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Braking System Lawsuit Puts Telsa on Slippery Slope

Sep 19, 2017

Are Tesla’s regenerative braking systems dangerous in snowy or icy conditions?

Auto recall claims can cover a wide variety of defects, including braking system defects. Few driving scenarios are more frightening than failing brake systems, except perhaps failing brakes on an icy or snowy road.

Well, that’s what one proposed regenerative braking class-action lawsuit against Tesla claims is the case in 2012–2017 Tesla Model S cars and 2016–2017 Tesla Model X SUV’s.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that in icy or snowy conditions, the Tesla’s unique regenerative braking systems do not allow the above-referenced model vehicles to coast—putting the driver “in danger of losing control on icy roads due to the mandatory braking the vehicle imposes on the driver”.

So, what is regenerative braking and should there be a Tesla recall?

In a standard gas-powered vehicle, the car will automatically enter a coast mode when the driver removes their foot from the gas pedal and continue coasting until the driver applies the brake. In most electric vehicles (other than Tesla’s), there is a regenerative braking system that activates when the driver presses the brake pedal. Both gas-powered and the more commonly used regenerative braking systems of most electric cars allow a driver the control of coasting until the brake pedal is pressed.

But according to the lawsuit, Tesla’s regenerative braking activates “when the driver let’s off the accelerator pedal” (instead of when the driver presses on the brake pedal), thereby generating “rapid, sudden, and excessive” braking and creating “a risk for the vehicles to lose control in snowy conditions because the system makes the vehicles unable to coast.”

Imagine cautiously driving in snow and ice, then gingerly taking your foot off the gas pedal intending to coast or apply a gentle brake, but instead of having the chance to apply the brake gently, the vehicle’s braking system automatically and instantly kicks in in a more aggressive or forceful manner than you would have manually applied, potentially causing your car to crash. The plaintiff alleged he crashed his Tesla under a similar scenario.

In addition to the above allegations that the regenerative braking system is defective and dangerous—which the plaintiff claims the manufacturer has known since 2007—the plaintiff claims the braking system doesn’t function “when the vehicles battery is too full”. It remains to be seen whether an auto recall will result from this lawsuit.

If you have questions about an auto recall, think you are driving a “lemon”, or suspect you have a breach of warranty claim, The Law Offices of Timothy Abeel can help.

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