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Tesla Motors Battles the New York Times 700

redletterdave writes "Days after the New York Times released a brutal review of Tesla's electric Model S sedan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has fired back, claiming the Times article was completely bogus and misleading. 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. Broder blames the cold weather and heating issues for his abridged trip; Musk, however, claims the driver did not follow Tesla's instructions, which is why his trip was cut so short. '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,' Musk said."
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Tesla Motors Battles the New York Times

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:20PM (#42876493)

    So, nobody can read NYT's article (without registering/logging in), but everyone can read Musk's rebuttal. That's going to make the debate fairly one-sided in the public's mind.

  • Re:CEO Switchout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:23PM (#42876521)

    He also says they have the car logs. That's gonna be interesting to look at.

  • Heater (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:28PM (#42876547) Homepage Journal

    This was on boing boing a few days ago and one conclusion was that the Tesla charging stations are spaced at almost the maximum range of the car but the car can't get that range in cold weather when the cabin heater is being used. In an electric car there is not enough parasitic heat loss to heat the cabin so the energy comes from the batteries.

  • Re:CEO Switchout (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:28PM (#42876549)

    They should publish these logs. Given that there's a PR disaster on their hands, I'd think full disclosure would be wise.

  • by Niac ( 2101 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:31PM (#42876581) Homepage

    And it totally makes sense that to drive a hundred grand luxury car that you'd have to take only the direct routes, not the ones you may actually want to take. This is a gigantic failure of useability.

  • by LordKaT ( 619540 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:32PM (#42876583) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if there was a software glitch telling him the car was fully charged while it wasn't.

    As for driving through Manhattan - yeah I know, it eats up fuel; but, it's within the supposed range. In the writers defense, nobody told him that city driving would be worse for the car. Hell, the popular assumption with regenerative braking is that it's actually better because you'll regenerate more power as you brake.

    The NYT article seems pretty fair, from a consumers standpoint. Admittedly, driving through Manhattan - as a life-long New Yorker - gives me fucking nightmares, but who's to say some guy driving to Boston from South Carolina, wouldn't like to make a brief drive through Manhattan. After all, it's within the range guidelines.

  • by milbournosphere ( 1273186 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:35PM (#42876617)
    Let me clarify: I do think he over-reacted. That said, not fully charging an electric car's battery before doing a range test is somewhat irresponsible of the reviewer, and it's not hard to see why Tesla might not be happy with the results of the test. Perhaps the NYT should fully charge the car over night, then re-run the test.
  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:36PM (#42876623)

    And it totally makes sense that to drive a hundred grand luxury car that you'd have to take only the direct routes, not the ones you may actually want to take. This is a gigantic failure of useability.

    The main downsides to electric cars are:
    - Range
    - Refueling time (charging)
    - Cost/Maintenance of the batteries

    These limitations aren't new. If they severely impact you then an electric car is not suitable at the moment; end of story.

    Also, a semi has great towing capacity but the city mpg is terrible.

  • Re:CEO Switchout (Score:2, Interesting)

    by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:41PM (#42876663)

    Logs don't mean much in this case, unless they show the journalist purposefully took the car out on half charge and drove around much more than he's describing. These two are quite unlikely to have happened.

    If you buy a luxury car, even an electric one, you expect it to handle itself like a luxury car. You surely should not be expected to look at the log all the time, to adjust your manner of driving to suit your battery, your route to be within a pushing distance of a charging station all the time, and to have no heating inside.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:03PM (#42876871) Homepage

    Let's consider this...

    NY Times has a flawless ride, everything goes well, the result? An article like all the rest...nothing noticeable. It's not like the Tesla S is unknown anymore.

    NY Times can push things hard to try to make for a failure, now we have a controversial article on a new technology. That'll sell. And that's really all those old paper rags care about.

  • Re:CEO Switchout (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rs1n ( 1867908 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:27PM (#42877139)

    Mod parent down for mis-information. When the reporter got up in the morning, 2/3 of the miles did indeed disappear from the care overnight. Why did you leave out the rest of the article that would essentially refute your post? Here's the rest:

    1) He was instructed to then condition the battery. After some time, the support team "cleared [him] to resume the trip to Milford." We can only speculate what is meant by "cleared." Did they clear the battery conditioning, so that he simply needed to continue with normal procedures to complete his trip? Or did they clear him in the sense that he could stop charging as well and should just head back, disregarding any future messages from the vehicle?

    2) From the article: Looking back, I should have bought a membership to Butch’s and spent a few hours there while the car charged. The displayed range never reached the number of miles remaining to Milford, and as I limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately. Mr. Merendino, the product planner, found an E.V. charging station about five miles away. If the display clearly showed that there was not enough range, why did the reporter not bring this up with the support team? Instead, he drove anyway. Is it a surprise, then, that he never made it back?

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:29PM (#42877829) Journal
    The difference is, with a gas car, once a week. With an all electric, every day.

    A 20 gallon tank at 14MPG (aka a typical pickup) or an 11 gallon tank at 26MPG (typical passenger sedan) both have a comparable total range. You don't, however, generally drive 300 miles a day (or if you do, you know the location and hours of every gas station on the way), so you wouldn't need to "top off" your EV any more "daily" than you would that same pickup or sedan.

    That said - Every night, you park your car somewhere in the vicinity of conveniently available grid power. In exchange for five seconds of plugging it in every night, you never need to stop at a gas station in the cold rain and then need to go inside to see the clerk when the stupid damned machine can't read your credit card or the ticket printer breaks.

    Do I sound too much like an apologist there? Hey, the Tesla S costs way too much and I don't have one. But I won't hold things against it that apply to any vehicle on the road. Cars take a certain minimum level of basic care and feeding, whether you feed them dead dinosaurs or uranium electrons, to function properly. Simple as that.
  • Re:Musk to NYT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by farble1670 ( 803356 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:35PM (#42877913)

    I agree in the so far precondition. Now, imagine a time of $10/gallon gasoline price, with the current average wage. You think such a situation is improbable/impossible in the near future?

    okay ... then i'll buy an electric car when that happens? and you know what? i bet in 5 years or whenever your prediction comes through, electric cars will have better range, fewer quirks, and they'll be more charging stations.

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:43PM (#42877981) Homepage Journal

    If you're in a position the get tax credit/deductions for your transportation expenses, can you isolate that portion of your electric bill used to charge your car?

  • Re:CEO Switchout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:59PM (#42878123)
    This part concerns me:

    She said to shut off the cruise control to take advantage of battery regeneration from occasional braking and slowing down. Based on that advice, I was under the impression that stop-and-go driving at low speeds in the city would help, not hurt, my mileage.

    This demonstrates a distinct lack of understanding of basic physics: you can't magically get extra energy from regenerative braking, even if it were 100% efficient (which it certainly isn't). The reporter is an idiot. The supposed Tesla employee he talked to is probably also an idiot, though for all we know the reporter misunderstood something she was trying to explain (how many of us have had customers leap to startlingly illogical conclusions after an attempt at explaining something technical to them?).

    The other thing to note is that while the overall mileage of the drive is nearly the same, the detour involved much more city driving. That means slower driving, and that means running the car for a much longer period. If the detour through the city added an extra 30 minutes of running-time to the trip, that would have meant more energy use regardless of the nearly-identical distance. Especially if the reporter was running the heater (I'm curious if that was the case, but seems likely given the weather), since an electric vehicle probably doesn't produce waste heat and has to generate heat for the heater by further sapping juice from the battery.

  • Re:CEO Switchout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @10:16PM (#42878281) Homepage

    Well I must say that 2 miles in Manhattan is unlike driving anywhere else. For example: I have two options to take a bus out of New York to get to Boston, each on opposite sides of the island -- the width being very close to 2 miles. Taking the bus starting from the west side actually adds about 1 hour to the overall trip, just trying to get out of Manhattan.

    "She said to shut off the cruise control to take advantage of battery regeneration from occasional braking and slowing down. Based on that advice, I was under the impression that stop-and-go driving at low speeds in the city would help, not hurt, my mileage. "

    I can't imagine how someone would think those situations to be comparable: highway driving vs. cross-town in Manhattan are practically the defining opposite points of the driving spectrum. "Occasional slowing down" is not the same as "stop-and-go" every block for 50 block-stoplights.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @12:33AM (#42879399)

    Do you want a car that won't start just because you forgot to turn the headlights off overnight?

    My car has an automatic headlight setting that I just leave it on - it turns on the headlights as needed.

    So my car will never have that issue.

    Do you want a car that won't start just because you lost your key?

    Yes because I don't want other people to be able to start the car easily.

    Do you want a car that won't drive sideways just because the rear wheels are fixed?

    You aren't cornering aggressively enough.

    Do you want a car that can only travel on the ground?

    You also aren't driving fast enough.

    Do you want a car that spews noxious nitrogenous and greenhouse-inducing exhaust? That even spews exhaust at all?

    That part is irrelevant, especially given there are some pollutants from electricity too, so you really can't use "at all".

    Do you want a car that stops just because you ran over some sharp detritus?

    Sure don't which is why I leave the runflat tires on my car. Awesome technology, even if they do make the ride a little harsher. You are supposed to only go 50 miles/50MPH with them empty but the reality is they can go much farther and faster than that.

    I could go on, but perhaps you get the point that we have learned to put up with a lot of bullshit from our cars.

    But you don't have to, and we should not be adding to the car bullshit list.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982