Bricking A Tesla Roadster Battery: Today's Electric Car Meme

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2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

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Heard of "bricking" yet? No? You will shortly.

It's the phenomenon in which the lithium-ion battery pack of an electric car that's left unplugged for a long period goes completely, utterly dead--to the point where it cannot be recharged, and becomes a large, expensive "brick."

[FURTHER UPDATE: Is Tesla 'Bricking' Story Just An Angry Owner's Warranty Claim?]

[UPDATE: Presented in handy Q+A form, here's our summary: The Real Story Behind The Scare.]

A post on the Understatement blog that ricocheted around Silicon Valley last night is about to break nationally.

Its author, Michael DeGusta, cheerfully describes himself as a "sporadic gadfly" and "possibly also a 'patronizing idiot', 'font hipster', and/or author of 'a tech blog'".

The post describes five alleged cases in which Tesla Roadster battery packs were left uncharged sufficiently long--or in one case, plugged in to a source that supplied insufficient power--that they bricked, leaving the owners with immobile $100,000 sports cars needing a five-figure pack replacement.

The post does not identify the owners, though it gives locations for some of them. We're in the process of tracking down at least one of the owners, and getting comments from Tesla Motors.

For the moment, let's just say that there are always two sides to every story--and that the story as told is missing some important facts.

Do you really think Tesla's personal sales process would hand over a $100,000-plus Roadster to its wealthy, demanding, often well-informed, and eager-to-be-evangelist customers without clearly explaining the risks?

Sure, they might not do so until they had the check in hand.

But we understand that in fact the Tesla owners had been quite clearly informed--and had acknowledged receiving a specific warning about treatment that could lead to bricking.

We'll have more soon. Stay tuned.


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Comments (12)
  1. If you go looking for used Tesla Roadsters online you'll notice most of them have relatively few miles on them. It's not Tesla's fault that owners aren't taking their cars out. This happens with sports cars, they sit longer because they a reguarded as play things. I've seen quite a few Ferraris and Lamborghinis refuse to start and need work done to bring them back to life just because they've sat to long.

  2. "Bricking." How perfect. Having written for years & trying to find out how Tesla's extremely complex & expensive battery packs are doing;it now surfaces. I said if you drive your Tesla to an airport, park it in the hot sun for a week;you are likely to discharged & ruined battery pack. Tesla uses laptop computer batteries;these are not automotive grade batteries. They can be ruined if over discharged, explode or burn if not charged correctly & if they are punctured; burst into flames. Society of Automotive Engineers has standards for auto EV batteries; Tesla doesn't meet them. SAE safety testing determines if batteries are safe if over/under charged, if punctured. Next Bricking will appear in some lost range use-any one brick theirs?

  3. Your comments pander to the inflammatory nature of the original article. From my own experience of actually driving the car I can confirm that the battery does not loose 50% in a week. Actually, even driving to work and back 20 miles a day, for a week, _without charging at all_ doesn't drain 50% of the battery!

  4. Mr Marks obviously had no experience with EV's but seems to think he knows how they behave. He doesn't.

  5. Richard, were even trying to reply to my comment? If you don't mind leave me out of your trash talking.

  6. There are more comments in this thread
  7. Actually, it's likely a problem with all electric cars. IT is very difficult to create them without some parasitic loads on them. And even tiny loads can drain down the pack if parked for weeks or months. Tesla is somewhat hampered in that it DOES tend to be a toy car, used infrequently anyway and often by the wealthy who have lots of cars. So this is a very real issue I would think.

    We have a simple switch to disable the pack entirely if the car is to be parked for long periods. But we would have to remember to do so and or know it was going to be parked for long periods. Left to its own devices, it would indeed drain the pack and destroy it. And they are indeed expensive.
    Jack Rickard

  8. The obvious fix is an auto disconnect of the pack from all loads at a certain threshold. Tesla of course has more active management going on then our cars but they should be able to have a fail safe protection to isolate the pack.

  9. The original story raises a lot questions and offers little proof. Much of the story hinges on the lie that the Model S will suffer from the same problems because it would have the same battery tech according to Tesla. In fact the Model S will use different cells developed by Panasonic for use in vehicles and Tesla never suggested the batteries would be the same. The blogger just misinterpreted an article from another blogger. If "bricking"is real it remains to be seen if it's still a problem for the next gen Tesla batteries.

    The story does however make a point of pointing out the government loans Tesla did receive. I guess we can safely assume that after Fisker and the Volt the assault on Tesla has started with bloggers leading the way.

  10. there wil always be dumbass people or just missiformed.

  11. a "friend of of a friend" had a Ferrari 12 cylinder beast. he drove it about 1000-1500 miles a year on it and pays more than a thousand a year to maintain it. i guess the main problem is that if the car sits that long, it needs to be tuned up which cost big bucks. his car insurance is also a couple grand as well. so ya, people buy the car because they have the money. the same guy pays over $10,000 a year in property taxes for 2 other homes. once he went over 2 years without visiting the home a single time. he also pays more than $5,000 a year on one home for maintenance, lawn care, etc.

  12. this is why there is a cut off tech. on anything that is lithium powered.

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