Last year Tesla dealt with its first real scandal, the so-called “bricking” of batteries that are allowed to run entirely out of charge. But what about a car company that could brick a car’s battery on purpose? As it turns out, French automaker Renault is using its battery leasing scheme to prevent non-paying customers from charging their electric cars. Big Brother is watching…your battery.
It’s another form of DRM, or Digital Rights Management, that video game and movie companies use to try (and fail) to prevent piracy. Renault, which leases the batteries in vehicle like its Zoe Z.E. electric car in a bid to keep prices down (and probably make a few extra bucks in the long game), also draws a huge amount of information from the battery data.
This includes keeping tabs on non-paying customers, and Renault worked a nifty feature into their rented batteries that they didn’t exactly brag about in the press releases. In the service contract, however, in the fine print, it is revealed that Renault has the right to prevent charging of the Zoe Z.E. at the end of the battery rental contract. It was also revealed that Renault can do this in the case of non-payment on the car or battery as well, effectively making “your” vehicle worthless.
In theory this is a huge advancement for car dealers, financial companies, and local police departments. The fear I have is when Renault inevitably screws up processing someone’s payment, bricking a paying customer’s car and essentially preventing them from getting to work, starting a vicious cycle that could really screw somebody over.
Yet this very same feature could help speed up the process of EV adoption if other automakers get on board. Not only could you track down non-paying cars, but you can also make the vehicle immobile, making retrieval a cakewalk. Even Orwell didn’t imagine this.
Source: Der Spiegel