Tesla remotely extends range of some cars to help owners escape Irma

2016 Tesla Model S

While there's no shortage of stories projecting how vehicle technology will change our daily lives, sometimes it takes something a little more dramatic to really get the message home. Events don't get much more dramatic than hurricane Irma, and when it comes to how the vehicles we drive are changing, this terrible natural disaster has provided a staggering example of how far vehicle technology has come. That's because Tesla saw a way of helping out its customers by extending the range of their electric vehicles to make it easier for them to evacuate areas threatened by the storm.

Of course, drivers of conventional internal combustion powered models could extend the range they could go without stopping by simply filling some extra fuel cans. However, that could potentially have meant queuing for quite some time at a fuel station -- and that's if supplies hadn't already run out. Where the Tesla situation is so incredible is the upgrade to the batteries to allow a greater driving range on a single full charge was done remotely over the air, so there wasn't even the need for owners to drop into a dealership.

The vehicles in question were the Model S and Model X 60 or 60D variants that were purchased originally with a 75 kWh battery that was artificially limited to 60 kWh to reduce the purchase price. Depending on the model, this restriction could be lifted by the owner agreeing to pay between $4,500 and $9,000, which would then increase the range by between 30 and 40 miles.

Tesla didn't make any big announcement about upgrading these batteries, and it was only discovered when an owner contacted Electrek when his vehicle suddenly had greater range and the 75 badge appeared in the software. When contacted, Tesla later confirmed the extension.

The additional 30 or 40 miles of range isn't an insubstantial amount even in the best weather conditions, so it would have been particularly welcome in the wake of an oncoming hurricane. The increase, however, is temporary and the vehicles will be returned to their original ranges when the danger has passed.