A Tesla owner in Scotland says he was left “flabbergasted” after being hit with a £17,374 ($20,698) bill to replace his electric vehicle’s battery, which was apparently damaged by rainwater.
Johnny Bacigalupo, who owns a Tesla Model S with his partner Rob Hussey, told Edinburgh Live they were shocked when Tesla informed them of the hefty repair cost last week. The couple said they were unable to start their Tesla one morning and arranged to have it picked up and delivered to the Tesla service center in Edinburgh.
“I honestly can’t believe that this has happened. When I first got the call I thought we would get a bill for £500 or £1,000,” Bacigalupo told the Scottish news outlet. “When they said over 17 grand – it’s absolutely obscene. My heart missed a beat, honestly.”
On Wednesday, Bacigalupo and Hussey received a call from Tesla saying the vehicle’s battery was “damaged due to water ingress.” The Tesla representative informed them the 8-year battery warranty would not cover the damage, and asked if they wanted to proceed with the £17,374 repair.
“Did I wish to proceed?? I was flabbergasted and couldn’t really find my words,” Bacigalupo said. He told the Tesla representative that neither he nor his partner were at fault for the apparent water damage.
How Tesla Battery Replacements Normally Cost
The £17,374 bill shocked Bacigalupo, who said he expected to pay around £500 to £1,000 for any needed repairs.
In 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated that replacing a Tesla battery pack could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, according to J.D. Power. The research firm notes that those figures likely vary in 2023.
According to Recurrent, an EV battery analysis company, drivers today can expect to pay between $5,000 and $20,000 for a full Tesla battery replacement. The wide range takes into account factors like battery size, model year, and service location.
Tesla batteries are typically covered by an 8-year/100,000-150,000 mile warranty. But water damage or improper maintenance can void the battery warranty early, leaving owners on the hook for the full replacement cost.
The hefty bill left Bacigalupo questioning how a little rain could lead to such catastrophic damage. “How can a car be damaged so badly by a bit of rain? I just don’t understand how it can cost so much to fix it,” he told Edinburgh Live.
Why EV Batteries Are So Expensive to Replace
Electric vehicle batteries are complex, expensive pieces of technology. Their cost is one reason why full battery replacements come with such a hefty price tag.
The battery packs contain hundreds or even thousands of individual lithium-ion battery cells. The cells need to be packaged together with cooling systems and electronic monitoring systems that regulate temperature and performance.
Most EV batteries use expensive materials like cobalt, nickel, and manganese in their cathode components. Battery pack housings are also precisely engineered to withstand impacts and bad weather.
Labor costs for battery replacements are also high, as technicians need to remove and properly dispose of the old pack and install the new one safely. Work needs to be performed at specialty EV repair shops to avoid any battery-related fires or issues.
With EVs still a relatively new technology, there is little third-party competition to drive down replacement costs. Going outside an authorized Tesla shop for repairs also voids any remaining warranty coverage.
Water Damage Not Covered by Warranty
Bacigalupo and Hussey were informed that their 8-year battery warranty would not cover the apparent water damage in this incident.
Tesla’s warranty only covers defects in “materials or workmanship” under normal use and maintenance. Damage stemming from “abuse, misuse…water or liquid contact” is specifically excluded.
Tesla does apply a corrosion warranty on certain battery parts. But that coverage maxes out at just 12 months or 20,000 miles (32,000 km) – well under the 150,000 mile battery warranty.
This is not the first report of massive Tesla bills stemming from water-related battery damage. A Canadian Model S owner last year reported being hit with a $26,000 repair quote after water damaged his battery, leaving him unable to start the car.
Costly battery replacements like these illustrate the risks of owning an out-of-warranty EV. Some experts recommend proactive steps like coating electronic components to protect against moisture. But sudden water damage can still lead to crippling repair bills.
Tesla Investigating Complaint Over High Costs
According to Edinburgh Live, Tesla’s customer service department is investigating Bacigalupo’s complaint into the £17,374 bill.
In an email viewed by the outlet, Tesla informed the couple that it takes pricing concerns seriously. The company has requested more information on the conditions of the failure to determine if any warranty coverage may apply.
For now though, Bacigalupo and Hussey seem to be on the hook for the huge bill. The couple told Edinburgh Live they may need to sell personal items or rely on family to help pay for the unexpected five-figure cost.
The shocking price tag shows the flip side of owning electric: huge savings on fuel can be quickly erased by high maintenance costs. EV drivers unable to cover repairs may find their vehicles immobilized.
Bacigalupo’s story serves as a reminder to carefully read warranty terms and proactively maintain EVs against weather threats. It also highlights the value of extended warranties or comprehensive auto insurance to hedge against pricey repair bills.