When Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida towards the end of last week, a number of residents decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Even as the skies became increasingly unfriendly hundreds of Floridians began evacuating on their own initiative out of harm’s way, zooming off in their cars to points elsewhere. The rush to escape the storm saw gasoline-powered car owners practically emptying gas stations of their supply, while drivers of electric-power vehicles worry about whether their one long charge will see them safely away.

Owners of Tesla electric cars in Florida, however, got quite the surprise from their manufacturer when they saw that their battery capacity was somehow extended from the normal.

Battery upgrade

Tesla has confirmed on Sunday, September 10, certain news reports regarding owners of their vehicles in the Florida area. For the benefit of those planning to drive away from the path of Hurricane Irma, they will be giving a temporary upgrade to the battery capacity in the Tesla cars of Floridians by up to 40 extra miles on a full charge. Thus, certain owners of Tesla Model S sedans and Model X SUVs in the Sunshine State found that they could travel more on their batteries than before.

How this battery upgrade was implemented so near-instantaneously was due to all Tesla vehicles being wirelessly connected through their onboard computers to the manufacturer.

Elon Musk’s company can then transmit upgrades to the computer software which in turn govern the hardware and mechanics of a Tesla vehicle, in this case, battery life extension. Battery packs in their Model S and Model X actually have a potential capacity of 75 kilowatt-hours; however, these cars are actually sold with software constraints that limit the cap.

A lower-capacity Tesla vehicle can be sold at affordable prices but will require purchase of upgrades to unleash their true potential.

‘Total’ manufacturer control

While Floridian Tesla car owners are for the most part very thankful to the manufacturer for giving them an edge in evacuating from Hurricane Irma, certain critics point out how the ability of the company to quickly alter car performance wirelessly over great distances has a darker undertone.

Not only does Tesla deliberately power down car capacities in exchange for making them affordable (without paid upgrades), but that they can make any other changes without the owners needing to know, tantamount to an invasion of privacy.

Tesla is currently gearing to increase mass-production of their latest car, the Model 3. Owners of the new ride have noted its price as being the most affordable from the manufacturer yet, but that so many desirable features are paid add-ons. The temporary battery upgrade to Tesla Car owners from Florida is set to expire on Saturday, September 16.