When Max last saw Betty White, his nickname for his Tesla Model Y Performance, they were both in rough shape after getting sideswiped on the highway. Max’s rotator cuff was torn in several places. The small SUV had bounced off multiple concrete barriers at high speed and was bashed in on all four corners, its wheels ripped to pieces. Coolant appeared to be leaking into the battery chamber. From his own work on EVs in the garage, Max knew that Betty was done for. “No auto shop would put a repair person at risk with that kind of damage,” says Max, whose last name isn’t being used out of doxing concerns. A damaged EV battery can become dangerous due to the risk of shocks, fire, and toxic fumes. His insurer agreed, and Betty was written off and sent to a salvage yard.
Months after he had last seen the car, Max’s Tesla app was now telling him that Betty needed a software update. It showed the car with an extra 200 kilometers on the odometer, fully charged, and parked in Uman, a town in Ukraine’s Cherkasy Oblast, midway between Kyiv and the front line with Russia’s invasion force. Minutes after that first ping, the app showed the car in service mode, suggesting Betty was undergoing repairs. “I thought it must be a mistake,” Max says.
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