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Tesla recalls some 2020-2022 vehicles over heat-pump issue, “decreased defrosting performance”

Tesla has issued a recall for 26,681 vehicles from the 2020 through 2022 model years over an issue relating to an improperly operating heat-pump valve—an issue that can be fixed through an over-the-air update. 

Recall documents filed by Tesla explain that the issue “may trap refrigerant inside the evaporator and may deplete the refrigerant from the active components in the system.” That may result in a loss of cabin heating, particularly in temperatures of -10 degrees C and colder, it explains, although the windshield defroster system will continue to operate. 

The recall affects the 2021-2022 Tesla Model 3, 2021-2022 Model S, 2021-2022 Model X, and 2020-2022 Model Y.

2021 Tesla Model 3

Tesla noted that even in such a failure, the blower motor will still be operational. 

The automaker explains that in vehicles with certain firmware updates, the heat pump’s Electronic Expansion Valve doesn’t stay closed, resulting in a depletion of refrigerant and a “fail-safe compressor stoppage.”

A federal recall is initiated because the vehicles failed to comply with federal standards for windshield defrosting and defogging, although there’s no service visit required here—much easier logistically than the recall over camera-cable harnesses and frunk latches that the company announced last month. 

Tesla reports that it already reintroduced the proper software command to keep the valve closed with firmware released on January 15 and later and included in over-the-air updates. Nevertheless, Tesla will be mailing out notification letters to affected owners starting today—again leading to some potential questions over what a safety recall should be in a future of over-the-air updates over the operational nuances of components.

Tesla Model S Plaid thermal and heat pump

Tesla Model S Plaid thermal and heat pump

Heat pumps themselves represent a turnaround in Tesla’s strategy. It insisted for years that they weren’t necessary given the way it had designed its heating and thermal management systems. But the inclusion of one, starting with the Model Y in 2020, can have a huge impact in real-world efficiency over longer drives in cooler weather. 

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