injection systems!

      The last thing you want is to have air or sludge in your fuel lines and so to prevent this your fuel gauge has been set so that your fuel tank should never be empty even when it registers as being empty.

      From my experience, in pre-digital instrumentation cars, there was typically circa 2 litres of fuel in the 'reserve tank' - a section of the tank that decanted into the main tank when the fuel gauge registered nearly empty. There is then a further 1~2 litres in the bottom of the main tank - obviously depending on age how much of that is grit and sludge is an unknown. Hence once the instruments say the tank is empty/range 0 miles, it can be a white knuckle/sweaty palm drive to find an open garage with fuel...

      1. PNGuinn
        Flame

        Re: Cool

        "The last thing you want is to have air or sludge in your fuel lines and so to prevent this your fuel gauge has been set so that your fuel tank should never be empty even when it registers as being empty."

        Sorry, I don't get this. The outlet pipey bit of the fuel tank is at the bottom, no? We drive over rough roads, take corners fast and brake hard sometimes, no?

        Shirly that'd stir up all that muck at the bottom of the tank and it'd get into the fuel system anyway. If it's a problem, fit a fuel filter. Most cars seem to have them.

        I call bs - it's an old wives urban legend.

        What you might get if you suddenly overwork an old LI battery pack? >>

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Cool

          Shirly that'd stir up all that muck at the bottom of the tank and it'd get into the fuel system anyway. If it's a problem, fit a fuel filter.

          The engine feed pipe is typically slightly proud of the tank bottom and the tank will have contours to encourage sediment to stay at the bottom away from the fuel sender and not move around too much.

          The fuel filter catches the grit, what it doesn't tend to do is catch the liquid emulsion/sludge.

          In small amounts the emulsion eg. fuel/water mix (diesel suffers from this more than petrol) will simply get burnt with a small hiccup in performance. In larger amounts the engine can't burn it and stops running. However, provided you haven't got air in the injector system (which is probably the bigger problem with modern petrol and vehicles), simply refilling the tank and turning the engine over will clear the poor fuel from the system.

  11. 0laf
    Meh

    Meh

    Hasn't this been standard practice in cars for years but usually what is given is never taken away.

    i.e. the cars are built with the wiring for most functions because that's cheaper than putting a custom loom in every car. Some functions just need a software switch turned, and some things need a cheap bit of hardware (cruise control ) but the manufacturer can charge an arm and a leg to turn on these features.

    Are these care not all capable of 'ludicrous mode" as well?

    1. chr0m4t1c

      Re: Meh

      >Are these care not all capable of 'ludicrous mode" as well?

      No, the performance models have different hardware of some kind to take the additional power flow that's needed and IIRC the lower capacity batteries also can't deliver the current either.

      They introduced improvements a few years ago that allowed "Insane mode" and an option to have the parts swapped in older performance cars to enable it.

      I guess it's the same as being able to change an ECU map to produce more power from a normal ICU engine or being able to fit a bigger turbo, but to make a 2 litre engine into a 3 litre one is a much bigger job.

  12. Jason Bloomberg

    Generosity and Godwill - Double-edged swords

    Nothing wrong with doing all one can to help out, but then one has to decide when one does help out, and more importantly when one won't.

    That can play out very badly in the court of public opinion if it's seen - or even merely asserted - that a company isn't being fair, is exhibiting prejudice or being discriminatory.

  13. unwarranted triumphalism

    How generous

    Allowing owners access to what they have bought. I'm truly impressed by such unselfish philanthrophy.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022