Norway Fines Tesla for Throttling Battery Performance

Norway Fines Tesla for Throttling Battery Performance

A Norwegian court has ordered Tesla to pay $16,000 per customer for 2019 software updates that reduced both the range of the vehicles and the time that their batteries took to charge. The company claimed at the time of the initial report that the update was intended to “protect the battery and improve longevity” and that the range issues only affected a few owners. The case was brought by 30 Tesla owners of Model S and Model X vehicles with 85kWh batteries. Tesla stopped selling those particular modes in 2017. The award of around half a million dollars by the court might be small change to Tesla, who chose not to attend the hearing to contest the claims. However, Norway is estimated to have potentially another 10,000 owners of the affected models, which would see the company having a potential total liability in Norway of $160 million. Tesla has a few weeks to lodge an appeal to the decision, where the case would be advanced to a higher court.


EV website Electrek originally reported on the performance drop at the time of the updates along with a testimony from Tesla owner David Rasmussen, who had been monitoring the performance of the battery in his vehicle. He said that the 2014 Model S 85 was getting a Rated Range of 247 miles until May 13. After the two updates, the Rated Range dropped to 217 miles – a drop of 11% in 5 weeks. Along with the capacity issues, the updates slowed the DC fast-charging rate at Supercharger stations for the affected vehicles.


Norway is one of the largest markets in the world for electric vehicle sales, and in 2020 the country became the first in the world where electric vehicles outsold ICE vehicles over a full year. 54.3% of new vehicles sold in Norway last year were fully electric, largely due to generous tax breaks for zero-emission cars.


Manufacturers often use software to differentiate higher-end products from lower end ones, but degrading performance after a product has been purchased is usually frowned upon by courts. Apple found this out to its cost a year ago, when it agreed a $500 million settlement in the US for throttling older phones in the iPhone 6 and 7 ranges. The company updated the iOS operating system to limit the phone’s processor speeds when operating with older batteries to stop a problem that occurred when the phones shut down at peak performance due to the natural degradation of the battery. Apple has also agreed compensation with users in both France and Italy for the same problem. In France in particular, Apple claimed the slowdown of older iPhones was implemented to protect the batteries of the devices. The French watchdog that brought the case had claimed that consumers should have been informed that downloading the updates would have had an affect on the iPhone’s performance.


That must be worrying news for Tesla, given the similarities in the two cases. The potential pay out in Norway could be dwarfed by other cases pending around the world, especially in the US. The company never turned up to defend in Norway, but I think the appeal maybe a different story.