Remember that episode of Top Gear, where the notoriously anti-EV crew pushed a Tesla Roadster to show what would happen if the car's battery had run out of juice? And then Tesla got all litigious and filed suit (which the company eventually lost)? Well, we might be in for another public scuffle about the merits of electric vehicles.
The New York Times recently sent John Broder out in a Model S between the two new Superchargers on the east coast, located in Newark, DE and Milford, CT. Since, as Broder notes, the stations are "some 200 miles apart" the 85-kWh battery in the Model S should be able to make the drive. The EPA rates this model at 265 miles, after all. Heck, even the 60-kWh mid-range model has a 208-mile range. The trick, as we all know, is that your mileage may vary.
Following a 49-minute visit to the Supercharger in Delaware for a full charge (well, at least seeing a screen that read "charge complete"), Broder kept on driving, but discovered that, after 68 miles of driving, he had lost 85 miles of estimated range. He shifted over to energy conservation mode (driving slow, turning off the cabin heat, etc.). He writes:
The report caused TSLA to drop 2.5 percent to $38.27 (it has since regained some ground and sits at $38.42) and got a response from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted that, "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."
Nearing New York, I made the first of several calls to Tesla officials about my creeping range anxiety. The woman who had delivered the car told me to turn off the cruise control; company executives later told me that advice was wrong. All the while, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white.
Tesla has promised it will post an article later today that "will refute Broder's version of what happened, with data points pulled from the car's logs." Stay tuned for an update after that report is published.
*UPDATE: Tesla still hasn't published a response article, but Musk did talk to Bloomberg West about the situation, and you can find the audio and transcript of that discussion below.
Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive
Musk also said, "Ironically, a different reporter from The New York Times did a test drive several months ago, late last year, and was able to achieve over 300 miles on a single charge. It's just weird...It seems that within the New York Times, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing."
Musk on the New York Times story:
"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."
On how Tesla is responding to The New York Times:
"We will publish the actual logs on the car and it is crystal clear."
On the data Tesla records:
"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."
On whether the New York Times reporter should have expected to do a longer drive than he was able to:
"A bit of a longer drive would be no problem, but what you cannot do is combine all three things, which is not fully charge the car, go on an extended detour and drive really fast. You cannot do that in any car--whether it's a gas or electric car--and expect to achieve the top range."
On critics who say that the car might not be equipped for a harsh East Coast winter:
"We have taken great pains to ensure that our car works very well in cold and many Model S and before that, Tesla Roadster customers, in extremely cold climates. 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."
On whether not enough charging stations exist right now to make Tesla and other electric cars successful at this point:
"We're obviously still in the early days of the supercharger network. So, for example, in California where we have more supercharger stations, we have them roughly every 100-140 miles, whereas on the East Coast they are about every 200 miles right now. In a few months, they will be a similar density, there will be a super charger every hundred miles or so. It will be more convenient. That is why we were so explicit with this New York Times reporter that since we only have a small number of super chargers in the East Coast, it is important to stick to the instructions in the agreed upon plan and not deviate. In a few months when we have more supercharger stations, it will not be a problem, but you just can't do it now."
On whether this is the best that electric car technology can get:
"We are seeing rapid improvements in technology. For example. our Tesla Roadster had a range of up to 250 miles for the Model S, even though it is a bigger car, it has a range of 300 miles. Ironically, a different reporter from The New York Times did a test drive several months ago, late last year, and was able to achieve over 300 miles on a single charge. It's just weird...I guess it was a different situation, but nonetheless, if one New York Times writer is having trouble with 200 miles and the other is getting 300 miles, it just does not make sense. It seems that within the New York Times, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing."
On suing BBC's "Top Gear" in 2008 and whether there are risks for speaking up publicly:
"If we have been wronged and the facts are on our side, I believe in speaking out. It is not as if I do this all the time. Several thousand articles have been written about Tesla and I have only objected to a few of them. Certainly many of the articles have been critical, but I am not outspoken about the ones. The times I am outspoken is when it is a publication that has very wide coverage and where it appears to be credible. That is where we really need to correct the misimpression."