Tesla owners in Florida fleeing Hurricane Irma were surprised to find their cars able to go about 40 miles further than usual on a single charge. The reason? The company extended their battery power with a software maneuver, reports NBC News. The move affected owners of certain base-model Teslas. As Electrek explains, their cars have batteries capable of 75 kilowatt-hours, but software limits them to 60. The owners of these models, which are no longer sold, can pay thousands of dollars extra to unlock the batteries' full capacity, but many chose to stick with the lesser version. When Tesla got a call from a worried customer, it decided to ramp up all batteries in the evacuation area.
While some Tesla owners were confused by the sudden change, which expires Saturday, the initial response was generally positive. Tesla "set the example in putting customer safety ahead of profit," writes Justin Bariso at Inc. Some, however, were irked to learn that Tesla limits the range of vehicles until customers pay up, even though this strategy was communicated to customers. Justin T. Westbrook at Jalopnik, meanwhile, worries about the aspect of 21st-century driving in which "a company or corporation becomes a critical decider in disaster scenarios … out of consumer and government control." Will Oremus' take: Tesla perhaps deserves neither praise nor censure, he writes at Slate. The company simply did "the right thing in this instance." (Read more Tesla stories.)