Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked if sitting idle and not being charged

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reikiman
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I've written two pieces since yesterday on this new controversy which popped up yesterday. It's something for us to think about as EV owners with other kinds of EV's, not all of which have battery management systems. The issue is that on the Roadster, there are systems that stay on even when the car is off, and these systems can drain the battery far enough to kill the battery pack.

Tesla Motors, for their part, released this statement:

All automobiles require some level of owner care. For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time. However, Tesla avoids this problem in virtually all instances with numerous counter-measures. Tesla batteries can remain unplugged for weeks (even months), without reaching zero state of charge. Owners of Roadster 2.0 and all subsequent Tesla products can request that their vehicle alert Tesla if SOC falls to a low level. All Tesla vehicles emit various visual and audible warnings if the battery pack falls below 5 percent SOC. Tesla provides extensive maintenance recommendations as part of the customer experience.

In other words, Tesla is admitting that Roadster battery packs can die because of this. But Tesla is blaming the car owner for not properly maintaining the car. Okay, sure, we all know to plug in our vehicle after every use. This is especially true for vehicles with lead-acid batteries, because lead-acid batteries see actual damage if left sitting in a partially charged state. But this doesn't excuse Tesla from not designing in circuitry to prevent the always-on subsystems from killing the pack, they could have designed it to detect the pack voltage had gone too low and to shut off those systems before voltage reaches the low voltage cutoff.

Here are two blog posts with links to all the news pieces I could find on the subject.

http://blog.greentransportation.info/2012/02/tesla-roadster-bricking-controversy.html

http://blog.greentransportation.info/2012/02/tesla-motors-downplays-risk-of-bricking.html

BTW - immediately after writing the second piece this morning, I had this idea enter my mind. That the Eye of Sauron is turning its baleful gaze from the Chevy Volt to Tesla Motors (oh, and Fisker Automotive) ...

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PJD
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Re: Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked ...

One would think the quiescent drain from the car's systems should be tiny, and if it is not tiny, there should be a shutoff switch for long term parking or storage. Manufacturers get so enamored at the "high tech" frills and baubles that they forget the practical things.

jdh2550_1
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Re: Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked ...

reikiman wrote:

In other words, Tesla is admitting that Roadster battery packs can die because of this. But Tesla is blaming the car owner for not properly maintaining the car. ... But this doesn't excuse Tesla from not designing in circuitry to prevent the always-on subsystems from killing the pack, they could have designed it to detect the pack voltage had gone too low and to shut off those systems before voltage reaches the low voltage cutoff.

I'm gonna take Tesla's side in this one (even though we have a long term storage switch).

At the end of the day it's still a car and it's still a complex system. If the operator's manual says "do this" and you don't do what it says then sorry but you should have done what you were told to. End of story. There's nothing for Tesla to be "excused" for. You're putting the "blame" on Tesla for not designing the perfect product. Should they have not delivered anything? Once discovered should they recall every product and retrofit circuitry to prevent this? That makes it pretty much impossible to ever release a complex product. Instead, they've tackled the problem in a later version of the product. Things slip through - even though we try our hardest to get them all we'll never entirely succeed.

Sorry, this is just a case of RTFM. (the F stands for "funny")

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reikiman
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Re: Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked ...

I'm not expecting it to be perfect. I'm expecting it to have more safeguards.

BTW Tesla posted a statement on this:- http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/plug-it

And I wrote up a long summary this morning:- http://www.torquenews.com/1075/tesla-motors-says-you-cannot-brick-model-s

My take is that for the Model S they designed in the sort of safeguards that I want to see there. Applause to Tesla.

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- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

jdh2550_1
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Re: Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked ...

Yup - and I'm saying that the car operates perfectly well and has a bunch of safeguards. Use it like it's intended and you'll be happy.

It does appear that one embarrassing use case got through. No big deal. In my ideal world the response to this would be to shrug one's shoulders and say "well I'm sure they won't make that mistake again". Not calling it the latest controversy and saying things like there's "no excuse" for this sort of thing.

I'm sure you saw Revenge of the Electric Car. Did you see the scenes of pressure and stress during Tesla's rocky road to first production? I know that it showed Musk mostly - but you think that everyone in that company wasn't feeling the same sorts of things? Engineers are human too. Humans miss things when they're stressed. That's their "excuse" (it's not an excuse it's really a simple statement I just post it that way to counter your original statement).

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John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas. No Worries." - JDH, CuMoCo || "Make Volts Not War" - anon.

reikiman
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Re: Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked ...

Yes, I saw the movie in one of the first showings when it first came out, and Chris Paine and Gadget were at the theater to answer questions.

And yes, those scenes with Elon were amazing - it looked like he was ready to pull his arm off. And that other one with Bob Lutz with staff behind him, and he's talking about how hard it is to design a car, and how Tesla was learning some hard lessons about how hard that is, and the people nodding knowingly behind him.

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- David Herron, Green Transportation Examiner, Green Transportation Info, The Long Tail Pipe, Electric Race News, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Charger bike (rebuilt), Electrified Electra Townie, 1971 Karmann Ghia

LeftieBiker
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Re: Latest EV controversy - Tesla Roadsters can be bricked ...

Parasitic drains even on similar vehicles can vary amazingly. My old 1986 Civic Si could kill a battery in just over two weeks, while our '95 Camry (I guess I should call it "my Camry" now that I sold my Civic EX to help pay for the $#@! ZEV) will sit for a month and still start - if it isn't so cold out it needs most of the battery's power. Both cars are fuel-injected fours with logic-controlled stereos, and the Camry actually has a much larger motor and only a slightly larger battery. Anyway, I agree that Tesla should have built in a parasitic load cutoff, activated by a combination of time since last run and pack SOC. I also agree that if the manual says to charge it at least once a month (or whatever) then it isn't really their fault if someone parks one for six months and bricks it. Well, let me amend that: car manuals have turned into veritable Russian novels (I will probably never finish an awful tome entitled "2010 Prius"), so the warning would need to be in BIG RED LETTERING on the front page.

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