Elon phoned home. Or, at least Daniel from Tesla’s NZ operation finally fronted – and after 20 long days, Stokes Valley man Tim Philips finally has his $26,000 Tesla Powerwall system back up and running.
Philips approached the Herald last week, at his wit’s end after spending a collective eight hours on hold after his solar battery system first went off-line on October 30.
On November 8, he discovered Tesla had only one engineer in the country who could visit him and resolve the issue – but that they were out of the country for two weeks.
Midday today, Philips reported that the Tesla onsite visit had finally taken place and a faulty component in his system’s gateway had been identified. His Powerwall system was back online, although some features such as storm control and off-peak power top-up were not yet restored.
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Earlier, Philips told the Herald, “I love Elon Musk, but he seems to spend more time on Twitter bagging people than looking after his company’s after-sales service,” says Stokes Valley software engineer Tim Philips.
It wasn’t hard to understand how Philips’ love had been tested.
The two giant Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries beneath his home – which weigh 114kg each – stopped working at 2.30pm on October 30.
Philips found it extraordinarily hard to contact Tesla.
His saga began in June. He had installed a solar roof two years prior, which stored power to a Panasonic battery.
The system all worked fine, but “we were sending too much power back to the grid,” Philips said. He wanted more battery capacity – the better to store those rays for night time or grey days – and his eye was attracted to the Tesla Powerwall 2, which has a sticker price of $11,500 plus $1950 for supporting hardware, with installation costs on top.
Philips, who is technical (he works as a software engineer) was impressed by the Powerwall’s 13.5kWh capacity, 10-year warranty, and its ability to be controlled by a smartphone app, which also let him access scads of real-time data. And unlike many solar battery setups, it’s designed to look good.
And he still is.
“They’re light years ahead of their competitors. There’s nothing else in the market that comes close.”
Being in Wellington – far from Tesla’s showroom in Auckland – Philips called the number on Tesla’s website and was put through to the US giant’s Sydney office.
A saleswoman phoned the next day and talked him through the product and the installation process, which included an initial site visit to access his property.
Philips was impressed. He ordered two Powerwall 2 units on June 1, plus a backup gateway, paying $700 for a place in the queue. He got a modest discount for ordering two firewalls.
Three months later, in September, his product arrived. Tesla contracted installation to Downer, who in turn subcontracted to a second company, Green Spark Solar, who in turn sub-sub-contracted to 24 Seven Electrical.
The installation went smoothly over September 3 and 4, and all was well until Philips’ new system stopped working, and stopped sending data to Tesla, mid-afternoon on October 30.
He called Tesla, and was routed to a helpdesk in the US. After waiting on hold for 30 minutes, he was walked through some basic troubleshooting.
The Powerwalls remained unresponsive. He was told to wait 24 hours to see if they reset themselves.
They didn’t, so Philips called back on October 31, this time for a marathon two hours and 18 minutes, including a full hour on hold. He was talked through a manual reset, which didn’t work. A helpdesk operator told him that, unfortunately, he would likely spend more time on hold due to the fact that the giant Californian utility PG&E was shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of customers as a preventative measure amid forest fires sweeping the state. That caused complications for Powerwall owners, who were flooding the helpdesk.
They were not wrong. Several calls over days that followed took Philips’ collective time on hold to around eight hours.
In the interim, he called 24 Seven who, at Philips’ expense, came out to double-check cabling and other installation basics over a two-visit. They found nothing wrong. (Philips praises 24 Seven’s professionalism, but laments there seems to be only so far that third-parties can go to access possible faults with a Powerwall).
On November 8, Philips discovered that beyond the California fires, there was another complicating factor: a Tesla NZ engineer texted to say he had been alerted to Philips’ need for a site visit, but that he was out of the country and would be for another two weeks. When Philips asked if another engineer could cover for him, the staffer replied, “I am currently the only one based in NZ.”
As things stand, the Tesla engineer is due to visit Philips’ home tomorrow – November 19.
Philips says while he continues to be a fan of Tesla technology, found the difficulty in contacting the company for after-sales service, and the multi-week delay getting anything done, both baffling and unacceptable.
The Herald has offered Tesla the opportunity to comment at various points since November 15. So far, the company has not done so.
Too spare with spare tyres?
Earlier, the Herald fielded a complaint about the time it takes for Tesla to supply a spare tyre (the design of the company’s cars does not allow for a spare on-board – not unusual for high-end vehicles).
A Tesla Australia-New Zealand spokeswoman said a tyre would be brought to the driver.
“There’s 24/7 roadside assistance. It’s provided for four years or 80,000km at no cost.”
How long does it take to get a spare tyre to a driver?
“It depends where the owner lives, but generally should only take up to a couple of days, if that, for a tyre replacement,” the spokeswoman said.