A recent blog post from has highlighted a possible major setback to purchasing a Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA - News) 100% electric luxury car. In the post blogger Michael Degusta explains that at least five known cases have been reported to Tesla about full battery failure, causing the Roadster to turn into what has been described as a 2,700-pound "brick."
The mother of all dead batteries
Many of us have experienced a dead car battery: the hassle, the cost of getting a new one installed, and the all-around frustration associated with the process. But after a few hours and roughly $100, the disaster is over and we go on with our lives. When the $100,000 Tesla Roadster's battery dies, not only will the car become immobile after the wheels lock, but getting a new battery installed will cost the owner a cool $40,000.
Tesla's response to the problem states that the car should be plugged in whenever possible and all batteries are subject to damage if left at a zero charge for an extended period of time. The representative went on to imply that all vehicles need regular attention to avoid catastrophic failure by saying that even combustion engines need regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed.
Just a speed bump?
Degusta's article goes deeper, claiming that Tesla knew about the battery issue and left customers in the dark. While most would agree that the company should have been more forthcoming with owners, Tesla's new technology having battery problems is not a first in the automobile industry. Nissan (OTC: NSANY.PK - News) has been upfront about the issues with the Leaf's battery pack losing capacity with time. The company has explained that after five years or 60,000 miles of use, the battery will retain only about 80% of its original capacity. GM's (NYSE: GM - News) Chevy Volt had a more serious problem with reports of fires starting from the battery pack, days or even weeks after a car accident. While the sales for both cars have been mixed over the past months, the vehicles are still selling. Chevy sold more than double the number of Volt's in January 2012 than in 2011. Nissan has sold over 10,000 Leafs in total, but moved one-third fewer this January than they did the previous year.
Other industries that rely heavily on battery technology have also been plagued with problems. Apple has (Nasdaq: AAPL - News) experienced battery problems with nearly every generation of the iPhone, the iPod, and now reports of battery issues with the iPad have arisen. Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG - News) Android-powered devices also have had customers complaining about battery life. The big complaints come from those who are regularly on the internet and downloading applications. Even laptops have had issues recently: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple have all recalled thousands of batteries for overheating and electrical shorts.
While fires in laptops and the Chevy Volt are very serious problems, a dying battery due to surfing the Web or driving is really just the nature of the device. They need to be plugged when you are not using them if you want them to work.
There are always growing pains associated with new technology and the pain falls on the early adopters. So even though I do feel Tesla should have been more open in the beginning about the battery problems, I don't believe this will have a lasting effect on vehicle sales. All in all, I'm still bullish on Tesla, which is why I am reiterating my thumbs-up Caps Call for this rule-breaking car company.