Tesla May Reduce Vehicle Power After Too Many Ludicrous Mode Engagements

'Countergate' tests the limits of Tesla loyalists.

Getty Images

Tesla's latest update to software version 8.0 added features to autopilot for vehicles equipped with hardware pack version 2, and introduced Ludicrous+, which drops the 0-60 mph time for P100D owners to 2.4 seconds. But what wasn't disclosed were changes, if any, that limit rather than expand features or functionality—a new fear some Tesla owners now face when news of a new software update breaks.

Version 8.0, originally released in August, introduced several limits to Autopilot, and may also have reduced the performance of vehicles that made too frequent use of Ludicrous Mode, a type of launch-control that allowed the car to reach 60 mph from a standstill in 2.5 seconds, compared to 2.9 seconds without. However, the parlor trick stresses component of the vehicle's drive unit, and some owners found that, after repeated use, their vehicle's performance suffered.

One member of the Tesla Motors Club forum started a thread with a post stating, in part, that Tesla is now "taking away output current after too many launches on some packs," while another forum member claimed on that same thread that his Tesla, which used to pull 1600 amps, was pulling only 1500 amps and produced 100 fewer horsepower. He inquired about the performance drop, and claims the Tesla Service Center confirmed that there is a count on the number of times Launch Mode is used, and once that number is reached, power is reduced without notice to the driver.

Tesla confirmed to The Drive and other outlets that the Battery Management System monitors vehicle components and features, such as Launch Mode, and may electronically limit available power to preserve vehicle integrity. The news of a counter came as a surprise to many owners, although Tesla says such limitations are a common practice amongst performance vehicle manufacturers.

There is precedent for such a move. Nissan previously voided warranty of GTR owners who used that car's launch control feature and claimed damage—though they later reinstated those warranties following a class-action lawsuit; later versions of the GTR's R Mode, which had to be engaged to enable launch control, required a strict, six-step process. Although Tesla may be justified in enacting similar restrictions, there is debate amongst owners over whether or not Tesla adequately informed them of this practice. The Palo Alto-based carmaker recently settled a lawsuit with owners in Norway upset over overstated vehicle performance, but the terms of the agreement weren't disclosed.

Some owners on the TMC are threatening a similar lawsuit if full power isn't restored to their vehicles. Suing the company, or even complaining bitterly in public newsgroups, is frowned upon by the majority of Tesla owners, who often turn a blind eye to the company's shortcomings out of deference for the greater good of the environment and/or technology advances. One owner has reportedly asked his service adviser to roll back the firmware to version 7.0, while another fears he may may have to resort to buying a gasoline-powered vehicle to enjoy a true performance car. Some vehicles, like the Porsche 911 Turbo, are equipped with a launch control that can repeatedly be engaged without any performance loss.

It's unlikely that the company will allow customers to return to a previous firmware version, as it could make the vehicle vulnerable to other issues that were fixed in recent updates. It's also not clear if there is anything else consumers can do to appeal to the company to restore full power capacity.

However, more than restoring horsepower, the company may need to restore faith to its fanbase. Some customers, many of whom present themselves as beta-testers of Tesla's cutting-edge technology, appear unusually dismayed by the lack of disclosure from the company regarding the counter limit on Ludicrous Mode—and further troubled by the inability to know how close they are to hitting the maximum number of engagements. Owners are appealing to the company directly and on Twitter to resolve their grievance. If the company doesn't, it could lose a competitive edge not shared by any other manufacturer: its extremely loyal and unusually forgiving fanbase.

Update: Readers of The Drive have pointed out online accounts that Launch Mode starts aren’t the only actions that trigger a counter—flooring the accelerator when the car is already rolling in Ludicrous Mode will also trigger a “Mixture” counter. One reader says his service adviser told him there is a 625 limit on launches, and a 3068-launch "Mixture” limit.