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Tesla Uses Sneaky Tactic to Extort $4,500 From Customer, Locks 80 Miles of Range on Model S

Tesla and its amusing stories are never-ending and unique. They are almost like fantastic tales sometimes.

Reports say Tesla disabled around 80 miles (about 129 km) of range from a customer’s car and told them that to have it restored, they’d have to pay $4,500.

The situation came to light in a tweet by Jason Hughes, the owner of a Tesla component business and a popular Tesla hacker.

Tesla buyers should be warned that the brand may have the ability to reduce the range of their vehicles remotely. Tesla stated that the vehicle had an issue with how the vehicle was configured and that in order to restore its full range, he had to pay $4,500.

Years ago, a Tesla Model S 60 owner had their battery swapped out under warranty. Tesla being so generous at the time swapped the 60kWh battery pack with a 90kWh battery pack.

It appears Tesla had a generous spirit that day or was in a very tight supply of 60kWh batteries that they swapped out the Model S 60 battery for a Model S 90 90kWh unit. The company made all necessary changes to ensure the upgraded battery could be used at full capacity on the vehicle.

Tesla instantly comes under fire for a questionable moral practice of punishing customers who take their cars for maintenance or any software update. This article takes an in-depth look at this alarming situation and what it could mean for current and potential Tesla drivers. Here’s the whole story!

Tesla Model S Battery Range Lock

What Happened?

Tesla used to sell Model S vehicles with software-locked battery packs, thereby offering different range options without having to produce and install separate batteries. An example of this strategy is supposed you buy Tesla Model S 40 with a 60 kWh battery pack. Tesla would ship you the vehicle with a 60kWh battery pack locked at 40 kWh capacity.

It’s no surprise that Tesla disables certain features on vehicles they acquire as trade-ins. This is within their right to do, however, one owner was recently surprised to find his Model S had 80 miles less range than what it had been just minutes before.

The current owner of this used 2013 Model S 60 is the third one in its lifetime. This vehicle was originally sold with a 60 kWh battery, but Tesla replaced the unit with an upgraded 90 kWh capacity pack sometime during its first owners’ possession, including any software or hardware modifications that needed to be made.

When the current owner took his car in for a software upgrade that would allow him to maintain an internet connection after 3G’s departure, the appointment went well and he drove home without issue. Suddenly, Tesla contacted him to tell him they had fixed a configuration error in his car.

What was the configuration error?

Model S 60 ramped up as 90kWh. Tesla claimed that the car should have been locked as a Model S 60 unless the customer was willing to pay $4,500 to get the additional 80 miles (or 129 km) of range back.

The third owner reach out to Hughes after the company asked him to pay $4,500 to get the range back. Hughes put out a lengthy thread on Twitter discussing the issue in detail, which quickly went viral. Fortunately, it seems that the problem has been resolved in this and a similar case.

Following a public outcry on Twitter, Tesla decided to waive the fee and provide the extra 80 miles of range that the Model S was capable of achieving with a full charge.

Tesla & OTA Updates

Tesla has revolutionized the automotive industry by utilizing over-the-air (OTA) updates to keep their vehicles up-to-date with the latest technology and features. OTA updates allow Tesla owners to enjoy the benefits of new software without ever having to step foot into a service centre.

OTA updates also provide Tesla owners with complete control over how and when their vehicles are updated and allow them to keep up with any security patches that may be necessary.

When the Model S was unveiled, it brought with it a range of exciting features and technology that have become commonplace in the automotive industry. One of these features, over-the-air updates, enables Tesla to enhance or sometimes even diminish certain aspects of its vehicles.

Over-the-air updates are a convenient way for Tesla to deliver software changes and improvements to their vehicles. They use a wireless connection to send the new software to your car, and it is installed automatically without any need for additional hardware or physical intervention.

The customer found out the hard way that Tesla had the capability to reduce his range by 80 miles and then demanded he pays $4,500 to restore it back to full.

Tesla’s ability to remotely reduce a car’s range means that even those who take their Tesla vehicles to a service centre could get into financial trouble. It’s not clear if this was done purposely to increase profits, or as an attempt to make sure customers go only through official servicing centres.

Why Tesla Did Do So?

Through the use of software-locked, scalably sized batteries, Tesla has created a system where its various models possess different levels of battery capacity.

The more expensive models have access to the full capacity, while other models are limited to a certain amount. This technology enables Tesla to offer multiple driving ranges for each model.

This allows Tesla to offer a range of driving distances, depending on the model and its associated battery capacity. By utilizing this technology, Tesla is able to produce electric cars with different driving ranges in order to meet the needs of different customers.

Whatever the case may be, this is problematic for several reasons.

Firstly, customers are spending significant amounts of money on vehicles with the understanding that they will be serviced regularly without any additional costs attached. Now, with the knowledge that Tesla can potentially punish them by reducing the range of their vehicle, they feel powerless and taken advantage of.

Secondly, it calls into question the company’s credibility – a company should not have such power over its customers and they should be allowed to use whatever service provider they see fit.

The good news is that most people haven’t faced these issues yet and there are ways you can protect yourself from these kinds of scenarios in the future.

Make sure you only visit authorized repair centres when taking your car in for service, keep records of all your services so you have proof if something like this ever happens again, and read up on reputable online forums and blogs about how others are handling similar problem cases before taking your car in for servicing at any repair shop.

Follow official channels from Tesla in order to stay updated on any changes related to how customer cars are serviced which could help you avoid potential troubles later down the line.

What To Expect In The Future?

Tesla’s unconventional approach to the public spotlight is well documented. From bold moves in favour of sustainability to unethical missteps, this electric car company has shocked and amazed the world time and time again.

But when it comes to issues related to its customers, Tesla doesn’t always handle things as effectively as it should. In order to prevent further backlash from those affected by their decisions, Tesla needs to create a reliable public relations team that can explain their side of the story and offer solutions accordingly.

Only then can they move forward with greater confidence in their image and relationships with customers.

Car makers like Toyota or BMW benefit from a well-crafted public relations plan. This includes crafting messages that align with their brand, delivering accurate and timely responses to media inquiries, and monitoring the conversation on social media.

It is also important for car companies to create lasting relationships with key members of the press, so they can develop trust in the brand and generate positive news coverage when needed.

Tesla lacks this flair and relies solely on Elon Musk’s eccentric tweets and posts on social media to get the desired traction. Automobile companies should use creative marketing tactics to promote new products or services as well as develop campaigns that demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility initiatives.


It’s inexcusable that Tesla demanded an additional $4,500 from a customer who had already paid for something he owned. The customer had already supplied clear proof of ownership and yet Tesla still attempted to unjustly extract more money from him.

Despite making billions in profits last quarter, this unethical behaviour shows that Tesla needs to reassess their approach toward customers. Thankfully, due to the story going viral, Tesla was eventually forced to address the issue, but it shouldn’t have taken this degree of public pressure for them to do the right thing.

At the end of the day, it’s important for everyone who owns (or is thinking about owning) a Tesla vehicle to be aware of these kinds of tactics from companies. This kind of behaviour will never benefit anyone in a long run – neither do we want companies seeing fit to misuse such power over us as doting EV customers.

Purnima Rathi
Purnima Rathi
Purnima has a strong love for EVs. Whether it's classic cars or modern performance vehicles, she likes to write about anything with four wheels, especially if there's a cool story behind it.


  1. Tesla S 60D? This is a car from 2016-2017. Now relevant is this article to the Tesla of today.
    If the point of continuing relevance is that a manufacturer shouldn’t software change a product you purchased. Regardless of what later transactions may have happened no amount of mental gymnastics to put blame on Tesla in this article changes the fact that this car is a 60D and any buyer should not expect to have any more then 60 kWh. It literally says it on the back of the car “60D”. You can’t claim ignorance of that fact. And if the car was intentionally or mistakenly reconfigured as a 90 kWh later you can’t expect to continue to benefit from that “upgrade” when you take the car in to the manufacturer for service when all the service is doing is restoring the product back to factory condition as it was sold by Tesla. You don’t like that? Then don’t take it back to Tesla. It’s like jailbreakkng your iPhone and then being mad if Apple restores it back to factory setting when you take it back to Apple for service.

    • So how does your story play say a person who really does not keep up with the tech/car details buys a car in this unlocked position after test driving and as well having a lemon law period to return the car pass. During this period they have built their travel parameters based on their use. Now after owning for a period of time they learn this tech info though their sour experience. Not cool or legal. Lack of knowledge applies to the law only as well contracts. A used car does not carry these kind of fine print, or law with them. This is clearly a Tesla mistake like when you buy something that may have been marked incorrectly in a store. People would loose their minds if the store “corrected” their price after a month or so. That would be complete bull*hit.

      • Except that Tesla didn’t sell this used vehicle. It doesn’t make the situation any better since it costs Tesla nothing to provide a bit of goodwill here, but from a legal perspective, this buyer’s only recourse would’ve been with whomever sold the vehicle used to them if they didn’t disclose this discrepancy.

    • I’m not gonna weigh in unless the original work order is released. Back then, bet they put in the 90 to get the Model S back on the road. Then activated the software, to unlock power and labeled it “good will”

      So no charge. Harrumpf

    • The vehicle had to be taken to Tesla for the 3G software change. Otherwise, charging would have not been available since the vehicle was still 3G. No more 3G data signal, no talking to Tesla. Only 2G is available for emergency.
      Cellular is now 4G or 5G and changing.

    • Read the story. The back of the car says 90D

      You gave yourself away for not reading the story and jumping in as a fanboy.

    • Bottom line is Tesla put in the 90kwh battery for whatever reason and configured it to full capacity. Not anyone’s fault they did this. Who knows why thwy did it. But they can’t come back years later and tell whomever the customer is. Hey I’m holding your car gas tank hostage until you pay a ransom. Tesla was wrong, Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  2. Huh? Wait till you find out chip makers have been doing this for years, disabling cores on processors. It’s just easier to build one type of product and sketchy disable to get different tiers. Is that wasteful? Yes, but that’s capitalism. The higher end users effectively subsidize the lower end chips. Same here with batteries, granted it’s a bit more wasteful, due to the amount of material used.

    • So how does your story play say a person who really does not keep up with the tech/car details buys a car in this unlocked position after test driving and as well having a lemon law period to return the car pass. During this period they have built their travel parameters based on their use. Now after owning for a period of time they learn this tech info though their sour experience. Not cool or legal. Lack of knowledge applies to the law only as well contracts. A used car does not carry these kind of fine print, or law with them. This is clearly a Tesla mistake like when you buy something that may have been marked incorrectly in a store. People would loose their minds if the store “corrected” their price after a month or so. That would be complete bull*hit.

  3. And just like Sony got sued for killing products with an timmed expiration and did not tell the consumer, they lost hundreds of millions. It just takes the right people and lawyers to hit the bank acct of companies and they stop doing this kind of corruption. As well as a consumer do you ever trust and buy their product after getting burned?!? I think not!

  4. Definitely should not be a moral outcry and negative hit piece on Musk and Tesla.
    The person bought a 60 kW car that happened to have a 90 kilowatt battery in it but they’re not paying for the ’90 they didn’t buy a P90D they bought a P60. So they should have the range and features and functionalities of a P60 and not be upgraded to a P90 just because a software upgrade could give them that capability.

    Noe more and more cars have more and more computer features and functionality in them we’re seeing subscriptions BMW Mercedes are already doing that so you’re going to have to pay to get heated seats. Which means heated seats will be installed and all the cars but it’ll be disabled in software unless you pay for it.
    If you don’t like it then don’t buy the car if you buy the car used and you pay for a used car and the features that used car has don’t cry that you should have all the features turned on because it’s in your right that’s totally a western-minded attitude that the rest of the world doesn’t have. Your getting what you paid for, nothing more unless you are willing to pay more

    • This is the 3rd owner. How do you know if the 1st or 2nd owner didn’t market their Tesla + car to the buyer.
      Just like anyone, who buys an used vehicle with extra after production upgrades or features installed.

  5. Omg. Tesla is corrupt to the core. If ANY other car maker put a chip in a ICE that could reduce or increase mileage based on how much your willing to be charged. Their would be a huge out cry government’s would be involved the company would be sued for billions. But musk fan boys and girls thinks it’s ok. Suckers, everyone one of you

  6. These hit pieces from the liberal left are so annoying. The North American automobile industry spends 19 billion dollars a year on advertising, Tesla spends zero. The Automobile dealership Network in North America costs the manufacturers another several billion dollars. Tesla sells directly to the consumer without a dealer. The huge amounts of money they save is put into r&d. Throw in Tesla’s 10-year head start on EV and the ICE manufacturers won’t catch Tesla in my lifetime. The fact that Musk is right of center infuriates the Left. It looks like they’re going to be mad for a long time

    • Elon Musk is a hater and Tesla has so many scams there are hundreds of examples. Your denial won’t work for long and Biden has the right to not feature Tesla.

    • “Throw in Tesla’s 10-year head start on EV and the ICE manufacturers won’t catch Tesla in my lifetime.”

      I hope you have had a great lifetime. Because not only have other manufacturers caught up with Tesla, they have eclipsed them. The EV6, Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 are much better cars. They have a less distracting driving experience with physical knobs. The HDA2 is more rounded than Tesla’s autopilot. GM’s lidar based smart cruise bests Tesla’s autopilot. And Tesla, 5 years later, had to issue a recall on FSD (if ever a technology has been hyped, this is it), meanwhile Mercedes Benz is on the verge of bringing a Level 3 car into the world.

      Where Tesla shines is the charging network and the OTA updates of firmware. And they could well lose that edge in the next two or three years with the NEMI program.

  7. Tesla is so lucky to have all these people in the comments defending them. What would they do without you?

    The reality of the situation is, Tesla downgraded the vehicle after purchase and demanded money to fix it. In most states that is straight up illegal. We have no information about the customer’s pre-purchase experience; if they had the opportunity to test drive the car, and witness the extended range, it would have influenced their purchase decision, making this objectively fraud.
    It does not compare to chip manufacturers leaving cores disabled; they remain disabled out of the box and you never know they’re present. It does not influence your decision to purchase the item in the first place.
    It does somewhat compare to the subscription thing, but frankly that’s already bullshit and we should be fighting tooth and nail to stop it before we wind up with banks being able to lock you out of your house the minute your mortgage is late, because that’s where this subscription model is headed.

    To the guy who’s going off about how this is a hit piece on Musk specifically – he hasn’t been in charge of Tesla for years now, because he was, if you remember, *fired*
    Also, for the record, we don’t hate Musk because he’s “conservative” – we hate him because the root of his wealth is in an emerald mine which directly furthered apartheid in South Africa.

    You are, at all times, closer to being homeless than a billionaire, and blowing them through the internet won’t do anything for you.

    • Good comment, the only ones who support Tesla are the ones who spew lies in online comment sections. On Twitter you can actualy see posts saying the truth about Tesla getting deleated left and right. Elon Musk is a dictator and he even likes the leader of Russia. Those who defend Musk are helping him establish his tyrrany over everyone.

    • They didn’t demand money to “fix it” they demanded .only to upgrade it. This man is a hacker & your getting mad at tesla?

  8. Tesla is providing a warranty on a 60kw battery. If they lock 30kw with software then the owner would see 60kw for much longer with little to no degradation. Paying the extra not only unlocks the range but also the warranty.

    • Tesla is nothing but greed. Charging people for every car feature imaginable, even the essensial ones like battery life. When Tesla makes a mistake, it tries to make the customer pay for it.

  9. All the Tesla fan boys and girls backing Tesla’s decision to downgrade the car should learn how to read. According to the article Tesla themselves installed a 90kwh battery and unlocked it for the first owner. This now becomes the car. You can’t revoke that later on. In fact you have no right or ownership over a car once you’ve sold it to a customer.

    What if I buy a Camaro SS that some one has modified with a supercharger from a ZL1? If I take it to GM for some unrelated issue can they remove the supercharger because I bought an SS not a ZL1? And then say if I pay them 4500 they’ll put the supercharger back?

    I hope you see how preposterous that sounds.

  10. I have owned a Tesla Plaid, so I am not a Tesla hater. With that said, the shady practices I saw during my ownership was astonishing. They literally would not let me sell my own vehicle without punishment. Their customer service is atrociously horrible. I do feel that this is not right to allow the upgraded battery to be used to its full potential, especially if it was replaced under warranty, it should just be allowed to operate like an upgraded part. With that said, his battery will last forever because it will never be used beyond 80% SOC, therefore, he could probably go half a million miles on that battery. If it was unlocked from the beginning, though, it should stay unlocked.

  11. Tesla, the company that makes mistakes and tries to force the customer to pay for it. The Tesla fanboys really are spamming this article with their thougtless comments today.

  12. The customer bought a 60kwh battery and that’s what they should’ve expected. Should’ve been grateful to even had the option for higher range. Dealerships won’t upgrade your v6 to a v8 for free. Also look at the date from the tweets, this is from last year and has been resolved, the company adapts much faster than the reporters using sneaky tactics to manipulate customers perceptions of Tesla.

  13. He bought a 60, he got a 60. No scam, no foul. Nobody paid for the extra 30, nobody is entitled to the extra 30. He can elect to purchase access to the extra 30. Nobody is forcing him to upgrade in order to drive the car. It functions as intended. As one poster said, plenty of cars have been manufactured with features they can decide to pay for, have enabled and use. Plenty of cars can make more power than stock but you have to pay for the software to accesss it. If you by chance get a feature on a car that was enabled and you didn’t pay for it, enjoy the free feature while it is enabled. If somebody gave you a free coffee once at a coffee shop, you should not expect it every time.

  14. One thing that was never addressed, did the previous owner pay to unlock the extra battery capacity? Or did Tesla leave the battery unlocked as compensation for having the Tesla out of sevice for an extended period of time. I had a Ford Focus Electric that had a battery problem. I did not have use of the car for 4 weeks. It got so bad I would visit the car at the dealership. I received nothing from Ford in compensation. And yes it was a warranty repair.

  15. Tesla had already unlocked the extra range. Even if they did this by mistake (and they probably did it because it was an advantage to Tesla) the fact is that the prior owner possessed the car with the 90kw range. Tesla has no right to change the configuration on a subsequent owner. This would be like saying if they had installed high performance tires at a standard tire cost than they would be justified in trading out the tires for the subsequent owner. Tesla has no contract with the current owner. Changing the configuration on his vehicle without his consent is theft. Offering to change it back for money is extortion.
    I own a Tesla S90. I like the car, but I hate the company. Never got the promised full self-driving that I paid for (and presumably never will). The computer continues to be buggy and they still haven’t fixed phantom braking. After I was rear-ended, it took 5 months in the shop to repair and another 6 months to get the updates I missed while the car was being repaired. Am definitely looking to replace with a different EV.

    • Maybe buy a Toyota BZ4X that requires forever to DCFC., oh just buy a Mirai that can fill up with UnObtainium Hydrogen in 5 minutes.

  16. At least Tesla doesn’t brick the car when you have an issue with the 12v battery that requires dragging it onto a flatbed and bringing it to a bmw service center for them to clear a code with nothing currently wrong with the car. Then you get to pay them for fixing nothing but their own software. BMW is worse than Tesla for consumer support. They provided no replacement for the 3g and aren’t meeting the contract for providing services. The message BMW sends is they won’t improve the car after it’s purchased. I’ll buy a Tesla over a BMW or Toyota every day.

  17. This is old, it happened last July, almost a whole year old. Are we literally just rehashing old articles now?

  18. The original owner paid for a 60 kwh car , and succeeding owners should be limited to that if Tesla chooses too.


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