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Tesla Gives Model S Owners in Path of Hurricane Florence Temporary Extended Battery Life

Certain cars will be given access to an otherwise hidden reserve of power, plus free Supercharging.

As Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas, drivers scurry to conform to mandatory evacuations. Tesla, as it has in the past, reportedly responded to the looming storm with a gesture of goodwill to owners of older Model S vehicles, enabling free Supercharging and access to a bit of extra battery reserve that would otherwise be software locked.

Some early adopters of the 60 kilowatt-hour and 70 kWh battery have begun receiving a notification in their Model S. The message informed drivers that the battery capacity of their vehicle had been temporarily increased and that free access to the Supercharging network would be permitted for their vehicles until some time in mid-October.

“We are temporarily enabling your car to access additional battery capacity, as well as free Supercharging, in preparation for Hurricane Florence.” read the notification, “We hope that this gives you the peace of mind to get to a safe location, and will notify you before returning your car to its original configuration in mid-October. Badging on your display may adjust during this period. Safe travels!”

Tesla is able to make this good faith gesture thanks to a previous decision to software lock certain features on early cars. Depending on the vehicle configuration purchased, owners of early Model S sedans who purchased a smaller capacity battery were actually given a larger battery pack in their vehicle. The caveat was that Tesla subsequently software locked the car’s ability to charge past the capacity it was purchased with, a cost-saving measure which increased both battery longevity and charge times thanks to the underutilization of the pack’s cells.

Additionally, the update not only unlocks Supercharging on cars that did not previously have the functionality enabled but also temporarily provides access to Tesla’s Supercharging network at no cost. Previously, this was an option that cars with lower-capacity battery packs had to pay for. A Model S equipped with a 60 kWh battery, for example, required a one-time payment of $2,500 to unlock the option from the factory.

It’s incredible to know that in 2018, an automaker can push such drastic updates right over the air to a fleet of vehicles.