Tesla Model S Review In Question: Elon Musk Battles The New York Times Over Range, Specs

 @redletterdave on February 12 2013 4:05 PM

Days after the New York Times released a brutal review of the new electric Model S sedan from Tesla Motors, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has fired back, claiming the Times article was completely bogus and misleading.

“Essentially, we think the article is a bit of a set up and is unreasonable,” Musk told CNBC on Monday.

In the article in question, Times writer John Broder took the Tesla Model S on a test drive from Washington to Boston, stopping at various service plazas in Delaware and Connecticut well within the projected 265-mile range of the car, as rated by the EPA. However, Broder’s Tesla Model S, despite a heftier 85 kilowatt-hour battery for an extra 100 miles of range in “ideal conditions,” died shortly before reaching its final destination.

Rebutting the Times review, Tesla CEO Musk claims to own hard data evidence that actually chronicles Broder’s test drive and said the driver took “a long detour” at one stage of the drive instead of driving to the next Supercharger station, which reportedly explains why his journey up Interstate 95 to Boston was cut short.

“It showed, in fact, [Broder] had not charged up to the maximum charge in the car,” Musk said. “It’s like starting off a drive with a tank that’s not full.”

Musk said he and his team had explicitly told Broder and the Times that in order to do this trip, the car needs to be fully charged, cannot take detours and must be driven at a reasonable speed. Musk maintains that Broder broke all three of those rules.

“It’s really black and white; the facts are the facts,” Musk told Bloomberg TV. “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 next Supercharger station, and he also exceeded the speed limit quite substantially, which decreases range. If you do all of those things, which we were very clear should not be done -- and common sense says should not be done -- then you will not be able to go as far.”

Musk equates the situation to taking a typical gasoline car out on the road and not following similar instructions.

“If you didn’t fill a gasoline car’s gas tank and then went on a detour and drove really fast and ran out of gas, you shouldn’t be surprised if something like that occurs,” Musk said.

Despite claims from Musk that the journey itself was flawed, the New York Times has stood by its reporter, issuing a statement to the Verge that insists Broder played by the rules.

“The Times' Feb. 10 article recounting a reporter's test drive in a Tesla Model S was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was "fake" is, of course, flatly untrue. Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla.”

In the Times review, Broder points out a “10 percent range penalty” based on cold weather, which he said is made worse since running the heater only saps more energy from the car. We have reached out to Tesla for an official comment on these cold weather claims on the Model S, but while the company cannot release a further statement beyond what Musk has already said, the company plans to release a blog update either Tuesday afternoon or early Wednesday morning. We will update this story as soon as we learn more, but, for now, it’s possible the cold weather only exacerbated the issues caused by traffic-heavy detours and excessive speeding.

“We’ve taken great pains to ensure our car works very well in cold,” Musk said. “In fact, our No. 1 Tesla Roadster owner owns four cars in northern Norway, where it’s permanent midnight during the winter. Incredibly cold obviously, and he uses it as his daily driver, so the car is actually designed to work very well in cold. We have an intelligent thermal control system that’s actually able to shunt 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. We’ve taken great pains to ensure that the car works very well in the cold, which is why we’re so incensed by this ridiculous article.”

The New York Times responded on Sunday by publishing a full map of the road trip with the Model S, but even though the Times’ graphic shows the detour, Musk says he still plans to set the record straight.

“We’re going to publish the actual logs on the car, and it’ll be crystal clear,” Musk said. “We’re very sensitive to privacy, so these logs are only turned on and used with explicit permission from the customer and their signature. For media driving, we turn on logging, which tells us position, speed, the nature of the car, what somebody’s doing with the car in terms of charging, all that. The reason we do that is because we had a bad experience in the past with a show called Top Gear, which pretended our 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 just faking it. After that, we trust but verify; in this case, it seems we’ve had to do that again.”

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