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Tesla Model S Battery Drain Issue Fixed 239

Posted by Soulskill
from the acquitted-on-all-charges dept.
cartechboy writes "Does the Tesla Model S suck down power even when the car is switched off? Recently, a tweet to Elon Musk with an article saying so sparked the Tesla CEO's attention. He tweeted that it wasn't right and that he'd look into the situation. Then a few hours later, he tweeted that the issue had to do with a bad 12-volt battery. Turns out Tesla had already called the owner of the affected car and sent a service tech to his house to replace that battery — and also install a newer build of the car's software. Now it appears the 'Vampire Draw' has been slain. The car went from using 4.5 kWh per day while turned off to a mere 1.1 kWh. So, it seems to be solved, but Tesla may either need to fix some software, or start sending a few new 12-volt batteries out to the folks still experiencing the issue."
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Tesla Model S Battery Drain Issue Fixed

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ..for Elon's next Slashvertisment.

    • To be fair there were so many articles here about the problem being the end of the world that even if it is an advertisement this article still has a place here.
  • by themushroom (197365) on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:40PM (#45621077) Homepage

    The learning curve gets climbed.

  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:44PM (#45621115) Journal

    The 12V battery of a family member's Honda Civic didn't just draw more current than intended. It failed completely! The car could not start! The whole battery had to be replaced at cost to the owner and the Honda CEO was nowhere to be seen.

    • drain (Score:4, Insightful)

      by themushroom (197365) on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:49PM (#45621151) Homepage

      The whole battery had to be replaced at cost to the owner and the Honda CEO was nowhere to be seen.

      This would be because people will buy a Honda regardless of whether the dealer or company or CEO is a prick or not, where Tesla is trying to get itself a foothold in the market and Elon feels personally responsible if there's a defective product because it reflects badly upon the company. A hundred million Hondas Thousands of Teslas.

      • Elon feels personally responsible if there's a defective product because it reflects badly upon the company

        Are we sure his name is Elon, and not, for example, Uncle Enzo? ;-)

      • Tesla is trying to get itself a foothold in the market and Elon feels personally responsible if there's a defective product that has reached the attention of the media because it reflects badly upon the company.

        There, FTFY.
         
        Elon Musk is a master at manipulating the media and the fanbois.

        • by quadrox (1174915) on Friday December 06, 2013 @06:00PM (#45622317)

          In every piece concerning Tesla on slashdot, there are a few people making negative comments about Elon Musk. However, not once have I seen the complaints backed up with facts, examples, or otherwise, just negativity without any indication as to why.

          Could someone please explaint to me why there is this hate on Elon Musk, and what it is about?

          • by gman003 (1693318)

            He dreams big. That makes some small-dreaming people hate him.

            Yes, a lot of his talk is just ridiculous. That hyperloop thing? Preposterous. But then again, I'm sure people said the same about modern electric cars. That's why my stance on him is "ignore the pie-in-the-sky talk, focus on the actual actions", and by that measure he's doing very well. If he blows his entire fortune trying to build a vacuum-sealed tube for superconducting maglev trains to cross the country at R5, I'll laugh at him, but if he bu

            • by quadrox (1174915)
              Yes, this is exactly how I feel. It just seems so strange to hate so strongly on someone who has clearly accomplished so much, even if it's not all perfect.
          • It's the same as the Steve Jobs hate. A CEO identified with a product some people can't afford. The hatred is envy.

    • That's shocking! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gweilo8888 (921799)
      My god, one person's battery failed completely? That's truly shocking! I've never heard of a battery failing before.

      That is clearly a worse problem than every single Tesla Model S ever made sucking down 4.5KWh per day, every day, for months on end while Tesla sit on their fingers and do nothing to fix a problem that can apparently be fixed within hours of a single Tweet to the CEO.

      And the fact that the "fixed" Tesla still sucks up enough power to drain the battery in any other car overnight, every night
      • That whooshing sound was me missing the joke. Although I can perhaps be forgiven, bearing in mind the levels of rabid Tesla fanboyism around these parts.
      • Re:That's shocking! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:17PM (#45621941) Journal

        And the fact that the "fixed" Tesla still sucks up enough power to drain the battery in any other car overnight, every night...

        I'm kind of wondering if "sucks up" is really the right verb to be using here. I mean, the article's author notes that the battery pack has a nominal 85 kWh capacity. Losing 1.1 kWh in 24 hours (note, not just "overnight") from a fully-charged battery pack is a shade less than 1.3% of the total capacity per day; if it maintained that rate of discharge, it would drain the battery pack in about 2.5 months.

        The question I have, then, is how much of that consumption is replenishment of unavoidable self-discharge from the batteries, versus actual electricity used to power the various onboard electronics packages. That is, even if you physically cut every connection between the car and the battery pack in the evening, how much would the charge need to be topped up come morning?

        • by suutar (1860506)
          and (as someone mentioned) you also have to consider whether that 1.1kWh is all reaching the battery or if some of it is losses in the charging system. That is one big-ass wall wart, after all.
        • by Chuckstar (799005)

          Tesla batteries shouldn't be self-discharging faster than say 10% per month. That's like 0.3% per day. Plus, I think this guy had a 60kWh car, so your 1.3% is too low.

  • Can't they put a big red cutoff switch for the battery, for owners who won't be charging to just physically disconnect the battery when they're parked?

    If I had one, I wouldn't need the computer/GPS/3G_app/dataminer to keep running when I'm grocery shopping or working, as long as it reboots in less than, say, a minute.

    Do that are you're down to the raw battery leakage only.

    • Batteries discharge when doing nothing. What if the 1.1kWh is the normal for just sitting there like if it wasn't even in the car, plus some trickle for things like the clock and other persistant items? This might say more about the batteries' charge decay rate than the rest of the system causing a drain (though I do figure, fairly, there's a little more than just the clock and expected no-load decay at issue here).

      • What you call decay is what I call "raw battery leakage". You're more correct.

        Unless you're afraid your car will be stolen, there is no reason for anything to be powered when you're not using or charging it.

        Throw in three more cells if that's what it takes to power the door locks, and let me physically unplug everything else.

        • by Entropius (188861)

          The radio receiver for the keyless entry door locks ought to be able to idle on microwatts, and wake up and use milliwatts when it needs to spin up the computer that determines whether a received signal is actually the right key to open the locks.

      • by Chuckstar (799005)

        Self discharge on a 60kWh battery shouldn't be more than say 10 Watts, I believe.

    • by silas_moeckel (234313) <silas&dsminc-corp,com> on Friday December 06, 2013 @03:57PM (#45621259) Homepage

      You do realize the thing does not have a key. Hell you can not even open the doors without the fob they are literally retracted into the car.

      • The first car I owned was a 1986 Nissan Pulsar. Those days retractable headlights were much in vogue. Toyota Celica, Mazda Miata and some of these Nissans had them. There was a switch to disable the retraction and leave it permanently up. I used that to leave it up all the time based on a simple logic. "This car is old, and this damned retraction thingie is going to fail someday. When it does, I want it fail with the lights up not lights down". My logic was impeccable and all the PIGS (poor indian grad stud
        • The first car I owned was a 1986 Nissan Pulsar. Those days retractable headlights were much in vogue. Toyota Celica, Mazda Miata and some of these Nissans had them. There was a switch to disable the retraction and leave it permanently up. I used that to leave it up all the time based on a simple logic. "This car is old, and this damned retraction thingie is going to fail someday. When it does, I want it fail with the lights up not lights down".

          I'm certain this is absolutely pointless to say now, but most of those setups were designed so that spring pressure had to be overcome to close the lenses; that way, if the mechanism did fail, it *should* fail-safe to the open position.

          I wonder if Tesla has a switch to leave its door handles out.

          If I owned a Tesla with a dead 12v battery right now, I'd be afraid to know the answer.

          • >*should* fail-safe to the open position.

            Not in my first MX5. It failed down.

            My second MX5 and my first 350Z both solved this problem by not having retractable lights.

          • I'm certain this is absolutely pointless to say now, but most of those setups were designed so that spring pressure had to be overcome to close the lenses; that way, if the mechanism did fail, it *should* fail-safe to the open position.

            My 1987 Honda Prelude had retractable headlights - technically rotating. They used a screw mechanism to raise/open lower/close - no springs. The car also had a button to manually raise the lights w/o turning them on - I used that for cleaning and to raise them in case of snow/ice conditions, so they weren't frozen closed.

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            I'm certain this is absolutely pointless to say now, but most of those setups were designed so that spring pressure had to be overcome to close the lenses; that way, if the mechanism did fail, it *should* fail-safe to the open position.

            Ha-ha. Americans and their electronic complexity.

            My Italian car with flip-up headlights just had a knob you turned to raise them if the motor failed.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I'm certain this is absolutely pointless to say now, but most of those setups were designed so that spring pressure had to be overcome to close the lenses; that way, if the mechanism did fail, it *should* fail-safe to the open position.

            Well, no. Not in the Nissan. Like most imports, the Nissan uses a worm gear motor to actuate the headlights, or at least, it did from the eighties to the nineties. It was true in my 1984 300ZX, and it was true in my 1989 240SX, so I'm quite sure it was also true in the 1986 Pulsar. The motor pack has an arm on it like a windshield wiper, and a short pushrod attaches with small ball joints. The best part of the whole thing is that on the top of the motor there's a small knob in the same brick-red color as th

    • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:21PM (#45621471) Homepage

      One of my favorite features of my Nissan Leaf is that I can turn the air conditioning or heater on from a phone app. I can also check the state of the batteries and the time remaining until it fully charges. So even in standby, electric cars are doing a decent amount of stuff.

      • My question is "how much of that stuff is actually necessary and worth draining the battery for?"

        I know about AC in Texas or heaters in International Falls. Even if that's half the year, what about cutting off the waste the rest of the year?
        After the first month, you know exactly how long it takes to charge and how low batteries are after 51 miles. And if you don't yet, how often does it matter, when you're away from the car?

        • After the first month, you know exactly how long it takes to charge and how low batteries are after 51 miles.

          Not necessarily. It depends not only on your driving pattern but also the ambient temperature (which obviously varies according to season unless maybe you live in the tropics).

        • The only situation where it matters at all is if the car is sitting unplugged for weeks on end. That doesn't happen very often.

      • by Albanach (527650)

        My raspberry pi or my cellphone both have easily enough CPU to run a basic web interface and opeate a couple of switches, yet neither draws anything like 40 watts.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Can't they put a big red cutoff switch for the battery, for owners who won't be charging to just physically disconnect the battery when they're parked?

      If I had one, I wouldn't need the computer/GPS/3G_app/dataminer to keep running when I'm grocery shopping or working, as long as it reboots in less than, say, a minute.

      Do that are you're down to the raw battery leakage only.

      You're willing to sit in your car for 60 seconds while you wait for the computer that runs it to boot? You're much more patient than I am.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        You're willing to sit in your car for 60 seconds while you wait for the computer that runs it to boot? You're much more patient than I am.

        My Civic takes about five seconds to 'boot' after I turn the key (i.e the point where the digital displays reach their normal driving status). That's about as long as my Windows PC takes to boot to the login screen after it exits the BIOS, so it's clearly not hard to do.

  • How much electricity does a fossil-fuel vehicle use in a day while sitting, turned off?

    If it's anywhere near 1.1 kWh, then yea, no big deal for the Tesla to have a similar draw.

    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      A car battery contains about 1 kWh of power. So this kind of draw would drain a car battery in on day. You could probably leave a car parked for a month-or-so without worrying about the battery, so figure the Tesla is using power about 30x faster than a normal car. That further implies a normal car is running at about 1.5 Watts (which sounds about right for a computer running in low-power mode and occasionally checking for things like a nearby key fob for keyless entry).

      Of course, you'd expect to lose ch

    • How much electricity does a fossil-fuel vehicle use in a day while sitting, turned off?

      I recently had to troubleshoot something like this (turned out the culprit was a flaky switch in the trunk that would leave the trunk light on constantly). For a typical older-model car like mine, the expected current load is generally less than 30mA. A newer model car may be several times that, due to the increased parasitic draw from various built-in devices.

      The incandescent bulb in my car's trunk drew several hundred milli-amps, which was enough to drain the battery within a day or two.

  • Aux battery (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:10PM (#45621393) Homepage

    There's a 12-volt lead-acid battery in the thing to power the auxiliary systems. It's the same size as a regular automotive battery, but apparently is a sealed type, intended to last the life of the vehicle. Since it doesn't need to provide cranking power, a high-current battery isn't necessary.

    Tesla owners have been reporting 12 volt battery failures for months. Usually the charging system reports "12 volt battery failure", but apparently a partial failure is possible, where the aux battery is an energy drain but still functional.

    • by AaronW (33736)

      This is due to a problem with the battery manufacturer. The "well known" battery manufacturer subcontracted the batteries out to a Chinese company that subcontracted them out to a Vietnamese company. The resulting batteries Tesla got were crap and have a very high failure rate. I ended up with one of those batteries and Tesla had to replace it a few months ago when my car was less than 6 months old. The batteries Tesla had contracted were supposed to be much higher quality than what they ended up with. Sur

  • and it will be billed at dealer rates.

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      Technician comes to your home and fixes you car right then? That's a big improvement over leaving the car and having to walk/taxi home, having the car not even be looked at for anywhere from a few hours to a couple days depending on how busy the shop is, then walk/taxi back to pick it up.

  • Before the battery replacement, the car lost 3.5kWh/day. After the replacement, it lost 1.1kWh/day. That's a difference of 2.4kWh/day, which is 100W. That's something like 8 Amps internally leaking in the 12V battery. That seems shockingly high. Or maybe there's something else going on. If the battery was marginal, then perhaps the car's DC-DC converter was continually "charging" it but actually overcharging it. Then it would be electrolyzing 8A worth of water and battery acid. I expect that would m
  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:35PM (#45621617)
    Found this article from November 25, 2013. Three excerpts below...

    "According to Tesla, the car needs a constant flow of power to keep its computers and systems switched on 24/7, ready to boot up instantly when the driver gets into the car. (It's a popular myth among Model S owners that much of the vampire power goes to keep the battery warm during cold nights. This is simply not true.) According to Tesla, there is no thermal management of the Model S battery when the car is turned off and not charging--no matter how cold it gets."

    "Ironically, the Model S had very little vampire drain when it was first introduced. My owner's manual is based on the original software in the car. "When you're not driving Model S, the Battery discharges very slowly to power the onboard electronics," it purrs reassuringly. "On average the battery discharges at a rate of 1 percent per day. Unfortunately, the "sleep mode" software in those early cars triggered all sorts of glitches in the car's other systems. Eventually, the problems became so persistent that Tesla simply disabled the sleep mode. With sleep taken away, the vampires came out to play. And instead of draining 1 percent every 24 hours, the Model S battery suddenly began losing 5 or 6 percent of its charge every day. (In the case of 60-kWh cars like mine, it's closer to 7 or 8 percent.)"

    "So far I've run three overnight tests with the kWh meter. For each test, I charged the car up in the evening to its usual selected level (In my case, about 80 percent). Then I removed the charge plug. I allowed the car to sit unplugged overnight and on into the next day, until I needed to drive it. (Typically a span of 12 to 24 hours.) Before driving it, I plugged it back in to top off the vampire-depleted battery back to its original level. Then I checked the kWh-meter. Test results: The three tests showed vampire losses of 2.3 kWh in 17 hours, 1.9 kWh in 23 hours, and 4.2 kWh in 18 hours. Total vampire power lost was 8.4 kWh in 58 hours. That's an average of 3.5 kWh per day--roughly 25 percent lower than the losses I measured previously. I can't explain the wide variation in the vampire draw over the three tests. Clearly, more than three tests will be required to come up with an accurate figure. But it's clear to me that the new vampire-slayer software is pretty weak stuff. It's better than nothing, I suppose. A 25-percent improvement means that the 20,000 Model S cars now on the road will only waste about 70 megawatt-hours of power a day, down from 90 MWh. And it means that Musk's anti-vampire prediction has turned out to be one-quarter true in twice the time. Update 6.0, anyone?"

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1088648_life-with-tesla-model-s-even-after-update-vampire-draw-remains [greencarreports.com]

    • by eudaemon (320983)
      I'm a fan of Elon and Tesla, but it sounds like they need to invest heavily in fixing sleep mode.
      • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Friday December 06, 2013 @04:49PM (#45621711)
        Doh! I should have fully RTFA completely through :( Turns out it was the car's defective 12volt battery

        And so it looks like my vampire was indeed my car's defective 12-Volt battery

        But does the 12-Volt hypothesis explain why so many Model S owners reported similar problems on the various owner forums? Do they all have bad 12-Volt batteries?

        And what about the odd fact that most of the reported problems seem to be in 60-kWh cars? The Tesla spokesman told me that the 60- and 85-kWh batteries are identical, vampire-wise.

        http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1088929_life-with-tesla-model-s-electric-draw-vampire-slain-at-last/page-2

    • by Hatta (162192)

      "According to Tesla, the car needs a constant flow of power to keep its computers and systems switched on 24/7, ready to boot up instantly when the driver gets into the car.

      That's just stupid. It won't hurt anyone to wait 20 seconds for the computers to boot up. If it takes longer than 20 seconds to boot the cars computers, WTF? PCs only take minutes to boot because of legacy BIOS and OS writers who don't care about boot times. Embedded computers suffer none of these problems.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        That's just stupid. It won't hurt anyone to wait 20 seconds for the computers to boot up.

        That's just stupid. Not only might it hurt someone, but there's a third way: sleep mode. Modern computers can sleep on truly wispy amounts of power. What kind of chip did they use, a Nacho?

  • The problem with the 12 volt battery is exactly what caused all the problems with the review car that John Broder wrote about. Hmm, I guess Broder might not have been the big liar that Musk and his gang of fanboys painted him out to be.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The problem with the 12 volt battery is exactly what caused all the problems with the review car that John Broder wrote about. Hmm, I guess Broder might not have been the big liar that Musk and his gang of fanboys painted him out to be.

      Nope. This problem is with the car sitting still. That was a complaint about the car running out of battery precisely when it told the driver that it would, after he failed to charge it when it told him to. Broder is still a liar.

  • Then a few hours later, he tweeted that the issue had to do with a bad 12-volt battery. Turns out Tesla had already called the owner of the affected car and sent a service tech to his house to replace that battery — and also install a newer build of the car's software.

    So, it seems to be solved, but Tesla may either need to fix some software, or start sending a few new 12-volt batteries out to the folks still experiencing the issue.

    Well, just to be accurate here. As far as we know, the problem was tracked to be a bad battery. Thus it does not make sense to suggest that they "may need to some software". During servicing, the faulty car's software was possibly just upgraded "while we are at it", without the upgrade necessarily having to do anything with the battery.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @05:28PM (#45622019)

    What is the US energy mix? Is a Tesla better for the environment than a small petrol driven car? What about the embodied energy of a Tesla vs. a conventional car?

    I know here in Australia where we burn brown bloody coal an electric car produces more emissions than a V6.

    • by luther349 (645380)
      hard to say i does not burn gas but all those battery's when dead are defiantly not good for the environment.not to mention when one catches fire all the junk those battery's are venting.
  • Sad but true.
    I contacted Volvo but they didn't send a repair person out.

    I can't believe it. I trusted Sweden and this is how I am repaid....
    Damn you Sweden!!!!

    I just replaced it with a, standard domestic brand, Ford Pinto.
    Sounded like a great deal. We'll see how it goes.
    Frick'n Sweden.....

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Welcome to the world of cars which are not astoundingly expensive. The 2000+ Astro will drain the battery if you leave the keys in the ignition. Apparently, so will the 1992+ Ford F250, and it doesn't even have a BCM! Nobody was sending techs 'round for those problems, either.

  • I haven't noticed the vampire battery drain but then again I always keep my car plugged in at night. I also had to get my 12v battery replaced some months back. The 12v battery manufacturer outsourced the batteries to a Chinese company that outsourced them to a Vietnamese company causing a bunch of cars to get crappy 12v batteries that tended to fail fairly rapidly. I found out about it when I went to install a software upgrade and the car complained that the 12v battery was going bad. It sounds like the ca

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