When Tesla Batteries “Brick”–They Can Not Be Fixed

You buy a Tesla Roadster.  Depending on your upgrades, somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 +.   Great acceleration, 0 to 60 in 3 to 4 seconds.  Looks great.  You are cool and everyone knows it.  You decide to jet off to Tahiti for a month.  When you return you go to the garage, ready to drive down Rodeo Drive to let everyone know you are back— let the good times roll.   But your car won’t start.  You check the battery charge level and it is at Zero.  Ooops, you did not plug it in after you last drove it.  Ok so you put the charger on.  It won’t take a charge.  You call the Tesla dealership and ask them to take it to their shop and fix it.  Oddly they come with a flatbed lift truck and some rolling jacks.  When you ask why they just don’t tow it to the dealership they tell you that because you have a brick, the wheels wont turn.  What is a “brick” you ask? They say that your battery is dead, dead, dead and won’t ever work again.  You ask what a replacement battery costs and they say $40,000.  You say “well, I have only had the car for about 4 months and put on less than 5,000 miles so I guess it is covered by warrantee”.  They say “no, not covered by warrantee cause you let it run down to zero charge, so we are not responsible”

Fiction?   Nope, it has happened to some Tesla owners.   The author, Michael DeGusta of the post “It’s a Brick”, whose Roadster was pronounced a Brick, learned from a Regional Tesla Service Manager that he was personally aware of at least 5 cases of Roadsters being Bricked due to battery depletion. DeGusta says the following about bricking:

A Tesla Roadster that is simply parked without being plugged in will eventually become a “brick”. 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. 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. After battery death, the car is completely inoperable.

The amount of time it takes an unplugged Tesla to die varies. Tesla’s Roadster Owners Manual [Full Zipped PDF] states that the battery should take approximately 11 weeks of inactivity to completely discharge [Page 5-2, Column 3: PDF]. However, that is from a full 100% charge. If the car has been driven first, say to be parked at an airport for a long trip, that time can be substantially reduced. If the car is driven to nearly its maximum range and then left unplugged, it could potentially “brick” in about one week. [1] Many other scenarios are possible: for example, the car becomes unplugged by accident, or is unwittingly plugged into an extension cord that is defective or too long.

DeGusta conclusions about the problem with the battery are as follows:

The Bottom Line

Tesla Motors is a public company that’s valued at over $3.5 billion and has received $465 million in US government loans, all on the back of the promise that it can deliver a real world, all-electric car to the mainstream market. Yet today, in my opinion, Tesla seems to be knowingly selling cars that can turn into bricks without any financial protection for the customer.

Until there’s a fundamental change in Tesla’s technology, it would seem the only other option for Tesla is to help its customers insure against this problem. As consumers become aware that a Tesla is possibly just a long trip, a bad extension cord, or an accidental unplugging away from disaster, how many will choose to gamble $40,000 on that not happening? Would you?


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