Owners Accuse Tesla of Exaggerating EV Range

  • Home
  • news
  • Owners Accuse Tesla of Exaggerating EV Range
August 11, 2023

by Brian Eckert

Tesla Motors knowingly inflates the range estimates for its electric vehicles as a sales tactic, owners say in a Milberg class action lawsuit. California Tesla buyers may be eligible to join this lawsuit, which details how Elon Musk and Tesla rigged driving range projections and created a secret team to suppress customer complaints.

How Far Can a Tesla Go on a Single Charge? It Depends.

An EV’s range directly correlates to its battery charge and is roughly equivalent to how far a gas-powered vehicle can go on a full tank.

Range is one of the most important features that consumers consider when purchasing an electric vehicle. Indeed, when a prospective buyer visits Tesla’s website to view its EV models, “range” is the first listed feature advertised among other key attributes like price, top speed, and 0-60 acceleration time.

Tesla vehicles also display real-time range estimates on a display screen. This feature, based on proprietary software and algorithms, lets drivers know how far the vehicle can be driven on the remaining battery charge.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires EV manufacturers to advertise fuel-efficiency information using a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe). Part of this requirement is that manufacturers list the vehicle’s range. Although EPA does not dictate exactly how this range is calculated, it provides a standardized formula that many EV manufacturers choose to follow.

When you buy a car off the lot seeing 350-mile, 400-mile range, it makes you feel good.

But not Tesla. According to a Reuters investigation, Tesla conducts its own testing to calculate the range for each of its models, resulting in higher estimates than what drivers actually experience.

“The company decided about a decade ago, for marketing purposes, to write algorithms for its range meter that would show drivers ‘rosy’ projections for the distance it could travel on a full battery,” reports Reuters.

When customers had concerns that their batteries were malfunctioning, the company directed them to a special “diversion team” tasked with canceling range-related service appointments and thwarting customer complaints. At one point, the diversion team was closing 750 cases per week.

Every canceled appointment saves Tesla about $1,000, sources told Reuters. In 2022, the team stopped running remote diagnostics to determine whether anything was wrong with the EV or its battery. After that, thousands of customers who reported range problems were simply told there was no problem with their car, without ever receiving a diagnostic test.

EPA recently audited the estimated range in several Tesla models and ordered the automaker to lower its estimates. South Korean regulators also fined Tesla after its cars were found to have a cold weather range as little as half what is advertised. Korean regulators required Tesla to admit publicly it had misled consumers. CEO Elon Musk and other Tesla executives did so in a statement that acknowledged “false/exaggerated advertising.”

Other recent studies have found that some Tesla EVs average 26% of their advertised ranges, says Reuters. The decision to exaggerate range estimates reportedly came directly from Musk, who “wanted to show good range numbers when full charged” because “When you buy a car off the lot seeing 350-mile, 400-mile range, it makes you feel good.”

Inflated Range Estimates Are False Advertising, Owners Claim in Lawsuit

Some Tesla owners are not feeling so good about the actual driving range of their vehicles.

Many factors can affect an EV’s range. Cold is particularly taxing on their lithium-ion batteries, but high driving speeds, stop-and-go traffic, hilly terrain, headwinds, and running the vehicle’s heat or air-conditioning can also reduce battery capacity and range. In addition, Tesla advises owners to charge their vehicle to 100% capacity only sparingly, further reducing range.

Rather than offer conservative range estimates that account for charge limits and real-world driving conditions, though, Tesla marketed its vehicles as having a grossly overvalued range in order to increase sales, plaintiffs allege in a class action complaint.

Tesla suggests that Tesla owners should charge their vehicle to full 100% capacity only sparingly. Effectively, based upon Tesla’s suggested charge limits, Tesla vehicles cannot reach the total ranges Tesla advertises.

Tesla buyers and California residents James Porter, Bryan Perez, and Dro Esraeili Estepanian each paid more than $60,000 for a vehicle that they allege has a falsely advertised driving range. The plaintiffs noticed that their EVs were not achieving the range that the company promised. They voiced their concerns to Tesla and were assured that nothing was wrong with their vehicles.

At no point did Tesla reveal to them the advertised range was exaggerated and not based on normal driving conditions, or explain that the advertised range required the vehicle to be fully charged to 100% battery, the plaintiffs state. They seek to represent a class of the following consumers:

  • All persons in California who purchased a new Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model Y, and Model X vehicle.

Milberg class action attorneys Adam A. Edwards and Mitchell Breit filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Edwards and Breit have more than 60 years of combined litigation experience and have successfully argued complex legal issues related to class certification in courts across the country.

Since 1965, Milberg has filed thousands of class actions and recovered billions of dollars for our clients.