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How Tesla Is Helping Florida Drivers Escape Hurricane Irma

Tesla has pushed a temporary software update that will extend the battery range of certain Model S and Model X cars for owners in the path of Hurricane Irma. The extension impacts Model S and Model X vehicles with 60 kwh and 70 kwh battery packs, expanding them to 75kwh capacity.

The move is possible because some lower-power models, which were removed from Tesla’s lineup earlier this year, actually shipped with 75kwh batteries that were software-downgraded to 60kwh. According to TechCrunch, temporarily unlocking that extra capacity should amount to an extra 30 miles of driving – not a ton, but potentially enough to help get a driver to safety.

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The change was made without much fanfare, and first noticed by Tesla owners on Reddit. Tesla has confirmed the change, and said the upgrade will be effective through September 16.

The move is both characteristically canny PR by Tesla, and something that could genuinely help its customers. It does point to one of the potential risks of driving electric: with less widespread infrastructure, Tesla drivers could be more likely to see crucial superchargers offline or overcrowded during emergencies.

However, Irma is also showing that’s not a very compelling argument for sticking with gasoline – drivers of internal-combustion engines are experiencing widespread fuel shortages in the evacuation zone.

Update: Updated to include confirmation and details from Tesla.