Tesla, Inc. was hit with a proposed class action lawsuit on Wednesday over allegations that the automaker has “grossly overestimated” the range of its electric vehicles.
Disappointed with your Tesla’s driving range? Tell us about it here.
The 49-page lawsuit comes just one week after a bombshell Reuters report detailed Tesla’s apparently consistent efforts to exaggerate how far its vehicles can travel before needing to be recharged. According to the July 27 report, one recent study revealed that three Tesla models’ actual ranges came out to an average of 26 percent less than their advertised ranges.
The automaker has received so many range-related complaints from vehicle owners that it formed a special “diversion” team last year whose goal was to cancel as many service appointments as possible instead of addressing drivers’ concerns, Reuters reported.
Per the lawsuit, an electric vehicle’s range is one of the most important factors that consumers consider when deciding which vehicle to buy. Thus, many Tesla owners would not have purchased their vehicles—or would have paid “substantially less”—had they known the cars’ driving ranges were overestimated, the complaint alleges.
As a result of Tesla’s unfair, deceptive, and/or fraudulent business practices in advertising grossly overestimated range statistics for its electric vehicles to consumers, Tesla purchasers, including Plaintiffs, were harmed.”
Tesla employs various tactics to inflate vehicles’ range, lawsuit says
According to the lawsuit, electric vehicle manufacturers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to advertise an estimate of their cars’ total range to give consumers an idea of how far they’ll be able to travel on a full charge.
Though the EPA provides its own standard formula to calculate an electric vehicle’s range, which results in a conservative estimate that reflects real-world driving conditions, Tesla conducts its own testing to calculate its cars’ advertised ranges, the suit says.
The results, according to the case, are “inflated estimates” that, more often than not, do not line up with drivers’ actual experiences. Citing the Reuters report, the lawsuit states that in a recent audit, the EPA required Tesla to lower the proposed advertised ranges for all six of the vehicles tested “because Tesla consistently was overestimating the range of its vehicles.”
Indeed, a recent study performed by car review website Edmunds.com found that, when put through real-world driving tests, no Tesla vehicle was able to meet its advertised range estimate, the case says.
The case further claims that it is “increasingly difficult—if not impossible—” for a Tesla to ever achieve its advertised range given the automaker advises drivers to not charge their battery to full capacity. According to the complaint, each Tesla vehicle has a suggested charge limit that owners are told not to exceed unless absolutely necessary. For instance, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has reportedly told drivers that they should only charge their batteries up to 90 or 95 percent.
Notably, Tesla’s advertised range estimates are based on a fully charged battery, meaning it is effectively impossible for a car to achieve its advertised range when a driver is following Tesla’s suggested charge limits, the suit says. Per the case, while Tesla vehicles’ ranges are “openly advertise[d],” the automaker never discloses to consumers that these ranges can only be achieved by going against Tesla’s battery charging advice.
Moreover, Reuters reported that even the range meter displayed on each Tesla’s screen was intentionally designed to provide drivers a “rosy” projection of how many miles they had left before needing to charge their vehicles, the case says. According to the article, the algorithms used to calculate the cars’ displayed range would initially overestimate how many miles were left, but once the battery fell below 50 percent, would provide a more accurate projection to make sure drivers were not left stranded.
Citing the Reuters report, the lawsuit says a study of more than 8,000 Tesla vehicles performed by an electric vehicle analytics company found that the cars’ in-dash meters consistently failed to account for factors like temperature that can drastically reduce an electric vehicle’s range.
“For example, while Tesla itself explains that temperature can negatively impact a vehicle’s range, Recurrent’s testing determined that Tesla model vehicles still overwhelmingly calculated that they could still deliver nearly the advertised full range, regardless of external factors—with Tesla vehicles calculating that they could travel more than 90% of their advertised range,” the complaint states. “Put simply, Tesla vehicles failed to accurately account for external factors impacting battery performance and vehicle range, leading to a gross overestimate of the vehicle’s range.”
Tesla hit with $2.2M fine over “false/exaggerated advertising”
Again citing the Reuters article, the lawsuit says Tesla was hit with a $2.2 million fine by South Korean regulators earlier this year for the allegedly false advertising of its electric vehicles’ range.
Per the case, the Korean Fair Trade Commission found that Tesla had misleadingly failed to warn consumers that its vehicles’ range could be negatively impacted by various factors, including temperature, under normal driving conditions. Tesla was reportedly required to publicly admit that it had misled consumers, and CEO Elon Musk and other executives acknowledged in a June 19, 2023 statement that Tesla had employed “false/exaggerated advertising.”
Tesla forms “Diversion Team” to deflect consumer complaints, lawsuit alleges
Per the lawsuit, many Tesla drivers who found that their vehicles were consistently falling short of their advertised range grew “understandably” concerned that their batteries were defective and began scheduling service appointments to have their vehicles checked.
Facing a mountain of complaints and a backlog of service appointments, Tesla deployed a special “Diversion Team” last year to exclusively handle customers’ range-related complaints, the suit says, citing the Reuters report.
Per the case, this team, which at one point was handling up to 2,000 complaints a week, was tasked with canceling as many service appointments as possible. When a Tesla customer booked a range-related service appointment, a member of the diversion team would call them and explain that their vehicle’s range “depends on many factors” and was only a prediction, would run remote diagnostics on the vehicle, and would then close the case regardless of any issues that came up when running diagnostics, the suit says.
By late 2022, the team was facing so many complaints that they stopped running remote diagnostics altogether and simply closed cases without even checking whether there was something wrong with the vehicles or their batteries, the lawsuit alleges.
“Put simply, Tesla ensured that its representatives told thousands upon thousands of customers that there was nothing wrong with their electric vehicles without ever first confirming if that was actually the case,” the complaint states. “The Diversion Team was created to alleviate pressure on Tesla, which was mounting due to its inability to deliver its exaggerated advertised vehicle ranges, rather than actually help customers or alleviate their concerns.”
Who does the Tesla driving range lawsuit look to cover?
The case aims to represent anyone in California who purchased a new Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model Y or Model X vehicle.
How do I join the lawsuit?
There’s usually nothing you need to do to join a class action lawsuit when it’s first filed. The time to take action is typically if and when the case settles, at which point those covered, called the class members, should receivenotice of the settlement with instructions on what to do next.
It often takes months or even years for a class action to be resolved. In the meantime, one of the best things you can do is to stay informed.
What if I don’t live in California?
At this time, the lawsuit is only looking to cover California residents. It’s possible, however, that additional cases could be filed and seek to cover drivers in other states.
If you’ve had problems with your Tesla’s driving range, you can also reach out to us here.
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