Sept. 11 (UPI) -- As thousands of people fled the approach of Hurricane Irma in the southeast United States, Tesla assisted drivers of its electric cars by extending their battery range, the company confirmed.
Highways in Florida were gridlocked off and on for days before the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday. That meant some drivers waited in lines at gas stations for upwards of an hour and in some cases, fuel shortages left drivers stranded.
But electric vehicle drivers faced more dire circumstances -- trying to track down charging stations and potentially spending hours charging their vehicles.
Tesla said that for those drivers under mandatory evacuation orders, it remotely reprogrammed the vehicles to increase the battery capacity. Some drivers reported being able to drive 30 to 40 miles longer than normal.
The SUV and sedan vehicles -- Models S and X60, 60D, 70 and 70D -- each have 60 kilowatt-hours of capacity but actually share the same 75 kilowatt-hour battery as more expensive models. Drivers normally would spend $4,500 to $9,000 more for the longer battery life.
Tesla outfitted the 60 kilowatt-hour vehicles with the same batter to save on factory costs and complexity, NBC News reported.
All it took was a computer upgrade to make the adjustment. Tesla said the drivers would have the higher capacity battery until Sept. 16.