Tesla sending free replacement wall charger adapters after garage fire [UPDATE]

Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S
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Tesla Wall ChargerTesla Motors is about to mail off a lot of packages. The California-based electric vehicle manufacturer is going to send out replacement, upgraded wall charger adapters to customers with official Tesla charging units. The reason is a recent garage fire that involved a Tesla Model S and a company wall charger, even though fire investigators said that the car was not responsible and Tesla said the wall unit did not play a role in the blaze.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg today that replacement adapters will be mailed out in the next two weeks. Musk said fires and overheating adapters are "very rare events, but occasionally the wiring isn't done right. We want people to have absolute comfort, so we're going to be providing them with an upgraded adapter." The new adapter has a thermal fuse that will shut off if it gets too hot. Musk did not say why the original wall charger adapter apparently did not have a thermal fuse in the design. AutoblogGreen has asked Tesla how many adapters will be sent out and if this is a global or US-only replacement program, but as of press time, we have not received a response. We're also not sure if this will trigger a recall - the adapter is not, technically, part of the car - and hope Tesla can clarify this point soon.

Tesla's first reaction to that garage fire in November was to update its charger software to automatically reduce the charge current under certain circumstances. To date, that incident in Irvine, CA is the only garage fire involving a Tesla wall charger that has been made public, but there are multiple reports of Tesla wall chargers heating up and melting, (see here, here or here), so it appears Tesla is trying to be safe rather than sorry.

UPDATE: Tesla has issued a press release on this program, which is now available below.
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PALO ALTO, Calif. – A variety of factors such as corrosion, physical damage to receptacles, or inappropriate wiring or installation of electrical outlets can cause higher than normal electrical resistance when using the Universal Mobile Connector ("UMC") NEMA 14-50 adapters to charge Tesla Model S vehicles. When charging, higher than normal electrical resistance connections to external energy sources may cause excessive heating of the adapter. In December 2013, Tesla released an over-the-air software update to address this issue, enabling the Model S onboard charging system to automatically reduce the charging current by 25 percent if it detects unexpected fluctuations in the input power to the vehicle. This fully addresses the issue by substantially reducing the heat generated in any high resistance connections outside the vehicle. This update increases robustness and safety considerably in the unlikely event that a home wiring system, receptacle, adapter or cord is unable to meet its rated current capacity.

Because this was an over-the-air update, customers can confirm receipt without having to bring their vehicles into a Tesla Service Center or other location by simply tapping on the 17" touchscreen and verifying that their Model S is running software version 5.8.4 or later. Any vehicle that is not within range of the wireless network or is not remotely accessible for any other reason can have the update installed through Tesla authorized Service Centers or Tesla Rangers.

Tesla believes that this software update fully addresses any potential risks. However, to provide another layer of assurance to Model S customers using the 14-50 socket, we have designed an improved wall adapter with a thermal fuse. Even if the circuit breakers on the house side and car side don't trip, the thermal fuse will prevent current from flowing if the wall socket region heats up for any reason. Although we do not believe the improved adapter is required to address the issue, we are taking this step as part of our commitment to full customer satisfaction. We will provide this upgraded adapter to existing and new customers free of charge starting in a few weeks.

In addition, Tesla has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of these proactive measures.

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