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NHTSA, Investigating Tesla Fire Reports, Demands Data on Battery Software Changes

NHTSA, Investigating Tesla Fire Reports, Demands Data on Battery Software Changes
NHTSA, Investigating Tesla Fire Reports, Demands Data on Battery Software Changes
Tesla
  • Responding to driver complaints about lowered range, NHTSA opened an investigation, which has led to questioning how Tesla has responded to vehicle fires.
  • The list of information the government agency wants Tesla to provide is eye-poppingly long, deatiled in a letter it sent to the EV manufacturer last week.
  • If Tesla doesn't respond in a timely fashion, it could face millions in civil fines.

    NHTSA would like a word with Tesla. Actually, more like tens of thousands of words, according to its eight-page demand letter.

    The letter, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to Tesla, was dated last week. It asks the electric-vehicle manufacturer for detailed information on any complaints that the company has received about vehicle fires connected to the battery management systems in some Model S and X vehicles, as well as information on updates the automaker has made to the battery management system over time.

    C/D previously reported that NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation opened the investigation on October 1 after receiving a defect petition September 17 from an unspecified number of Tesla owners to look into the "alarming number of car fires that have occurred worldwide."

    The September 17 petition, sent by the Law Offices of Edward C. Chen, which represents the Tesla owners, said that some of the over-the-air Tesla battery management system updates (specifically updates 2019.16.1 and 2019.16.2, in May 2019) lowered the overall range of the electric vehicles. The average range loss was around 25 to 30 miles, the letter says, but some owners lost as much as 50 miles of range. Tesla told Reuters that because of the update, "A very small percentage of owners of older Model S and Model X vehicles (pictured above) may have noticed a small reduction in range when charging to a maximum state of charge following a software update designed to improve battery longevity."

    Exactly what "battery longevity" means here wasn't made clear. NHTSA now wants to get the data from Tesla to evaluate if the updates were actually made because of the fires. NHTSA wants Tesla to provide information and documents regarding the OTA software updates the company made in 2019 that "limit the maximum battery capacity of maximum cell charging voltage of the high-voltage battery." Specifically, NHTSA is interested in:

    • How many model year 2012 through 2019 Model S and X vehicles the company sold in the U.S., and details about those EVs, like the VIN, size of battery pack, when it was manufactured and sold, if it came with unlimited free Supercharging, and if and when the subject software updates were installed.
    • How many consumer complaints, field reports, property damage claims, or lawsuits the company received or was aware of that are related to the alleged defect (which NHTSA defines as "high-voltage battery fires that are not related to collision or impact damage to the battery pack").
    • Details of how Tesla responded to each of those complaints, reports, claims, or lawsuits.
    • Details on all of Tesla's over-the-air updates "which relate to charging rate, charging capacity, or battery thermal management during or after charging" that have been sent to vehicles from January 1, 2017, to the present, and even any updates the company is planning on sending out in the next 120 days.
    • Details about all of Tesla internal tests regarding the battery, including things like charging depth, thermal history, and cell shorts.
    • Details on all of the related fire incidents and whether vehicles that got the updates had any difference in fire incidents with the EVs that were not updated.

      One quick note on the lighter side: Tesla has to provide the information NHTSA wants in "Microsoft Access 2010, or a compatible format."

      Tesla has until November 29, 2019, to respond or ask for an extension. If it does not submit the information to NHTSA, it could face civil penalties of up to $22,329 a day, up to a maximum of $111,642,265.

      Car and Driver reached out to NHTSA for comment on the investigation. A spokesperson issued this statement: "NHTSA has received a defect petition regarding the battery management software in certain Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles. The agency will carefully review the petition and relevant data. The agency's final decision will be posted in a closing résumé on www.nhtsa.gov. It will also be published in the Federal Register. NHTSA encourages the public to contact the agency with safety concerns, including any related to these vehicles, online or by calling 888–327–4236."

      We have also asked Tesla to comment and will bring you their response if we receive one.

      Source:caranddriver.com