Tesla And The Bricked Batteries: What's Really Going On?

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
tesla and the bricked batteries whats really going on

Depleted batteries. Unauthorized GPS tracking. $40,000 service bills. Rejected warranty claims. These are just some of the talking points making the rounds of the internet regarding the alleged “bricking” of Tesla Roadsters.

The story began when Michael DeGusta, who operates The Understatement, a technology blog, reported that 5 Tesla Roadsters have “bricked” – in other words, rendered useless, after their batteries depleted completely. The repair (a brand new battery pack) costs $40,000, and if the battery isn’t replaced, the vehicle is totally immobile. The wheels won’t move, preventing the car from even being pushed.

DeGusta hasn’t named any of the owners, and refers to an unnamed Tesla service tech who relays anecdotes of tracking a dying vehicle GPS, and then dispatching Tesla staff to provide on-site assistance that would prevent “bricking”. DeGusta’s article alleges that Tesla repeatedly failed to adequately warn consumers of the dangers of allowing the battery to deplete fully, that they have been recalcitrant in fixing the battery under warranty (due to some sly in the warranty itself) and that taking measures like GPS tracking, or using the Roadster’s internal GSM connection to warn owners of low battery levels is being done not in good faith but to protect Tesla’s brand (or, as the pre-web generation would say, reputation). While the “bricking” problem is apparently built in to the battery technology of the Roadster, Model S and Model X, certain EVs, like the Nissan Leaf, are immune from this problem.

DeGusta’s article can be read here – we reached out to him, asking him to put us in contact with anyone who has owned a (or owns) a “bricked” Tesla. So far, we’ve yet to receive a response, but an interview with the involved parties would go along way to shedding further light on the story. The “bricking” problem certainly makes for a great story, but Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra is essential whenever a story breaks online – it would be irresponsible of us to take this story completely at face value without further investigation. And progress has been slow on that front, as none of the parties have come forward, save for Tesla’s PR-tastic statement claiming that yes, “bricking” can happen.

Join the conversation
4 of 72 comments
  • FJ60LandCruiser FJ60LandCruiser on Feb 23, 2012

    Anyone who has built an RC racing truck with a brushless motor knows that those systems have a built-in low voltage cutoff when the batteries are near drained--to keep the motor from destroying expensive LiPo batteries by draining them below the minimal voltage. How a high end electric roadster doesn't have technology on board that protects its batteries from self-destructing but a 100-200 dollar electric motor on something that is nothing more than a toy is pretty lame. Maybe Tesla needs a bailout so that its owners can take the money and run.

  • Russycle Russycle on Feb 23, 2012

    Oh Derek, just as I was going to sing your praises for pointing out the atrociousness of using "brand" as synonym for reputation, you go and "reach out" to DeGusta. I hate that expression with a white hot passion.

    • See 1 previous
    • Russycle Russycle on Feb 23, 2012

      @Derek Kreindler We all slip occasionally, my son. Your repentance speaks to your good character. Doh!

  • Redapple2 One time; doing time; for a long time.
  • Robert Good! Those things are hideous.
  • ScarecrowRepair Road trips by myself -- cherry tomatoes or seedless grapes. Gotcher nutrition, gotcher water, bite-sized, no sticky fingers. Light lunch, maybe; normal dinner.
  • TDIGuy A lot of comments here referring to avoiding radio in general and not AM, but I suppose a shrink part of a shrinking market doesn't have much hope.That said, I'm also part of the talk radio fan club. I could listen to it online, but it's just an internet rebroadcast of the AM station (and I'd rather not burn through my data). So if the station went, so would the internet channel.Ya, then there's the Blue Jays games... "National Blue Jays network"... Ya, three stations. I do listen on satellite, but again, they just rebroadcast the AM radio broadcast.
  • Kosmo Would have bought the passenger version to replace my wife's beloved, but aging, Honda Element if it were available in AWD. Swing and a miss there by Ford, IMO.