A Norwegian court has found Tesla Motors guilty of throttling charging speeds and battery range in its vehicles. Following a software update in 2019, customers complained about poor battery life as well as slower charging rates. This has affected Model S and Model X vehicles with 85 kWh battery packs bought between 2013 and 2015. The Californian automaker had discontinued these battery packs in 2016.
Norway Court Asked Tesla To Pay $16,200 to Every Owner Affected
Norway: A Haven for Electric Vehicles
Norway has long been the leading country in terms of adopting electric mobility. The country has a high percentage of electric vehicles on the streets, and the biggest reason is the government’s decision to ban the sale of combustion vehicles from 2025. The country has also offered a number of incentives to electric vehicle owners, such as removing the 25% sales tax for buying automobiles. As a result, the government completed its plan to reach 50,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road three years ahead of the target.
Furthermore, the energy used to power electric vehicles in Norway is also green. Despite being a major oil industry player, almost all of Norway’s domestic energy comes from hydropower. Because of this, it is easier to switch to electric mobility. For countries whose electricity comes from high-polluting coal-powered plants, this “green” mobility does not turn out to be actually green.
The Norwegian government has also invested heavily in financial incentives for electric vehicle customers and charging infrastructure.
Tesla’s Court Case
More than 30 Norwegian customers, who were affected by the after-effects of this update, filed a complaint to the conciliation board against Tesla in December 2020. There is proof of a longer charging time for vehicles after updating in the pre-update and post-update inspections.
The customers won in the conciliation council on 29th April, after Tesla Norway did not file a response. The council has sentenced Tesla to pay 136,000 kroner ($16,294) to each customer. In Norway, there are 10,000 customers in the aforementioned period. This means that if all these customers sue the company, it could cost Tesla 1.36 billion kroner ($162.94 million).
Tesla claimed that this update was to protect the battery and improve battery longevity. It also claimed that the update resulted in a range loss for only a small number of owners.
It is still uncertain whether or not Tesla will pay the fee. The verdict came in on 17th May, and Tesla has to pay by 31st May or appeal the case by 17th June. Since the respondent (Tesla) did not submit a reply, this was an absence judgement. There is a high probability that Tesla will request to refresh the case. If that happens, there will be a court hearing in the Conciliation Board in Oslo for consideration of the case.
Effect of the Software Update on Norwegian Tesla Vehicles
For the majority of the affected Tesla owners, the range reduction took place after updating to Tesla’s 2019.16.1 and 2019.16.2 software update releases. This led to a significant drop in the single-charge range, ranging from 12 to 30 miles (19 to 48 km). The update also affected the charging speeds at the DC fast chargers. As a result, Tesla owners experienced much slower charging sessions than before the update.
Most of the evidence points in the direction of Tesla deliberately throttling of battery range as well as charging speed. Tesla has discontinued the use of its 85 kWh battery packs in the Model S and Model X since 2016. There could be a strategy to get some of the older customers to upgrade to Tesla’s newer models, although this hasn’t been proven.
Responses to this Tesla Issue
Torbjørn Stølen, general manager and chairman of Bilklager.no (a service for providing legal aid to Norwegians), believes that Tesla’s treatment of its customers is incomprehensible. When a vehicle costs up to a million kroner, this kind of treatment should not be tolerated. Furthermore, it is “extremely nonsensical” of Tesla to not appear in front of the conciliation board.
Interestingly enough, it is not only Norwegian customers who have taken legal action in this regard. 75 Danish customer have also sued Tesla on the same issue, according to a newspaper ‘Politiken.dk’. They have demanded a similar compensation amount as the Norwegian customers, with some of them also saying that they will never buy a Tesla vehicle.
This is not a very good colour to have for Tesla, especially in the Scandinavian region, where the electric vehicle is booming. After a vehicle has gotten old, it may so happen that its performance degrades. This is the case with lithium-ion batteries as well, and many a time, constantly using fast chargers can severely affect the battery life. However, negatively affecting the charging parameters of a battery on purpose, that too through a software update, is not a very good thing. If anything, the company should think about how it can increase the battery life, which will help retain the customers. But this kind of incident can affect the image of the Tesla brand.