James May Had To Dismantle His Tesla Model S To Charge A Battery

Illustration for article titled James May Had To Dismantle His Tesla Model S To Charge A Battery
Screenshot: Drivetribe

James May didn’t use his Tesla Model S for a bit, but left it plugged in, making the reasonable assumption that the whole car would stay charged while it sat parked. He was wrong.

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As May explains in the video, Teslas have two batteries: the massive one underneath the car that is arranged like a skateboard and powers the wheels, and a regular 12-volt car battery that powers almost everything else about the car. It was that second battery that was dead, after the car had sat for too long — apparently because the car’s charging system turns off when the big battery is fully charged, and, then, the big battery stops charging the smaller one, too.

Which is a problem because the small battery is responsible for a lot of systems, like, crucially, the locks. May can’t get into his car, and he also can’t open the frunk to access the small battery, either, because that is electronic as well. Instead, he has to pull two emergency releases, and, after that, remove all manner of parts to finally get to the 12-volt battery itself.

A trickle charger will do the rest of the job, but, for a car that starts at $79,990, this is all a bit of a farce:

May takes off multiple panels and a heating duct to get to the battery, while a quick search reveals that May’s far from alone with 12-volt battery issues in Teslas. And May is a fan of Teslas, as he’s said previously, though it’s always interesting to see Tesla owners’ reactions when something inexplicable goes wrong. May’s reaction, baffled anger, is among the most common.

“To charge the battery, you have to dismantle the car,” May says. “It was about an hour’s work. And, frankly, it’s pissed me off.”

May bought the Model S a couple years ago, and he explained then that he wanted to participate in the electric experiment. I’m sure that is still true, broadly speaking, though probably with a bit more skepticism toward the most influential EV automaker there is.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

DISCUSSION

Poodles
Poodles

This isn’t unique to Tesla, just that it’s harder to access the 12v battery. For instance, the Nissan Leaf is known for killing the 12v battery for a number of reasons, like leaving the car on the charger for too long.

Frankly it’s weird that they’re not simple using a DC to DC converter to power everything off the main battery, but it might be some kind of legal requirement to have a 12v battery to power certain “essentials.