Talking tech since 2003

Today, Tesla Motors issued a recall letter to the National Highway Traffic Security Administration (NHTSA) because of a potential fire concern for Model S power chargers. According to the letter, Model S vehicles should be receiving “over-the-air” software updates to help mitigate the risk of fires caused by unexpected power spikes coming through wall sockets that the adapters are plugged into. But if users check their cars and see that they don’t have version 5.8.4 or later of the software, they ought to take their cars into their nearest Tesla dealers to get the update manually installed.

The update will allow “the Model S on board charging system to detect any unexpected fluctuations in the input power or higher resistance connections to the vehicle. If detected, the onboard charging system will automatically reduce the charging current by 25%.”

The letter also notes that the company will send Tesla S owners a replacement adapter “that is equipped with an internal thermal fuse,” which will apparently further reduce the risk of fire concerns.

But Tesla and its founder Elon Musk are acutely aware of the connotations of a word like “recall,” and have taken great pains to explain why the term may not quite fit this bit of business as folks might think. As pointed out by a post on the Verge:


Be that as it may, the NHTSA’s official terminology for this sort of thing is still ‘recall.’ And all of this is being done to, you know, reduce the risk of fires associated with a product, so—speaking personally—I kind of think ‘recall’ might not be the worst term for all this.

Anyway, this all would seem to stem from reports late last year of fires being associated with Tesla S chargers, specifically when plugged into older or substandard wiring. At the end of the day, whether it’s a recall or not, this move is a really solid, proactive one by Tesla. It seems likely that the fire issue comes from the wiring itself, meaning that if a user has a problem, he needs to take it up with his contractor first. But because Tesla values its brand and the car’s reputation for positive contributions to the world, the company is providing a solution on its end when it may not necessarily be liable to do so. And that’s not just a positive for the company and its customers, but for everyone rooting for Tesla to succeed in a world dominated by internal-combustion engines.

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