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back to article Court rejects Tesla’s latest libel spat with Top Gear

Tesla's on-going libel case with the BBC over a negative portrayal of its Roadster electric sports car on Top Gear suffered another setback when the courts ruled that it could not amend its claim. "We are pleased Mr Justice Tugendhat has ruled in favour of the BBC on both the issues before the court, first in striking out Tesla' …

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FAIL

can you say class action ?

Interestingly, no-one at Tesla has flatly denied that a drained battery will brick the car to the tune of a USD40+ grand replacement. I see a class action law suit in their (very near) future.

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Unhappy

Re: can you say class action ?

I really can't see Tesla staying in business unless they provide a permanent solution for the battery problem. Who the hell is going to buy a stupidly expensive car that requires it's stupidly expensive battery to be replaced if left in a garage without power for a few months (think - storage).

Presumably a bricked battery will be covered by the warranty, in which case current owners will be seeking replacements blowing any profit (and then some) that Tesla will have made on the car, and anyone that suffers a bricked battery outside of warranty will surely have a strong legal case for defective design, meaning nothing but long term potential losses.

I can also see Tesla doing a lot of harm to the electric vehicle movement if they're allowed to get away with a stroke like this - nobody will invest in an electric vehicle if the battery needs to be replaced if it's allowed to go flat. It's such a ridiculous and basic design flaw that I can't see how Tesla can continue building any further cars without rectifying it.

As for the legal action against the BBC - all they've achieved is to keep the negative Top Gear review of their car in the public eye, and they've done themselves far more harm than good. Now that they've lost the case, they should take it on the chin and move on, just as they should have done in 2008.

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Re: can you say class action ?

Its akin to suing a cat for having fur.

It is the nature of lithium batteries to internally self-destruct if allowed to totally discharge. And again, is also the nature of all batteries to self-discharge when not in use.

The Tesla simply has to be plugged in to the power grid when not in use. They say 11 weeks is the start of the window for trouble. With the addition of ethanol to gasoline, E10 also gets pretty nasty at 11 weeks. So its not all that different from modern gasoline vehicles.

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Re: Re: can you say class action ?

Just read a bit more on this - and it's worse than I imagined:

a) Battery bricking is not covered by the warranty - lol, presumably Tesla have always been aware of this possibility. Class Action guaranteed!

b) Tesla reckon it will take 11 weeks for a battery to turn into a brick from 100% charge. Now imagine driving your Tesla (any model, as they all have the same battery flaw, apparently) to the long term car park at an airport with the battery almost flat - when you get back in a couple of weeks, thanks to the parasitic battery consumption of the onboard electronic systems that can't be shut off, yep you've guessed it you'll be getting back to a $40,000 brick. And it won't be covered by your warranty. Class Action? Guaranteed!!

Tesla will not survive this.

And if they refuse to fix the bricking problem, so that it simply cannot happen, then they shouldn't be allowed to survive this - it's simply not acceptable by any standard.

Forget the BBC and the Top Gear shenanigans - who in their right mind will consider buying a Telsa now, when it has such a shonky battery?

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Devil

@Daivd Kelly

Absolute bollocks - you simply can't compare this $40,000 battery situation with that of a petrol/gasoline vehicle. No way, no how.

In a few years, these Teslas with their duff batteries will most likely be scrapped rather than kept on the road once they've been bricked - it simply won't be financially feasible to restore them to working order.

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You misunderstand

They won't get sued for the bricking per se, it'll be for not adequately warning customers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Daivd Kelly

Might not be feasible to restore them to working order with a battery but I bet I could cram a nice little turbocharged boxer engine and running gear in there somewhere :)

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FAIL

Re: Re: can you say class action ?

"....E10 also gets pretty nasty at 11 weeks."

Of course if it does get so bad as to be unusable, you can drain the tank and refill it. You'll be out the cost of the fuel that was in there, which will be significantly less than forty grand.

Apples != Pears. Who knew?

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Re: Re: @Daivd Kelly

"I bet I could cram a nice little turbocharged boxer engine and running gear in there somewhere :)"

A Tesla is essentially a Lotus Elise with an electric engine - so there's definitely room for an Elise engine in there.

Plus that would cost HEAPS less than $40,000 come battery replacement time.

Wouldn't that be ironic!

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Silver badge

Re: Re: can you say class action ?

Woah, woah, OK, yes, the batteries degrade, but comparing it to an ICE car because the fuel goes bad is crazy.

If you knew a car was sat for ages, you could flush it through and pour some new petrol in.

Total cost on ICE: next to nothing

Total cost for a battery replacement: better remortgage your house

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Re: Re: can you say class action ?

You are correct that lithium batteries are not able to cope with being discharged below some threshold. The battery itself however do not necessary self-destruct, but it might have so the control circuits puts it to sleep (coma?). And that is the point really, the circuits should kill the output long before it goes that far. When something cost a year's salary you expect it to have more safeguards in place than a simple laptop battery, not less.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: can you say class action ?

You sound like you do cheezy claims-lawyer ads on tv.

The line about "simply cannot happen" is stupid and denies the fact that it is in the nature of lithium batteries to be useless once emptied and left empty.

It's rather hard (read: impossible) to engineer any car in such a way that it won't suffer if not cared for. If you buy any new car and never service it you shouldn't be surprised when it eventually breaks down and the dealer laughs in your face.

And I expect that if you got a battery from e.g. a Nissan electric car and neglected it for months on end, you'd have much the same problem.

Well done to Tesla for now building in a system to tell them when the car is neglected and the silly irresponsible customer needs a slap to remind them to plug it in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: can you say class action ?

Not bricked though

http://www.itworld.com/it-managementstrategy/252452/false-scare-tesla

read and inwardly digest. There will be no class action, even if there is, it will not win

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Thumb Up

Re: Re: Re: Re: can you say class action ?

"Well done to Tesla for now building in a system to tell them when the car is neglected and the silly irresponsible customer needs a slap to remind them to plug it in."

Yeah. Very 'Merikin. Akin to McDonald's having to put "this is hot" warnings on their pop tarts.

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Re: Re: Re: @Daivd Kelly

Even more ironic? The car tax folk at the DVLA would still have it listed as a zero emission (and thus tax free) vehicle...

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Re: Re: can you say class action ?

Can you name a battery that doesn't deplete when stood still? a battery uses a chemical reaction which you can't really stop.

Lithium ion batteries (used in most portable consumer electronics) don't like to be discharged completely. When your phone is complaining about being empty there's actually a fair amount of charge left, they just are protecting you from deep discharge.

Top Gear don't like electric cars or diesel or anything that's not running on petrol and they do their best to rubbish anything, regardless of its potential.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Re: Re: can you say class action ?

" If you buy any new car and never service it you shouldn't be surprised when it eventually breaks"

Something of a fallacious argument. If you buy a new car and do *nothing* with it, it will not break - lots of car collectors store vintage cars, for instance. This is not so in this case where leaving the car 'dormant' (for less than a year!) could rack up a £40K bill...

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Re: Re: Re: can you say class action ?

Actually you're very wrong.

Clarkson has nothing but praise for Honda's hydrogen powered car.

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@Neil 7

>Who the hell is going to buy a stupidly expensive car that requires it's stupidly expensive battery to be replaced if left in a garage without power for a few months

Stupidly rich people

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Boffin

@David Kelly 2 & Giles Jones

Lithium Ion cells should not be recharged ever if they drop below 2V per cell (at this voltage the internal copper disolves and will form tiny microwires if you recharge them that could lead to internals shorts and fire later on similar to the laptop videos we have all seen.)

A Lithium Ion cell charged to 100% will be at about 90% after 1 year, and about 85% after 2 years. After that 2 years, the recoverable capacity might be about 90% (having done nothing else). The cells are normally stored at about 40% because at this level of charge, the cells can still survive storage for a few years but have less capcity loss. Additional circuits may increase the self-discharge, but probably only to 80% after 1 year or 75% after 2 years using a good design and asic. Also this circuitry will almost stop all consuption as the battery gets near flat.

All of this is for a very good quality manufacturer of cells (made in Japan and used in laptops, power tools and even satellites). Using cheap non-name cells from China will almost certainly get much worse results. I assume that Tesla uses good cells. The last rumour I heard was that they had cells from Panasonic, but nobody was allowed to know.

However, my understanding of the Tesla battery pack is that it doesn't just have electronics measuring the state of charge, but also has a built-in envornmental heating/cooling system to always keep the battery at a constant temperature. If you live somewhere hot, or cold, then that will always be sucking juice, and a hell lot more than your average laptop battery.

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They did on purpose?

Did you see any cell phone brick because of battery? I haven't. Or UPS devices from cheapest to most expensive which uses nickel cadmium? Why? They are wise to put a circuit/ or kernel routine to cut the power once the battery goes below 10%.

So, no lithium battery goes really empty and dies except an expensive electric car. Does it make sense to you?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Neil 7: Re: Re: Re: can you say class action ?

Who in their right mind leaves a $60,000+ car standing at a long term car park at an airport? I wouldn't! If you know you're away for 3+ months, you can surely afford a town car/car service/taxi to take you to the airport and take you home on your return. Leave the car plugged in there.

Granted, the bricking *is* a problem though, especially because the damn car is so expensive! Those who buy a Tesla would expect superior service alongside the car, and either providing a gadget that extends the life of the battery (think solar-powered portable battery charge that you can possibly plug into the car internally), or providing a house-call service to keep the battery safe when it hits 2% or 3% charge is better than telling your customers "sorry, you bricked the battery, pay up $40,000 or bugger off".

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Bronze badge

Re: Re: can you say class action ?

"So its not all that different from modern gasoline vehicles."

Except...you can put a fuel stabilizer in the tank, and it is good for a LONG time. I store two cars for 6+ months at a time with full tanks...and NEVER have a problem firing them up when I choose to do so. Try that with your Tesla.

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@SP - re: long term car park/3 months

It doesn't have to be 3 months - it could be two weeks, maybe even a week for the bricking to occur. The length of time it takes is entirely determined by the amount of charge to start with. 3 months is from 100%. There are reports of parked Roadsters discharging from 100% to 50% in 7 days.

This bricking problem occurs when you leave the vehicle to discharge to nothing - imagine parking up your Roadster in the airport car park near the end of it's range (maybe 20% remaining, enough to stop by at a friends house for a quick top-up recharge when you get back in 10 days). You go on your trip, come back expecting the car to be in the same state you left it but no - you're looking at the thick end of a $40,000 service bill for something that is neither covered by warranty or your vehicle insurance.

Or, you put your vehicle in long term storage, and like a good Tesla owner you connect it to the mains. The mains fails (fuse blows, nobody pays the bill, Romanians thieve all the copper), or the cable falls out, maybe a rat chews through it. What happens? You've got a $40,000 repair bill. Maybe the car was flashing "Recharge me" on the dashboard and sounding alarms - all a bit pointless when nobody is there to see/hear.

The thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be 3 months - it could be a week! And you don't even have to have driven the vehicle - one poor sap had his new Tesla shipped from the US to Japan, found he couldn't charge it in Japan due to the different electrics and before he could juice it up, it bricked. He had to ship it all the way back to the US. IT WAS A BRAND NEW CAR!!!

These 'lectric motors, they're future? Fark that!! They're simply not fit for purpose if this is what owners can expect from the technology.

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Re: Re: @Daivd Kelly

If that is what you want, buy a used Lotus Elise.

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Stop

Re: Re: Re: can you say class action ?

@nergatron. Read and digested. Now for the analysis. First, the author doesn't own a Tesla roadster and nor does he quote a Tesla rep. This means he's making assumptions based on what he thinks he knows about the construction of the battery pack ( and yes, despite being constructed of thousands of cells, it is still a battery). It is important to note that nowhere in this story, or any other rebuttal for that matter, does anyone dispute that a replacement is necessary and that it's expensive. All this article says is 'well yeah, this is the way lion behaves'. That is an explanation, not a rebuttal. Note that Tesla have not refuted the allegations. in fact, they have tacitly acknowledged a problem with the roadster by changing the parameters and owners guide for the model S. So in short, there would appear to be a case to answer for not informing prospective owners of the nature of this issue. As to whether it reaches a court case, well Musk is a very smart guy so I suspect some agreement will be reached that does not result in a messy public airing of dirty laundry.

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Anonymous Coward

What a giant, giant muppet

This ex-BBC ( now Daily Mail) Mr Titus is:

"My favourite thing about owning a Tesla is the opportunity for thought leadership. I’ve never owned a car that inspired people to photograph me with on the street. Women flirt with me at stoplights. Kids chase me and ask if it’s “the electric one that doesn’t need gas” [...] There are significant UK tax benefits, and a host of other government incentives, just for driving a great car!."

http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/i-fell-love-tesla-roadster-very-one-driven-jeremy-clarkson

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a giant, giant muppet

Made up quote?

." Kids chase me and ask if it’s “the electric one that doesn’t need gas” "

Really, kids in the UK asking if it doesn't need GAS? GAS? sorry did the kids say GAS? How many UK kids say GAS instead of petrol?

Talk about a canned bullshit quote.

BTW stick a 7-style or Cobra style car next to that and see who gets the looks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: What a giant, giant muppet

"Kids chase me"

It's THAT slow?!

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What I really want to know

How much did he (allegedly) pay for his Tesla?

How much does he charge for each puff piece?

(Charge..Ha Ha ...See what I did there?)

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Happy

Re: Re: What a giant, giant muppet

May I humbly suggest a matt black Sesto Elemento and forget the EV thing.

Park it next to pretty much anything other than a 458, aston or veyron and you'll get the all looks...

Still saving here, might be a while...

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Re: Re: Re: What a giant, giant muppet

Sesto Elemento, mmmmmmm, doughnuts...

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Coat

I chased him, it was me...

I was shouting "The electric one that's driven by a huge ASS"

Sheesh, the standards of journalism today, right down the ruddy pan.

I'll get my coat. If I can find it - anyone seen my coat? gah.

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Pint

I'm available as a consultant...

Here's how you fix the battery brick problem.

Add a dangerously-powerful primary cell (LiMnO) and some squibs. When the $40k pack reaches the final voltage, then you recharge it (by at least several percent) from the primary cell, and then - after an hour - blow the squibs to isolate it. The residual charge in the primary cell is used to call home.

Some solar cells on the roof is another approach.

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Happy

Re: I'm available as a consultant...

Solar probably not much use if the car is parked in a garage.

Or if you're American, a garargee.

So far, so good on fulfilling the role of a consultant then. We expect your invoice shortly.

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Re: I'm available as a consultant...

Another possibility is having 12v of another voltage source to keep a small amount of current flowing once the batteries drop down below a certain level. A pile of C cells would do this nicely.

Of course, its just extending the inevitable, but its an improvement.

Solar panels? there is nothing to prevent you putting them on the roof of the garage. they dont have to be huge, just enough to stop the battery going totally flat. Or, and heres a thaught, if you leave it in your garage at home, you could just, yknow, leave it plugged in.

If i was off for 11 weeks, i certainly wouldnt put my car in an airport car park. Thats what Taxi's are for. You would have to remorgage your house twice, once for the new battery pack and again for the Parking costs.

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Anonymous Coward

Trolling for money

Tesla knows full well that the Top Gear story was not actionable, but they need money so they tried a Hail Mary.

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Flame

Oh yes, that's the car for me!

When the "tank runs dry", you can't fill it up again; you have to buy a new tank. Whose brilliant f-ing idea was that? What a ridiculous, over-priced, piece of shite!

My apologies to any pieces of shite who were offended by this comparison.

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Devil

Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

Whose brilliant idea? Any sports/hot-hatch car manufacturer.

Go to your closest Halfords, pick a copy of Renault Clio 1989-1998 maintenance manual off the shelf, read section on fuel tank for the 1.8L (IMO it is the "suicidal" version of that rather fine vehicle). Once done, put it back on the shelf and start picking up any the manuals for any other car which has a "hot" or "sport" spec and read the difference for the fuel tank for those.

You will find that that the 1.8L Clio is not alone and most of these has an _ADDITIONAL_ "safety" fuel tank (5L in the case of the Clio 1.8) to ensure that the injector, pump, etc never run off dry and the ECU never has to try to run the system with bubbles in the fuel line. There is an important caveat regarding this extra tank. If you run dry your main tank you can just refill it. If you run dry the extra fuel tank your only option is "to the garage you go". While the type of system will inadvertently vary from a vehicle to vehicle, overall - if you run a sports car tank dry you are nearly always guaranteed to be spending some time in the garage.

That is true even for non-sports cars. I managed to choke my "agricultural utility vehicle" (Isuzu Rodeo Denver 4x4) this summer offroad and it got a bubble in the fuel line. It was lighting up that the "take me to the garage" Christmas tree on the dashboard for the next 6 hours. While it managed to sort itself out quite a few vehicles will not. Your average Ford Escort will remain in "engine safety mode" with the ECU light lit once it runs dry or has a bubble until you service it. And so on.

So while Tesla's design and stance on it warranty may seem stupid they are not entirely out of line with their petrol bretheren. A modern car which has been run completely dry in most cases will be a garage job. In any case, it is clear that the Tesla needs a trickle charge solar on the bonnet,roof and spoilers. They are being bloody stupid not to do it.

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Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

Wow, so if I run a Ford Escort petrol tank dry and have to take it to the dealer to have the fuel system bled it'll cost me $40,000?

Your average modern road car will not stay in limp home mode for more than a few engine starts unless the fuel pressure sensor detects a problem that isn't going away, even if the problem doesn't go away it will still allow you to drive it to the dealership and if you're really picky about driving it with an amber light on (amber means 'take me to the garage', red means 'stop driving me now') then most if not all roadside assistance companies will bleed the fuel system and reset the ECU at the roadside if you have the required level of cover. Even if you don't have roadside cover it's not going to cost more than a couple of hundred quid to get it towed and fixed so it's hardly comparable to a $40K brick.

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Stop

Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

Can you tell me where this extra 5 litre tank is? How is the switchover performed when the main tank runs dry? How do I know that I am running on the secondary tank and not the main one?

Perhaps you mean that most, if not all, tanks have a safety margin of about 5 litres when the fuel guage or trip computer tells you that it is empty. This has been standard practice since long before fuel injection. With fuel injection the system is normally self-purging of bubbles otherwise cars parked after a long run in the Texas sun would never get started again for fuel vapour blocking the lines under the bonnet. As for the idiot light, it depends on whether that is self-resetting or not.

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Devil

Re: Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

Answering both you and the other poster.

1. The tank is inline. It is not switchover, it is an extra 5l if you run dry your normal fuel tank and I suspect the idea was to introduce a hard shut-off off the fuel sensor. That was not done, but the extra 5l stayed and you cannot refill it if runs dry. You have to do some magic to it. Statement of the fact - just pick up the Haines for it and look yourself :)

2. As far as damage to the car one of my ex colleagues damaged his Punto to a total bill of 1000£ for a replacement ECU and other repairs a few years back by running it repeatedly on "yellow fuel light" and having the engine run with bubbles in the fuel line. If you can damage a 8k vehicle for 1k this way damaging a 80K vehicle to 20-40k does not particularly surprise me.

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WTF?

Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

In which case they saw your ex-colleague coming. Replacement ECU? Just exactly how did that get damaged by a bit of air in the fuel line?

Petrol sports cars are more likely to have a dedicated swirl pot to help get bubbles out before they get to the fuel rail, but they will generally purge themselves. Returnless fuel rails are tricky, the only way out for the air is through the injectors... but you can always bleed the air off by removing a pipe.

Diesels and direct-injection petrol engines are a completely different matter (high-pressure fuel pumps lubricated by fuel, get damaged if no fuel present) but that's not what you're talking about here with your clio.

C- must do better.

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Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

Modern cars are much more forgiving of running dry - high end sports cars may be a bit touchy but that's what you pay the extra for. I don't know where all this "bubble in the fuel line" stuff comes from but it certainly wouldn't put a car in the garage. The problem you appear to be describing is the ECU reset cost - there is no reason why the ECU cannot be reset - its just that the manufacturers like to build in that extra cost for no good reason. The not run dry scare appears to hark back to the old days of silt in the bottom of the tank.

As for Renault - they are famous for inventing "take me back to the dealer" scenarios - like headlight bulbs that need a ramp for changing.

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Joke

Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

I went to Halfords and couldn't find these "Haines" manuals of which you speak.

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@Alex Rose

Haines manuals have gone seriously downhill. I rebuilt an Orion engine using one (not literally, got to be carefull with the thickoes) about twenty years ago. A recent manual for a Scenic was useless. Can't rememebr what I wanted to do but this time I did use the manual literally, to rest my tea on.

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FAIL

Re: @Alex Rose

Whooosh!

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@Madra

Yes, they are Haynesmanuals. However, I wasn't commenting on the spelling.

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FAIL

Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

Its a surge tank to prevent fuel surge on hard cornering stopping the fuel pump sucking air mid g forces, not a emergency measure. It has 5l of fuel in it to de-aeriate it also.

When the fuel in the tank has run out, you have effectively ran it dry, regardless of what residual fuel is left in the system. And shock horror, running it dry means you have to bleed the air out of it, just like lots of things both petrol and diesel since gas (as in gaseous, not fuel) doesnt pump very well.

Stick to IT. Or maybe your mcse...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Oh yes, that's the car for me!

>Go to your closest Halfords, pick a copy of Renault Clio 1989-1998 maintenance manual off the shelf

...... it would be bad enough if someone I knew saw me going into Halfords.

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