Tesla Temporarily Increases Battery Capacity for People in Path of Hurricane Irma

A good-faith gesture from the company for those affected by the storm.

via Getty Images

This morning, Tesla owners in Florida who own a 60 kWh Model S or Model X woke up to an interesting surprise. Their vehicles, which have a larger battery already installed from the factory, were enable for 75 kWh charging capacity. All so that they are able to travel a bit further to escape the impending hurricane, Irma.

The weak point of electric cars still appears to be the charging system. Though level 3 supercharging can charge much faster than an at-home or destination charger, it still takes well over an hour for most Tesla owners to fill up. In fact, in the time it takes to charge a Model S from empty at a supercharger, 86 gasoline-powered cars can fill their tanks. In a situation like this, it might be harder for vehicles to traverse an already congested supercharging network, something we're already seen in a leisurely activity like spotting the eclipse.

In order to further alleviate the network, Tesla made a bold, unannounced move overnight for newer 60 kWh owners. If a Model S or Model X is in Florida, Tesla "unlocked" the rest of the battery for the owners to evacuate. This takes advantage of the newer battery packs shipped in vehicles manufactured after April 2017 which are actually 75kWh batteries that are software limited to 60 kWh.

We reached out to Tesla regarding this change to verify the claims floating around the internet and a representative was able to confirm them. The rep stated that the increase will be temporary and last until September 17th, 2017 unless Tesla deems an elongation necessary. This makes for not only a good gesture towards owners, but great publicity for the company itself. After the upgrade is removed, cars will be reverted back to their 60 kWh capacity and owners will still be permitted software-unlock the extra 15 kWh for an extra $2,000.

As of now, Tesla says that their Supercharging network is operating as normal, with the exception of their St. Augustine location, which will be operational 24 hours per day, an increase of the 9 am to 9 pm hours which it usually operates. No superchargers will close unless their attached businesses lose power.

Hopefully, given the amount of time owners are going to be sitting in traffic, this increase in battery capacity will help owners to evacuate safely. It is important that owners stay safe and travel away from the storm, especially given the severity. Thanks to Tesla, this becomes a bit easier for some owners.