James May's Tesla Model S Dies, He Gets Locked Out05/13/2021
He explains how he got it running again.
James May has been involved in the automotive industry for many decades. He has reviewed countless vehicles for several publications, was part of the most popular automotive show in the world, and knows how to repair (or mend) vehicles with his own hands. Because of his career, he’s probably experienced more bizarre and dangerous automotive situations than most have, so you’d think a dead Tesla wouldn’t be an issue for him. Well, it was.
James May didn’t drive his Tesla Model S for a long time and the battery died. Not the large 100-kWh pack in the floor, the small 12-volt battery that powers accessories like the locks, door handles, and frunk release. So because of this, he was basically locked out of his car. The frunk is important because that’s where the 12-volt battery is located.
Tesla explained to May that when the Tesla is charging it charges both batteries, but when the big battery pack is full and charging stops, the charger doesn’t keep the 12-volt battery charged, and over time it will die because it’s powering certain electrical components like the computer.
So May needs to get into the frunk in order to charge the little battery, but it’s not easy. Since the electric frunk release doesn’t work, he had to access the two emergency pull releases which are located behind the plastic panels in the wheel arches. It takes a little time to remove the panels enough to get to the releases.
Once the frunk is open, more work needs to be done to get to the 12-volt battery which is under a few things. May had to remove a couple of panels and ducting for the heating system before he had access to the battery. He then used a trickle charger to juice up the battery.
May said it took him about an hour to do all of that and said it was frustrating (I could only imagine what Jeremy Clarkson would have said if he was there). For people who aren’t mechanically inclined, it can take much longer than that or they would have to pay someone to do it.
James May hopes Tesla will come up with a way to make trickle charging easier. I’m surprised Tesla allows the 12-volt battery to die considering how hard it is to access. I’m not an engineer, but you’d think Tesla engineers could figure out a way to keep that battery topped off over long periods of time, especially when connected to a charger.
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