When Wendy Bedolla got into her Tesla Model 3 Thursday morning there was a message waiting for her.
“Stay Fully Charged,” the message on the car’s big computer screen said. “A utility company in your area announced they may turn off power in some areas of Northern California beginning October 9 as part of public safety power shutoffs, which may affect power to charging options.”
The local utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, or PG&E, was cutting off power to some parts of the region in “rolling blackouts” as a precautionary measure during several days of expected high winds, which threatened to damage power lines and spark dangerous wildfires.
The message in Bedolla’s car didn’t come from PG&E, though. It came from Tesla. Bedolla’s car, like the vast majority of Teslas, is connected to the Internet at all times. Tesla can send software updates “over the air” and messages, too, when needed.
“I was aware [of the blackouts] because I heard it at work, but it was actually nice that they reminded me in my car, too, because I didn’t even actually think about my car until I saw the message,” said Bedolla, who lives in Patterson, California, not too far from Tesla’s car factory in Fremont
Bedolla, who usually only charges her battery up to 75% to preserve its longevity, charged her car all the way to 100% after getting the message.
Tesla spokespeople would not respond to questions about the message, but many Tesla owners in the area reported getting the reminder.
While the power outage highlights a problem with electric cars – they need electricity to run – the incident also points to the added benefits of “connected cars” that are connected to the Internet or other data networks. During hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters, General Motors has used its OnStar network to help guide people to evacuation routes and emergency service, even making service available during the crisis to those who weren’t paying for it. Tesla reportedly used its cars’ network to unlock additional battery range during recent hurricanes on the US east coast,
In a pair of Tweets, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company plans to add battery packs and solar panels to its high-speed Supercharger networks in the area to help allay any problems in the future.
Electric cars aren’t the only vehicles that can potentially suffer during power outages. Long lines also form at gas stations as drivers prepare for the electrically-operated gas pumps to lose power.