Skip to comments.A Most Peculiar Test Drive
Posted on 02/16/2013 10:33:20 AM PST by Vince Ferrer
You may have heard recently about an article written by John Broder from The New York Times that makes numerous claims about the performance of the Model S. We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates. Indeed, our highest per capita sales are in Norway, where customers drive our cars during Arctic winters in permanent midnight, and in Switzerland, high among the snowy Alps. About half of all Tesla Roadster and Model S customers drive in temperatures well below freezing in winter. While no car is perfect, after extremely thorough testing, the Model S was declared to be the best new car in the world by the most discerning authorities in the automotive industry.
To date, hundreds of journalists have test driven the Model S in every scenario you can imagine. The car has been driven through Death Valley (the hottest place on Earth) in the middle of summer and on a track of pure ice in a Minnesota winter. It has traveled over 600 miles in a day from the snowcapped peaks of Tahoe to Los Angeles, which made the very first use of the Supercharger network, and moreover by no lesser person than another reporter from The New York Times. Yet, somehow John Broder discovered a problem and was unavoidably left stranded on the road. Or was he?
After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldnt get in the way of a salacious story. In the case of Top Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being tested). Our car never even had a chance.
The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broders case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.
Here is a summary of the key facts:
When Tesla first approached The New York Times about doing this story, it was supposed to be focused on future advancements in our Supercharger technology. There was no need to write a story about existing Superchargers on the East Coast, as that had already been done by Consumer Reports with no problems! We assumed that the reporter would be fair and impartial, as has been our experience with The New York Times, an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity. As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.
When I first heard about what could at best be described as irregularities in Broders behavior during the test drive, I called to apologize for any inconvenience that he may have suffered and sought to put my concerns to rest, hoping that he had simply made honest mistakes. That was not the case.
In his own words in an article published last year, this is how Broder felt about electric cars before even seeing the Model S:
"Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.
When the facts didnt suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts. Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: please investigate this article and determine the truth. You are a news organization where that principle is of paramount importance and what is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.
I don't have much of an absolute opinion on this spat, but there are a few interesting points. While I am not a great fan of electric cars and would not buy one currently, I don't hate Tesla or want the company to fail. If others want to buy these cars, its still a relatively free country, so good for them. If there was deception on the part of the New York Times reporter, then it does need to be investigated. Its not like reporters have never unfairly targeted a car company, with fake rollover tests and fireworks in exploding gas tanks.
However, while I like the fact that Tesla is fighting back, I am also troubled by the amount of data the car is generating by spying on the driver. It is one more invasion of privacy, until we have none at all left. I would hope that this logging can be turned off, or that it is not being broadcast back to Tesla for all owners.
People may not know that industry has used electric vehicles for 40 years, such as electric carts and fork-trucks. There are problems with load, temperature and charging that have yet to be solved. I hope they succeed...
Maybe because he didn't have an hour and a half to sit around?
We'll see how much the NYT cares about the truth.
I doubt very much if this level of data logging is limited to media drivers. In fact, Broder probably knew about Tesla's experience with Top Gear and may have intended to highlight the data-logging and privacy issues. If so, Tesla could hardly have grabbed the bait any harder.
What confuses me is that Musk and the NYT are both solid members of the Baraqqi Coalition.
So why the intramural spat?
Reporters determine the story they are going to report before they ever put down the first word. The supporting facts they cite are just a hodgepodge of cherry picking and fiction.
I’ve learned to treat everything I read as if its being written by the least capable, least objective person I know.
Hey Tesla, Obama, et ilk:
Call me when you can pack enough energy in a suitcase-sized container (gas tank) that will drive my 4000 lb car 300-400 miles and then “recharge” in five minutes at the omnipresent gas station.
It looks like Tesla was a victim of a NYT hit piece. However, I find it strange that the NYT as the beacon of all things ultra liberal, would have savaged the electric car which we know is the new “people’s car” and the wet dream of every liberal. It would have been more in keeping with the NYT to give glowing, rave and even falsified positive reviews instead of telling the glaring truth about the electric vehicle’s shortcomings. Perhaps when the standard mode is to lie about everything, you cannot tell the truth even when it is about something you support.
The government understands that only a damned fool would buy an electric car, so they subsidize the transaction so that the fools convince themselves that they’ve made a good decision. I’m not sure that either the NYT report or this rebuttal does much to alter that dynamic.
Consider all of this from the reporters view, if he had written a story about an uneventful trip up the east coast with a few leisurely stops for a charge and a Latte, who would have read his story? Top Gear obviously understands how all this works: write the story first, collect the film and sound bites to back it up later. At least with Top Gear, you get first rate comedy to go along with it.
There's the problem right there.
Believe the NYT not.
Of course he had the time. His job, at that moment, was to write a story about the charging capabilities, and the range of the car. If he is going to do that HONESTLY, he needs to take the time the car required to get the job done. Sounds like he had the story written, and made his 'facts' fit it.
As for how long it takes to charge the car, if you don't have the time to charge it up, don't buy one! You could charge it up in the time it takes to have a nice leisurely lunch with no real disruption to your day. If you're taking a trip, charge it up along the way.
But if you don't like the idea of having to charge a car up as you need it, buy a gasoline powered car, and fill it up, as you go; problem solved.
Musk probably tipped his hand and let it slip that he was hoping to make a profit from this endeavour. If Tesla was set up to be a loss leading cash cow and pension fund for the UAW, the NYT would have written a glowing review.
Very nice looking car.
All it needs is an LS small block.
However, while I like the fact that Tesla is fighting back, I am also troubled by the amount of data the car is generating by spying on the driver.
In this case, had they not done that NYT would have gotten away with the smear. They still might. Besides, it's not a surprise they have this equipment on the early production runs. I would hope they'll not install the spy stuff on later runs, to save $$ as well as improve privacy. But that is not the direction this society is heading. :^(
The oldest Space Shuttle in the fleet was the Columbia, and it weighed hundreds of pounds more than the later versions because it had more sensing equipment on board. Ironic considering what happened to it.
Let's see... The Tesla is extremely expensive and the company is dying. So the NYT is safe in attacking them. The evil corp is selling cars the "people" can't afford and they are on the way out. Not hard to figure out. It's like taking Obama skeet shooting only to have him shoot old birds tied to a string.
Norway and Switzerland? I wunner why? People in Greece and Portugal should be snapping these up.
This may be because they don't think Republicans are a threat anymore. The left is nothing but a group of groups that vote against Republicans. Many of the groups actually hate each other. If republicans disappeared, they would start fighting each other.
IIRC, in 1959, they made the first solar powered car by putting a solar panel on top of a 1912 Detroit Electric.
Probably to push the Volt. But Obama has our money on both so you ask a good question.
How does it handle in a Houston year which includes flood water and temperatures over 100 degrees daily throughout the summer (including sitting for 8 hours in a hot parking lot, then making a one hour traffic jam commute ride home)?
Houston's "light rail" can't run in 3-inches of rainfall.
Desperation to finally get moving again? Who in their right mind could relish multiple one-hour-stops to travel a mere few hundred miles, which could easily be done on one single tank filling of liquid fuel?
Clarkson of criticized Top Gear drove a heavy BMW A8 4-litre-V8 turbo diesel sedan from London to Edinburgh -and back!- on a single tank of fuel! 800 miles!
Well, at least Mr. Tesla has confirmed in his own writing that his cars are nothing else but toys for the idle rich (not that there's anything wrong, per se, with toys or the idle rich). Those who can afford to have Jeeves follow them in a real car to drive when the juice runs out...
Nothing like a wrap around windshield.
Elon Musk is an incredible salesman.
My buddy’s daughter put down 5 grand deposit on one of their new SUVs that won’t even be built until 2014, and the closest dealer is 3 hours away.
Probably could use a chop and channel too. ;-)
Uh, maybe because he needed to be someplace and couldn't afford another two hours of charging time? Maybe because there were others waiting in line for the only charger available for miles? Maybe because young urban punks were threatening those waiting for a charge?
When was the last time it took you two hours to pour 20 gallons of liquid fuel into your tank?
Something about Musk doesn’t smell right.
I’m thinking I could build a 10hp electric Suburban/Econoline full of nearly spent/rejuvenated Pb-acid batteries to take my dog and me the 1 mile over and 1 mile back from the park for our morning jaunts. It’d be fun - coasting is just about as good as regenerative braking, if you have the time.
Here’s a story about Musk and Tesla’s rebuttal not being what they claim it is:
and here’s Broder’s own response to Musk’s spin:
Given that my TDIs only hold ~16 gal, it'd take a couple of hours to drop a full tank low enough to install the remaining 4 gallons.
LOL. You’re right...ergo, gas cars have no refueling advantage when trying to squeeze 20 gallons into a 16 gallon tank.
What the NYT story shows is what most people already thought. If you go on a long trip in a electric car it must be a structured trip. Fully charge the car at each station. Don’t deviate from the route. And you should not have any problems.
What Broder did was drive the car like a normal person would. Not fully charging to save time if he thought he could make his next destination. Then underestimating the range the car could go because of cold weather driving. This is not something Tesla should flip out over. It is real life driving.
The Tesla is a $100+k toy being marketed as a status symbol. Nobody is, or ever will be, using this as an everyday driver. Probably has inadequate air conditioning for warm climates.
Well in this case, based on Broders behavior, they should have put a data search on his financial records as it was clear Broder was lying and likely being paid off to fabricate these lies.
If you are driving out west (in the US or Canada) off the Interstate system, it's still recommenced to not leave a town with an open gas station at night without filling up.
How stupid were these people not to realize the test car was totally monitored against fraud.
BTW, there are lot of people all over the place who have a financial stake here and have no desire to see Tesla succeed.
They're going to lose big.
Actually the Tesla S is 52k with a 7.5k taxpayer funded credit.
I’m not saying it’s a good deal....
The upset appears to involve the newsmedia fabricating certain aspects of a report in order to fit a predetermined narrative, something FReepers almost uniformly condemn.
You know, sort of like fitting an explosive charge to a gas tank to get a vehicle to explode, then reporting how dangerous it is?
I guess it really is the seriousness of the charges instead of the facts that matter.
Dan Rather, is that you, lol?
Looks like Tesla tried to get a million bucks in free advertising, but the product failed miserably. So now they are engaged in shooting the messenger.
No wonder Obama likes these scammers.
I’m glad that a lot of Tesla buyers are in Norway. Up here in Alaska, it’s -23 degrees right now outside my window, a temperature that normally sucks the juice right out of a battery.
In any case, electricity is running about 90 cents a kilowatt hour - which means that $7.80 per gallon price we’re paying for gasoline is still a bargain, relatively speaking.
I agree with the post about packing enough energy to drive 300 miles into the size of a suitcase, then being able to recharge it in five minutes. It gets cold up here, but it’s never been too cold to burn something.
What sort of engine block heater y’all using up there these days? Electric?
Actually the gas tank fraud was NBC.
They were busted by a tip from an honest fire fighter here in Indiana (where the collision was filmed).
First year production cars run $80k minimum. Some may be in the $60k range by special order.
The trick is they offer three different battery packs. In other words, you get what you pay for. And guess which battery packs are in test drive cars for the media.
I recall that Tesla once admitted they would have to sell for $100k to break even.
I suspect the whole operation is just a scam.
Just a wild guess, but I’d say vehicles like Porsche, BMWs and Tesla’s are not the type of vehicle ya want in Alaska...Ya better stick to pickup trucks.
Well they got a ton of dough from the Fedgov in loans.
They moved into the former GM/Toyota factory in NorCal that had closed -(Pelosi district?).
Yeah follow the money...
this makes me strangely happy
Beware of those here who completely evade this fact and ignore what the article is actually about.
There will be some who fight against electric vehicles, right up to the day they buy one.
It's like when microwave ovens came out, and those invested in traditional ovens mocked and warned against them....Up until they all bought one.