TECHNOLOGY

How Tesla Helped Drivers Outrun Hurricane Irma

When it comes to getting out of the path of a hurricane, every mile counts.

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BY Justin Bariso - 11 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If you were in south Florida over the weekend, your primary concern was probably getting out of the disaster zone as quickly as possible.

For electric car owners, the concern goes further: How can I get the most out of my battery between charges?

That's apparently what motivated one Tesla owner to contact the company directly.

The company's response was outstanding.

As reported by news blog Electrek:

We reached to Tesla and a representative confirmed that the company has put in place the emergency measure to temporarily extend the range of the vehicles of Tesla owners in the path of Hurricane Irma.

The company says that a Tesla owner in a mandatory evacuation zone required another ~30 more miles of range to optimize his evacuation route in the traffic and they reached out to Tesla who agreed to a temporary access to the full 75 kWh of energy in the battery pack, an upgrade that has cost between $4,500 and $9,000 depending on the model and time of upgrade.

Considering the 15 kWh (30 to 40 additional miles) could also be useful to other owners affected by Irma, Tesla decided to also temporarily unlock other vehicles with the same software-lock battery packs in the region.

Being granted access to the extra capacity increased the range of these cars from just over 200 miles a charge, adding 30 or 40 extra miles.

But you might be wondering: Why don't these cars have full access to their battery in the first place?

As fellow Inc. columnist Minda Zetlin reports, some Teslas were equipped with software reducing the car's 75kw battery to a range closer to 60kw. These cars were made available to consumers at a lower price, with the added battery power available for purchase. (According to The Verge, Tesla has since discontinued these models since many were opting for the higher range vehicles, anyway.)

Some have denigrated the fact that Tesla restricted access to the full battery in the first place, but I see it differently.

First, Tesla is well known for its bias for action--it's quick to test unconventional strategies and adjust as needed. Further, most consumers knew what they were getting when they purchased these specific Tesla models--which would explain why the unnamed customer called the company to begin with.

The real lesson here is this. With a single action, Tesla demonstrated the ability to:

  • Listen to the voice of an individual customer
  • Identify the customer's idea as a good one
  • Swiftly implement the idea on a large scale, possibly helping drivers escape danger more quickly

Companies of this size aren't typically able to accomplish this.

But Tesla's anything but typical.

It's a company with a CEO who responds to customers on Twitter in less than a half hour, and who recognizes that speed and agility make for a major competitive advantage.

And, at least in this case, it's a company that set the example in putting customer safety ahead of profit.