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Model S Owner Involved With Voltage Cap Lawsuit Warns About Battery Pack Failures
Several Model S owners in the U.S. decided to sue Tesla in 2019 when it capped the cell voltage in their cars. After they accepted the EV maker’s proposal to settle, we thought everything would end there. However, David Rasmussen got in touch with autoevolution when he read our story on Mario Zelaya's Model S to give us a more than welcome update.

Model S Owner Involved With Voltage Cap Lawsuit Warns About Battery Pack Failures

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Rasmussen led the voltage cap lawsuit against Tesla. According to the Model S owner, he “and several others in the lawsuit were finally paid early this month.” He also celebrated that Tesla reversed the battery voltage cap and restored the range his car used to have, even if supercharging speed is “still significantly slower than originally.” Anyway, he “couldn't stop laughing” after Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla’s policy was “never to fight true claims, even if we would win.” After all, “they had been fighting the case for over two years!”

What we did not know is that the tool to improve onboard diagnostic made the company detect and replace dozens of faulty battery packs from the customers that filed the lawsuit, as Rasmussen told us. While that looks positive, it is here that the story gets weird and starts to look like a trap.

“A new issue appears that many cars that are now out of warranty are getting battery failure warnings and then capped at 50% capacity. They are then being quoted anywhere from $15,000 to $22,000 for a replacement pack. But, as with my case, Tesla will not provide any details of the battery state. They just say it is bad and needs to be replaced,” Rasmussen told autoevolution on September 18. He also said the warranty would then expire in ten days, which means it will finish on September 28 – also known as next Wednesday.

It is necessary to have the whole context of this story to understand all its implications. It all started after some Model S units caught fire in 2019, particularly a famous one in Shanghai in April, which was filmed and went viral. Tesla released the over-the-air updates 2019.16.1 and 2019.16.2 shortly after that. They capped the cell voltage in the Model S and X. Instead of charging to their full capacity of 4.2V, each cell in these battery packs would only charge up to a lower limit (3.9V or 4V, for example). That reduced range and supercharging speed.

Tesla gave no explanation about the updates and was sued in August 2019. The involved EV owners accused Tesla of concealing fire risks with the battery pack. In July 2021, Tesla decided “never to fight true claims” and proposed to settle the dispute by paying $625 to each of the 1,743 Model S owners in the U.S. affected by the OTA updates.

There is a detail that makes all the difference in this situation: in 2019, all the Model S units still had their battery packs covered by the eight-year warranty. The EV was officially presented on June 22, 2012. In other words, these warranties started to expire on June 12, 2020.

The owners affected by the voltage cap received another update with a better onboard diagnostic. As Rasmussen explained, dozens of battery packs were replaced. Others got restricted to 50% of their capacities while they waited to be substituted for the prices the Model S owner described above. For these owners, the voltage cap gave place to an even higher restriction. On top of that, many are no longer covered by the warranty.

To get the whole picture, we still need to confirm if those Tesla customers getting invoices instead of battery pack replacements are only those that already lost warranty coverage, as Rasmussen told us. As Tesla did not explain what was wrong with these components, it is possible that even those still covered may be getting the 50% capacity restriction and the hefty estimates for the replacements. There is a chance that these battery pack failures are connected to the moisture-ingress that affected Zelaya’s 2013 Model S, but we also need to confirm that.

Tony Tam, from EVFixMe, told autoevolution that he has “recently seen many cars getting charge restricted.”

“However, I'm not sure if they correlate to the ones involved with the lawsuit. I do know someone whose car was part of the lawsuit. The battery (pack) has failed, and they have received a new one from Tesla.” According to Tam, “what happens is (that) shortly after applying the update, the car will be restricted in range in a day to a few days.”

Rasmussen fears the same will happen to his car, but he has a backup plan. Like Hansjörg von Gemmingen, the owner of the 1-million-mile Tesla Model S, the soon-to-be former Tesla customer ordered a Lucid Air Pure in July 2021, locked in at the old price. He should receive it early next year.

“Rather than spend more than $20,000 for a replacement battery with a 250-miles range on an 8-year-old car with likely other failures coming up (suspension, pumps, charger modules, etc.), I will spend about $80,000 for a new car with a 400-mile range.”

The Model S owner is “so done with Tesla:” according to Rasmussen, “their service has gone to sh** over the last few years.” Yes, he used the S-word to define what to expect from Tesla Service Centers these days. We can only imagine how he classifies Tesla’s legal strategies with its customers after what he allowed us to figure out. We suspect this may be just the beginning.

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