"Bricked" Tesla Roadsters The Scandal Du Jour

Life must have been very boring before the 24 hour news feed that constantly keeps us infotained with today’s top stories. It seems to me that hardly a week goes by without another electric car “scandal” making the rounds across the web. The latest electric car scandal; Tesla Roadsters can be “bricked” if left unplugged too long.

A summary: A Tesla Roadster owner, Max Drucker, left his $109,000 Tesla Roadster unplugged for about two months, allowing its $40,000 battery to go completely dead. This locks up the Roadster’s wheels and requires the battery pack to be replaced at the owner’s expense. Drucker was unhappy enough to write Elon Musk, but to no avail.

In a piece on Michael DeGusta’s website, Drucker writes about this experience and quotes an unnamed Tesla service manager as saying that at least five Roadsters he knows of have been “bricked.”

For their part, Tesla claims that while Roadsters can indeed be “bricked,” customers are told over and over again during the purchase process that they cannot leave their Roadster unplugged for an extended amount of time. Furthermore, this is spelled out in the Tesla Roadster owners manual, over and over again, that a Roadster should not be left unplugged for very long.

Except for the first 500 models, all Roadsters come with monitoring software that lets Tesla inform customers that their battery is near dead. Drucker had one of those first 500 un-monitored Roadsters. In Drucker’s piece, he claims the unnamed service manager says that Tesla even went so far as to use GPS inside the almost-drained Roadster to track it down and plug it in. Drucker refuses to give the name of this service manager out to the press.

My take: Basically, this is just another manufactured scandal, this time from an irate customer who is understandably upset that he’s been left with with $109,000 paperweight. Furthermore, the Tesla “brick” problem is unique to the brand, which uses over 6,800 individual cobalt dioxide batteries and allows the battery to run down to just 5% of its life. Other vehicles, like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, have computer systems that never allow the battery to get that low. The Volt only uses about 10.4 kWh of its 16 kWh battery, leaving a lot left over, and Nissan has a firewall of sorts in the Leaf that prevent the battery from ever fully discharging.

Why did Tesla design the Roadster, which will share battery technology (and the potential for becoming a brick) with the Model X and Model S crossover? It’s the mileage, stupid. The 53 kWh battery on the Roadster allows for 200+ miles of range, more than twice the Leaf, and about six times the all-electric range of the Volt. But there are tradeoffs for everything, and I am inclined to believe

But anybody who is a serious car collector knows that there is more to owning a vehicle than shutting it away in a shed. Tires deflate, dust collects, gas goes bad, and yes, batteries die. This is not some kind of amazing revelation, and it seems to me Tesla clearly spelled out that the Roadster must not go unplugged for an extended period of time. For collector car owners, that means keeping the Tesla plugged in. For regular drivers, plugging in is a common occurrence, and it really does sound like Tesla went out of its way to make it clear that it could happen. Owning exotic cars comes with responsibilities you don’t have with a Ford F-150 or Toyota Prius.

Some good may come of this wannabe-scandal though.  Drucker’s piece has shed light on what some may consider a huge design flaw. And while keeping your electric car plugged in isn’t that much of a big deal, I also think Tesla owes it to customers to ensure that this does not happen on future vehicles, including the Model S and Model X.

I don’t know Drucker’s motives; is he just a butthurt fanboy, or an EV lover turned loather due to a defective product? Green Car Reports was leaked this letter from Drucker to Musk, and I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about what Drucker was hoping to get out of the Tesla CEO. For whatever reason though, he has helped manufacture yet another “scandal” involving electric cars that, while based in truth, is already being distorted and lied about to rile up the EV-hating masses.

But as Mark Twain once said, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Sources: The Understatement | The Truth About Cars | Green Car Reports | Image: windu via Shutterstock

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.