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Social media isn’t real life; TikTok makes that clear every day. Just a few weeks ago, TikTokers got excited for a guy trolling Kum & Go gas station, only to find out a few weeks later that it was a coordinated PR stunt, made with Kum & Go’s help. Recently though, our “perpendicular charging” friend known as “Taco Hagasaki” on TikTok, found himself back on my For You page. This time he’s somehow reversed his claimed ban from using Tesla’s superchargers and has started saying his vendetta against Elon Musk has turned personal.

Taco Hagasaki has posted multiple TikToks, alleging that he’s jailbroken his Model 3, X, and Y, restoring his fleet’s supercharging abilities. In a sort of David vs. Goliath move, Hagasaki created a website called “stop the nerd”, selling parody Elon Musk merchandise that apparently goes to “stopping the nerd”, or whatever alleged lawsuit Hagasaki claims to have against Tesla and Musk himself. It’s not quite clear with who, what, or where Hagasaki’s motives lay; I’ve chatted with him via Instagram DMs, and his responses tend to be guarded. Still, his grandstand-y videos capture the interest and imagination of right-to-repair enthusiasts and Tesla haters alike.

@tacohagasaki

Checkmate once again Mr. #ElonMusk #Eeelon #Tesla #TeslaTok #TeslaCheck #Jailbreak

♬ FRONTIN – Omnily hunnye 🌬

From what I’ve gathered from his videos, it appears that Hagasaki has figured out a way to transpose VINs from other Teslas to his fleet, allowing him to bypass his own blocked VIN. I just wanted to know — was this real, or just a social media clout chase? The editing looks convincing, and Hagasaki’s “sticking it to the man” manner of presentation makes you root for him, but social media can easily be faked. I needed answers, I needed to know if this was even possible, or just some guy with clever videography skills and the right amount of influencer mystique and charm. Tesla (in)famously has no PR department, so I reached out to two well-known Tesla personalities:  Electrified Garage, and Phil, from the YouTube channel Ingeneerix. The answer is a bit complicated, it could be both a clout chase, and a legitimate hack.

@tacohagasaki

Checkmate #ElonMusk #Tesla #teslatok #teslacheck #JailBreak #ASOSChaoticToCalm #perpendicularfueling #perpendicularcharging

♬ Original sound – Tik Toker

“I’ve seen his videos and while it might be possible that he jailbroke it to unlock supercharging again they can shut it off on the other end and he won’t be able to do it anymore. I would discount what he’s claiming as just a way to get views online. There are only a small handful of people capable of doing the jailbreaking and most don’t anymore because it is very difficult and Tesla has threatened legal action.” said a representative of Electrified Garage, via email.

Phil at Ingineerix was more charitable, “Yes, because people are sloppy Tesla has made [jailbreaking] much more difficult (and thus expensive) lately, but it’s still possible,” he explained via email.

Phil went on to explain that the authentication between a Tesla car and the Tesla supercharger isn’t as smart as you’d think. The car itself controls supercharging, not the supercharger. When supercharging access is revoked, Tesla uses the vehicle’s cell connection, to tell the vehicle to disable the supercharging function. Meaning, it’s not the supercharger that blacklists vehicles, it is more so the vehicle blacklisting itself, at the behest of Tesla’s direction. Uh, that’s hella scary.

Phil, and many other right-to-repair enthusiasts allege that Tesla’s revocation of supercharging access is illegal. “All I do is restore the original configuration before Tesla illegally altered it.  So for most cars, this means they still get billed for supercharging and have to pay it,” he explained in an email. Thus, Taco Hagasaki’s claim that he was able to restore supercharging, might be true.

But, he might be playing with fire, as one TikTok says that he’s restored Supercharging, but his supercharging access is now free. “Some of the more unscrupulous actors will enable “free” supercharging on a car that did not originally come with it, thus enabling theft of service,” Phil said.

As I’ve recently learned, supercharging (or DC fast charging) can significantly allay range anxiety, making an electric car almost as usable as a gas-powered vehicle. Some may claim that Tesla should have the ability to remove access to superchargers for safety reasons, but is that really so? Taco Hagasaki’s perpendicular charging stunts were annoying, but is that enough cause for a multi-billion-dollar company to cripple your product carte blanche? I’m sure that Phil, Taco Hagasaki, and many other folks would say “no”. Phil says that many rebuilt, inspected, or exported Teslas have suddenly lost their supercharging ability, sometimes months if not years after repair, inspection, or export.

It’ll be an interesting battle to watch how this will all play out as time goes on. Between this, and the push towards implementing the software-as-a-service model into cars for basic things like remote start, I’m not exactly excited for the ever-connected techno-car future.

Update 01/4/21: Phil clarified his quote to explain that that many repaired and inspected Teslas, often with branded titles or grey-market exports, have suddenly lost their supercharging ability, sometimes months if not years after repair, inspection, or export.

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