BatteryGate: EV Edition? Tesla’s Battery Shenanigans Spark Lawsuit…and Bigger Questions

The prospects of self-driving and emissions-free electric cars, once deemed revolutionary, now face an unsettling reality.

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo at Auto Evolution recently highlighted the issue of limited battery pack lifespans in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and how it condemns them to be toys for the rich. Left unaddressed, this could ultimately kill the used EV market, he warns.

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Though a problem throughout the industry, Ruffo criticized U.S. automaker Tesla in particular for treating battery packs as disposable and not offering customers any discount when replacing them. Looked at purely from the standpoint of curbing carbon emissions, this lack of battery repairability may ultimately keep people from buying EV’s in general. If battery lifespans are short and replacements remain expensive, the total cost of ownership of vehicles increases, and consumers could be discouraged from buying used electric vehicles altogether.

The inability to cheaply swap batteries could drop the resale value of used electric vehicles, making them less attractive to large swaths of potential buyers. And EV affordability is already perceived as a major obstacle to wider adoption. Data shows that owners of EVs (in 2020) were predominantly middle-aged white men earning more than $100,000 per year.

With concerns over both reliability and charging associated with EVs, modular, repairable and swappable battery packs are a solution. But a lack of transparency from automakers on the true lifespan of battery packs and the cost of replacements is complicating matters. Tesla’s “batterygate” — an EV version of Apple’s famous dust up with consumers and regulators – is, perhaps, the most prominent example of that.

Tesla faces a class action lawsuit over its practice of using software updates to change vehicle performance.

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