Elon Musk’s gesture of goodwill deserves praise, not criticism

Tesla Battery “auto- magically” unlocked to help drivers fleeing Irma

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

Founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, unlocked higher-level range capabilities in a kind gesture last week to help Tesla owners flee Hurricane Irma.

The report came after a Tesla owner inquired about upgrading their battery life to evacuate, and later some Tesla model S and X owners noticed their 60 and 70 kWh battery-packs held 75 kWh of energy. Ordinarily the upgrade costs between $3,250 and $8,500. But on Sept., 9 Tesla owners found themselves with 30 to 40 extra miles added to their driving range thanks to Musk “auto-magically” unlocking the capabilities of their batteries using over the air technology, which they could take advantage of until Sept. 16.

Business Insider observed this move highlights one of the biggest concerns most drivers have with electric vehicles – that most simply don’t have a range that drivers feel comfortable with. A 60 kWh battery-pack stores enough energy to drive a Tesla more than 200 miles. That’s hardly a distance the average person will drive in a day unless they’re an absolute car fanatic. But for fleeing a destructive category five storm – the highest intensity ever recorded – the extra miles can speed up the journey to safety. Now with Hurricane Maria following Irma’s path, anyone who has not gotten out of Florida yet will be hard-pressed to do so.

Musk has not gone without criticism for his kindness though. Some Twitter users cried foul of Tesla for charging customers to achieve higher functionality. “Wow,” one commenter wrote online, “now my car can do what it was always physically capable of, because the battery is no longer held for ransom by a giant corporation!” For others, it unlocks fears about modern driving – a company being the critical decision maker in a disaster scenario.

However, Musk has just proven that his customers don’t need to be concerned by showing that Tesla is not the kind of company to hold power for ransom in a crisis. There’s no merit to criticizing Musk, a man who has always sought to be the force of change and betterment for humanity, in a “what-if” situation.

It does strike as odd that a battery capable of storing up to 75 kWh of power would be set to charge to a maximum of 60 or 70 kWh. Nevertheless, that is the amount of power Tesla customers knowingly paid for. For people to complain that their Teslas can only store the amount of charge they paid for, is as inane as complaining that they have to pay to increase the storage or memory of the smartphone they’ve just bought. It’s an upgrade. It’s going to cost something. Furthermore, electric vehicle owners don’t have the same luxury as their gasoline-powered counterparts of knowing they can pull over almost anywhere to refuel when their tank is nearing empty. There are only 19 Tesla superchargers in the entire state of Florida and charging a dead battery to 80 per cent will take 40 minutes, far longer than it takes to fill up at a petrol station.

While many petrol stations in Florida reported fuel shortages due to the vast number of people trying to escape the storm, electric vehicle owners are at a distinct disadvantage due to the amount of time it takes to recharge and the limited number of charging stations. While it’s worth asking why the upgrades are so expensive, Hurricane Irma isn’t a good example of when it’s the right time to question Tesla. Lives were at stake, and Musk aided his customers as they evacuated their homes.

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