UPDATED: Tesla CEO Elon Musk Says New York Times Review of Model S Is “Fake”

by Lon Seidman | Feb 11, 2013 5:24pm
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The New York Times fired back at Tesla’s Elon Musk after the outspoken CEO posted a tweet claiming a Times article critical of Tesla’s flagship electric sedan was “fake.”

The New York Times piece, entitled “Stalled out on Tesla’s Electric Highway,” detailed writer John Broder’s trip from Washington DC to Connecticut in a Tesla Model S sedan in cold weather.  The company loaned Broder a vehicle so that he could drive from suburban Washington DC to Connecticut.

The fully electric vehicle does not have a secondary gasoline back up like vehicles from Ford, Toyota, and Chevy do, but Tesla claims their car can travel approximately 265 miles on a full charge. Tesla is also building numerous charging stations along the I-95 corridor where Tesla owners can fuel up for free during long trips. One of those stations recently opened in Milford.

Broder says the first leg of his journey was uneventful, stopping at a Delaware Tesla charging station for a little under an hour to fuel up for the long trip to Milford. As he set out on his journey with a fully charged battery, Broder writes that the vehicle’s reported range dropped faster than his rate of travel, forcing him to lower his speed to 54 miles per hour and to turn the cabin heater off.  He says he arrived in Milford running on the electric vehicle equivalent of fumes following a stop in Manhattan.

After charging in Milford, Broder drove to Stonington and spent the night in Groton.  He writes when he parked the car that evening it had enough range to make it back to Milford, but when he went to leave the following morning the available range dropped from 90 miles to 26. The vehicle eventually had to be towed back to the Milford charging station with a depleted battery.

Musk said in a followup tweet that the vehicle’s electronic logs show Broder did not charge the vehicle fully and that Broder took “a long detour” on his trip. Musk added that the company logs the trips of journalists following an episode of the British television show Top Gear that was critical of their previous vehicle’s range. Tesla unsuccessfully sued the show for libel in a British court.

Musk on February 13 posted an extensive review of Broder’s trip based on data the vehicle collected during the trip.

The New York Times is standing by Broder’s story, issuing a statement that says Musk’s accusation of the story being fake is “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,” the statement said.

Broder and the New York Times released a point-by-point rebuttal in a blog post of their own on February 14, refuting claims Tesla made the day before.

Tesla also handed over the keys of a Model S to CNN Money’s Peter Valdes-Dapena who completed the same DC to Boston trip in another Model S on February 15. Watch the CNN review below:

Cold weather can impact the performance of batteries significantly. In CTTechJunkie’s experience with a Chevy Volt, we found the vehicle’s 40 mile electric range can slip to 25 or 30 miles in cold weather due to temperature and the need to activate the vehicle’s electric heater to warm the cabin. The Volt will also activate the vehicle’s gas engine to warm up the battery when temperatures dip below 27 degrees fahrenheit.


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posted by: sofaman | February 23, 2013  3:23am

This is less of a story about the technology than one on how vital it is to have careful control of corporate social media. . . even if it means ‘taking away the keys’ from your CEO. I believe Mr. Musk has done more harm to his brand than the original NYT article.