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Tesla vs Times! Elon Musk says Model S review is “fake”

In one corner, America’s newspaper of record! In the other corner, one of our most eloquent entrepreneurs, a man who never shrinks from defending his creations against attacks in the media! This impromptu bout promises much entertainment for EV boosters and bashers alike. 

The story so far: 

On February 8, The New York Times published an account by John M. Broder of an East Coast road trip on which a Model S failed to deliver the range he was expecting, and eventually ran out of juice, leaving him stranded in the cold. Tesla has been enjoying a streak of glowing reviews in the press lately, and the Times made the most of this “unpleasant item in the punch bowl” story, with a photo of the Model S being ignominiously loaded onto a tow truck, and a play-by-play description of Mr Broder’s range-anxiety-riddled ride.

The Model S has an official EPA range rating of 265 miles, but some drivers, including (according to Elon Musk) a different reporter from The New York Times, who did a test drive late last year, have achieved over 300 miles on a charge. Tesla’s chief technology officer, J.B. Straubel, acknowledged that cold weather inflicts about a 10-percent range penalty, and running the heater draws yet more energy (Broder was driving in temperatures as low as 10 degrees F). “It’s disappointing to me when things don’t work smoothly,” Mr Straubel told the Times. “It takes more planning than a typical gasoline car, no way around it.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk struck a more combative tone, tweeting: “NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour.” 

In an interview with Bloomberg West, Musk was more expansive:

“I do not think this is a he said, she said situation. It is really black and white. The facts are the facts. He did not charge the car to full capacity, not even close. He then took an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan, through heavy traffic, instead of going on the interstate to the charging station. He also exceeded the speed limit quite substantially, which decreased his range. If you do all those three things, which we were clear should not be done and obviously common sense suggests should not be done, then you will not be able to go as far. If you did not fill a gasoline car’s gas tank far enough, then went on a detour and ran out of gas, you should not be surprised if that occurs.

“We will publish the actual logs on the car and it is crystal clear. We are very sensitive to privacy, so these logs are only turned on with the explicit permission of the customer and a signature. For media drives we turn on logging, which tells us the position, speed, what someone is doing with the car in terms of charging. We had a bad experience in the past with a show called Top Gear, where they pretended the car ran out of charge and pushed it home. We looked at the logs and found that it had 50 miles of range left and they were faking it. After that, we trust but verify. In this case, it seems like we have to do that again.

“We have taken great pains to ensure that our car works very well in cold. In fact, our number one Tesla Roadster owner owns four cars in northern Norway where it is permanent midnight during the winter, incredibly cold, and he uses it as his daily driver. The car is designed to do very well in the cold, and we have an intelligent thermal control system that is able to take heat from the motor into the battery pack and in cold weather will actually close shutters in the front of the car to keep the car insulated. It is actually really good. We have taken great pains to ensure that the car works very well in the cold and that is why we are incensed by this ridiculous article.”


Sources: The New York Times, Elon Musk, Bloomberg West

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