News & Analysis

Tesla – The Range Grower! 

When it comes to fuel efficiencies, the auto industry is known to faff its way out. However, customers aren’t kosher about their devious ways

Ask any electric vehicle user and their immediate crib would be around the range that the car or bike offers in city conditions. Of course, most of us who’ve been behind the wheels or a handlebar over the past couple of decades would know that driving range figures found in brochures are to be taken seriously only at one’s own peril, whether the fuel is petrol, diesel or the new range of high-performance batteries. 

Take one look at open forums on the Internet and you’d be surprised by the actual range of a new EV vehicle and the figure provided in the brochure. Of course, the smart salesperson would provide a few caveats around where you’d be driving the vehicle and at what time. But, eventually the fact remains that these numbers are meant to be ignored. 

Tesla owners file a lawsuit over range falsification

Unfortunately, EV users in the United States aren’t buying into this theory. Barely days after Reuters broke a story that claimed Tesla had created special teams to suppress driving range complaints, owners have filed a lawsuit against the company for exaggerating the range estimates for their electric vehicles for several years now. 

Published media reports suggested that the proposed class action lawsuit was filed on August 2 in the US District Court of Northern District of California with law firm Milberg Coleman Byron Phillips Grossman represented the aggrieved group. 

We wonder whether electric vehicle owners would consider something similar in India, especially in the wake of the government itself pulling up EV makers for overstating indigenization efforts to claim government subsidies. There have been several comments on forums about the need to create an EV-owners group, one that can file a similar lawsuit. 

Tesla was fined in South Korea for the same offence

Coming to the Tesla lawsuit, the appellants say that the carmaker had violated state consumer fraud statutes by falsely advertising the range of its vehicles. The lawyers said Tesla had grossly overvalued the range – the estimated distance that a vehicle can travel on a single battery charge. The lawsuit claimed the numbers were at variance with actuals. 

“Understanding that this would be an important feature (if not the most important feature) to many consumers, and preying on this fact, Tesla marketed its electric vehicles as having a grossly overvalued range in an effort to increase sales to consumers,” says the lawsuit, which was published by TechCrunch

What did they do and how did it work?

According to the Reuters story, Tesla had reportedly rigged the dashboard readouts in its electric cars to provide “rosy” projections of how far owners can drive before needing to recharge. The automaker last year became so inundated with driving-range complaints that it created a special team to cancel owners’ service appointments. 

What was even more damning for the company is that the Reuters report cited sources within the company to suggest that the directive to exaggerate range estimates for its EVs for years had come from none other than the CEO Elon Musk. Amidst exploding sales, service requests also went through the roof. 

In order to obfuscate the requests and keep costs in check, Tesla went about creating a special diversion team to handle cases of range inefficiencies whereby officials were asked to tell owners that the EPA-approved range estimates were just a prediction. In addition, the team would also provide drivers with tips on extending the range over phone so that most of these appointments could be canceled saving Tesla as much as $1000 a visit. 

Just so that readers are aware, Tesla has been caught falsely advertising range estimates earlier as well. South Korean regulators had fined Tesla $2.1 million for a similar instance where it reported excess range on its local website during August 2019 and December 2022. The Korean fair trade body also noted that Tesla had failed to inform owners that cold weather can reduce the car’s range. 

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