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Power Transportation

Tesla Temporarily Boosts Battery Capacity For Hurricane Irma (sfgate.com) 328

Slashdot reader mikeebbbd noticed this in the AP's Florida hurricane coverage: Electric car maker Tesla says it has temporarily increased the battery capacity of some of its cars to help drivers escaping Hurricane Irma. The electric car maker said the battery boost was applied to Model S and X cars in the Southeast. Some drivers only buy 60 or 70 kilowatt hours of battery capacity, but a software change will give them access to 75 kilowatt hours of battery life until Saturday. Depending on the model, that could let drivers travel about 40 more miles before they would need to recharge their cars.

Tesla said it made the change after a customer asked the company for help evacuating. The company said it's possible it will make similar changes in response to similar events in the future.

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Tesla Temporarily Boosts Battery Capacity For Hurricane Irma

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  • Uh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 10, 2017 @08:36PM (#55171797)

    Or maybe Tesla could just stop artificially crippling the batteries?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by barc0001 ( 173002 )

      You act like they're the first people to do this. Spoiler alert: They're not.

      Many companies make a thing on a single assembly line because it's less expensive then running two or more lines, and then artificially limit its capabilities when a version of it is sold as a lower-end model. See Intel, nVidia and others. And IBM. Not sure if they still do it, but one of their old mainframes had a ton of processors under the hood no matter which model you bought, but many were locked off. If you wanted to up

      • Re:Uh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm@NOsPaM.icebalm.com> on Sunday September 10, 2017 @09:28PM (#55171985)

        You act like they're the first people to do this.

        The amount of people who do it doesn't make it right.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          You say that as if it would be sold at the lower price were it not true. Nope. Some people are willing to pay a premium for a small return. That just subsidizes the others. Would you rather that everyone pay the higher cost, making it unaffordable for some?

          Do you also think it's wrong that a software company charges a business for each user, even though they may only provide a single image to copy from?
          • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

            You say that as if it would be sold at the lower price were it not true.

            If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering. I would rather they sell it at a fair price.

            Do you also think it's wrong that a software company charges a business for each user, even though they may only provide a single image to copy from?

            This is not analogous, but I will answer. If you sell software I think it's fair to come up with your own bus

            • Re:Uh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday September 11, 2017 @12:14AM (#55172495)

              > If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering.

              Is it? Is it really? Is it not possible that Tesla can sell that lower price point car at the price it can because the cost is partly offset by the full range buyers? By your logic if I made a thing that cost me $9 and I sold it for $10 partly limited in some way and fully open at $20 for the "high end" version that was unlimited, then on the high end model I am profiteering to the tune of $11 per unit and am a bad person and should probably be lined up against a wall or something. But what if I then shared that I sell 2500 $10 units a month and 300 $20 units a month, and my staff costs on top of the $9 material and build cost are $3000/month. So what's the solution? Market research has shown that if I have just the premium model as the only model and sell it for $12, I won't sell 2800 units a month any more, I'll be moving 1000 if I'm lucky. So I'm supposed to work for free? My investors are supposed to get nothing?

              Pricing in tiers like this is a highly complex subject and way more nuanced than "ZOMG - ripoff!" binary responses. There are some people who wouldn't have been able to afford a Tesla at all if the software limited battery pack wasn't an option, so it works to create more options for people. Same with iPhones for example. Apple could just make one size and say "$1000 on the table right now, or no iPhone for you." But they don't because they want additional market penetration across all classes of consumer.

              • Apple could just make one size and say "$1000 on the table right now, or no iPhone for you." But they don't because they want additional market penetration across all classes of consumer.

                Your iPhone analogy doesn't work. Apple doesn't sell crippled iPhones as lower capacity at a lower price, the hardware is actually different - storage capacity is not some bogus figure, it is the actual amount of storage physically installed in the phone.

                In Tesla's case, they are selling different versions of the car with an artificially lowered battery capacity for a lower price. Note that I don't disagree with their logic behind this, and I do agree that it benefits people who cannot afford the premium

            • Re:Uh huh... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday September 11, 2017 @12:34AM (#55172539) Homepage

              If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering. I would rather they sell it at a fair price.

              "profiteering" is one way to describe it. "Selling different products that have different profit margins" is another, and IMHO better, way to describe it.

              I get it, you have a visceral reaction that this is bad. I feel the same way about how Intel sells deliberately-crippled parts to maximize profits at all levels in the market they serve.

              But prices are between a company and their customers. If you don't like how they do things, you don't have to buy the product, that that also doesn't make it immoral (as you implied in your +5 moderated post).

              Tesla was trying something new: selling the first battery electric vehicle that doesn't suck. Safe, reliable, fun to drive, and usable for long trips. Nobody had made a car like that before. They weren't sure they would be able to sell enough cars with the bigger battery size, so they offered the 60 with the software limit on size, and tried selling that for a while. It let them set the starting price lower.

              Tesla had (and still has) lots of expenses. They had to build their own network of Superchargers. They had to build out their factory. They built their own battery "Gigafactory". All of these investments will make it possible for people to buy the Model 3 at a less-crazy price than the Model S or X. And just maybe someday Tesla will be able to sell a car for the same cost as a Honda Civic, and BEVs will become truly mainstream.

              So I am personally happy and grateful that a bunch of rich people spent a bunch of money buying Tesla cars, helping Tesla get to where it could start making the Model 3. And if that means Tesla made a higher profit margin on the fancier cars, I'm personally okay with that.

              And by the way, Tesla's battery management software strongly encourages users to avoid charging their cars to 100%. Tesla owners routinely charge to 90% or less to preserver battery life. But since the Tesla 60 battery is actually a larger battery, owners of those cars simply charge them to 100% every day. Also, even a Tesla 60 has dramatically better range than the Nissan Leaf or the Volkswagen eGolf or various other options, yet people buy those. For many users who just want to drive around town, the 60 has plenty of range just the way it is, and they would rather have the car at the lower cost.

              Finally, on the gripping hand, Tesla doesn't do this anymore. They now just sell 70 and 90 cars, neither one software-limited. But there are a fair number of 60 cars out there still.

            • You say that as if it would be sold at the lower price were it not true.

              If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering. I would rather they sell it at a fair price.

              Say it costs a company $2500 to develop product X, and they can manufacture 500 of them for $5 each. That's $5000 total so to cover costs on those 500 they have to sell each one for $10, $5 for the R&D and $5 for the manufacturing cost.

              What happens if they build 1000? Well the R&D cost per unit is now $2.5, making the price $7.5 per unit, but maybe there aren't 1000 people willing to pay $7.5 for product X.

              So you come up with a way to cripple X and sell it as product Y. And now you sell 500 of produ

            • I absolutely understand the feeling, the gut reaction, that somehow that just isn't fair.

              > If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering.

              "And still make a profit", you say. Newsflash - Tesla is not making a profit. They lose money on every car.

              So our gut reaction at first of "that doesn't seem right" tells us we should look into it more. Looking into it, we find the situation is more complex than our initial, v

            • If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering. I would rather they sell it at a fair price.

              A fair price? Is that what you think it should be, what I think it should be, what Elon Musk thinks it should be or (crazy talk) what the customer is willing to pay?

            • If Tesla can sell the same hardware at different price points and still make a profit then the higher price point is simply profiteering. I would rather they sell it at a fair price.

              The problem with this argument is that they typically can't. The same is true for Intel binning parts and other manufacturers that have similar practices. They can make a profit if they sell, for example, 75% of them for $n, 20% for $2n, and 5% for $10n. They can't make a profit if they sell all of them at $n. Your choice is for them to either sell them all for $1.65n, or sell 75% of them for $n and charge a premium for the rest. It's even more complicated, because these prices depend on amortising lar

        • I agree! Let's outlaw it. So, how is that 30% jump in the price of economy... oops I mean "no longer economy" airline seats working out for you? With everyone on the airplane now paying the same price per square inch, those business class travelers are saving a ton too! Only a 20% premium over the lowest ticket now.

      • Many companies make a thing on a single assembly line because it's less expensive then running two or more lines, and then artificially limit its capabilities when a version of it is sold as a lower-end model.

        That's absolutely fine provided that anyone who purchases their product has the legal right to enable the full functionality themselves assuming that they can figure out how to do that. This is what ultimately limits this sort of behaviour. Unfortunately, all the modern DRM laws have killed this balance by making it illegal in many countries to develop and/or share methods to turn on blocked functionality.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      They are "crippling" the batteries to make them last longer which, in cases of emergency, you do not care about. Still, it would be nice if they provided an interface to manage it ourselves instead of acting as mighty god through some kind of mighty galactic, over the air, update.

      • by Trogre ( 513942 )

        So instead of the vehicle owner reaching under the hood and flipping the "emergency mode" switch, vehicle owners are content to patiently wait until benevolent Tesla, out of the goodness of their hearts, issue a code over the airwaves to unlock this feature in their cars.

        Let me be clear on this point:
        Fuck. That.

    • Agreed. Tesla cars have just gone from desired items to never buy. I had profound respect for that company, and it's gone in a flash. I will not buy from a company that charges more for access to hardware I've already purchased, nor will I support the "Windows 10" mentality of the manufacturer being able to push out any changes they want to something I own. I had even considered buying some of Tesla's latest issue of bonds simply to support the company. I'm glad this came up now.

      It's no wonder all the

      • by tippen ( 704534 )

        News flash: Products aren't sold at their BOM costs! They aren't ripping the customers off. As long as customers get what they paid for (ie., per spec), then what difference does it matter how much margin is in the design?

        There are design margins in everything. Some are razor thin (typical consumer goods), some are quite large because it can make more sense for the company to optimize costs related to manufacturing and inventory management over absolute per unit costs. There is also margin in designs for

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @08:49PM (#55171841)

    If anyone, you should know that there may well be a reason to "cripple" hardware despite its possible ability to function at higher spec. CPUs and graphics card anyone? What happens when an i7 CPU doesn't quite pass the QA tests? Switch off the cores that didn't pass and sell it as an i3. How many here have "unlocked" cores of cheap CPUs to turn it into a more powerful one? Do you think Intel does that because they enjoy making CPUs then sell them cheaply with some cores switched off for ... reasons? Or could it rather be that they switch off the cores because they fail inspection and can't be relied on, and it's still more interesting for Intel to sell it at a lower price than to throw it away?

    I could imagine the same applies to other hardware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by niftydude ( 1745144 )
      That's not the case here. The extra installed battery capacity is perfectly fine, and under normal conditions, Tesla will allow you to unlock it for a fee. It is just part of their business model that they purposely cripple the hardware because they know that for the most part eventually their users will get peeved at the limited mileage and pay to unlock the extra battery capacity. People have different views on the morality of this.
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @09:03PM (#55171895) Journal

        It might not be quite so simple as a pure money grab on Tesla's part. Many battery designs will last longer if you don't cycle them quite a deeply and if capacity does diminish but still is greater than what you paid for you'll never know and Tesla does not have to replace it.

        Given they grantee the batteries for a period of the time the extra cost for the 'higher capacity' version might essentially be what amounts to a pre-paid insurance policy for the battery by actuarial spreading the cost of the increased likelihood the batters used at higher capacity will need replacing under warranty among the buyers of the higher capacity.

      • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @09:35PM (#55172009)

        This is done on basically every piece of test equipment with optional features.
        What's the difference between a Rigol 1054Z 50MHz DSO and the 1104Z 100MHz model?

        One costs $399 and the other costs $619.
        The physical hardware that provides the bandwidth is identical. There is switch in the front-end to lower the bandwidth controlled by software. Doing this means the hardware costs more, but they can sell it at difference price points to get a larger market.
        They offer software upgrades to increase the memory depth as well.

        No to mention extra upgrades to unlock protocol decoding.

    • If anyone, you should know that there may well be a reason to "cripple" hardware despite its possible ability to function at higher spec. CPUs and graphics card anyone? What happens when an i7 CPU doesn't quite pass the QA tests? Switch off the cores that didn't pass and sell it as an i3. How many here have "unlocked" cores of cheap CPUs to turn it into a more powerful one? Do you think Intel does that because they enjoy making CPUs then sell them cheaply with some cores switched off for ... reasons? Or could it rather be that they switch off the cores because they fail inspection and can't be relied on, and it's still more interesting for Intel to sell it at a lower price than to throw it away?

      Another situation that can occur is that they manufacture and release a certain volume of products at each performance-level, but run out of the lower-priced models. Then they repackage and sell the higher-performance models as the lower-performance models, so that they don't disturb whatever linear-programming market calculations they made in order to maximize profits.

      Any manufacturer or supplier of a product can encounter an unexpected shortage of a particular quality-level. Ever received an upgrade for a

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        If you receive an upgrade then you (the consumer) benefit from the upgrade and generally won't complain about it (or perhaps you would with a rental car because an upgraded car might consume more fuel).
        You're not asked to take the upgrade but not make use of any of the upgraded features.

    • Not even close to the same thing. Intel needs to sell massive quantities. In order to do that they need to be inclusive to a much wider audience. Tesla is selling a small number of cars to the rich and wannabe rich. And unlike a chip where material costs are about hte same regardless of cores it increases with density for a battery.

      In this case my guess is they are in fact not all the same capacity battery and they have deemed it safe for a limited time to go above their advertised rating.
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      If a CPU failed QA to run at higher speeds but is fully functional at lower speeds or with less cores then it's an inferior, lower quality product and deserves to be sold at a lower price point.
      If you choose to unlock it, you run the risk that it won't work at all, or won't work reliably. Your unlocked product is still going to be inferior to the higher priced option.
      If you paid extra for a higher performing CPU then you get a superior product, it may have started out the same but the manufacturing process

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        If a CPU failed QA to run at higher speeds but is fully functional at lower speeds or with less cores then it's an inferior, lower quality product and deserves to be sold at a lower price point.
        If you choose to unlock it, you run the risk that it won't work at all, or won't work reliably. Your unlocked product is still going to be inferior to the higher priced option.
        If you paid extra for a higher performing CPU then you get a superior product, it may have started out the same but the manufacturing process

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday September 10, 2017 @08:58PM (#55171873)
    On the other hand, if you have to flee an emergency that isn't quite so highly publicized, anyone with an EV will be on their own.
  • So it's a kind of Day-One DLC?
  • I have a question. Do some of the people buying the lower capacity battery actually receive a lower capacity battery that exactly meets what they are paying for? If that is true then I presume, for reasons of mass manufacture and inventory availability, some people paying for the lower capacity battery receive a higher capacity battery but they cannot access the entire capacity.

  • Software limitations purely for the purpose of profit are evil. No if's, and's or butts.

    The entire point of capitalism is to convince the manufacturer to provide the most product for the cheapest price.

    Here we have a situation where the company can sell a better product for the same price but instead chooses to screw their customers. I understand the concept of variable pricing, the general idea is to convince each consumer to pay the most they are willing to pay for the same product.

    But you are supposed

  • http://jalopnik.com/teslas-hur... [jalopnik.com]

    "Earlier this week, Tesla remotely upgraded select Florida Tesla ownersâ(TM) cars to expand their mileage capacity in an effort to ease and assist with Hurricane Irma evacuation efforts. The move was praiseworthy and appropriate, but at the root of the gesture lies a terrifying prospect of our automotive future..."

  • by havana9 ( 101033 ) on Monday September 11, 2017 @03:17AM (#55172827)
    This happens also on regular petrol cars. The 1400 cc 16 valves turbocharged petrol engine made by Fiat is available in three versions: 120 HP, 145 HP and 170 HP. You can reprogram the ECU from a 120 HP to a 175 HP version quite easily and It will works for some time. But transmission, brakes, air manifold and exhaust are different. This is the official FIat upgrade kit [abarthcars.co.uk] So you can for a moment overboost the petrol engine power, but without changing other components you'' get a coffin on four wheels. I suppose that the power capacity difference could be linked to some different parts for the car that coul do the work ok for some times but can't be span the same lifetime if used on higher power.

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