Published February 12, 2013
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is taking The New York Times to task over a largely negative review of his company’s battery-powered luxury car, the Model S, calling the article “fake.”
In the piece, Times reporter John Broder attempts to drive the $101,000 electric luxury sedan from Washington, D.C., to Milford, Conn., utilizing high-speed charging stations Tesla has installed at rest stops along the route for owners of its cars to use for free.
The stations were strategically placed to allow a Model S, which has an EPA rated range of 265 miles per charge, to travel between Washington and Boston along I-95, making two stops of about an hour each to recharge. It mirrors a similar, expanding network of stations in California that facilitate travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles. They are only compatible with the automaker's vehicles.
On a 30-degree day in January, Broder made it to the first station in Newark, Del., without incident, and after leaving the car plugged in for 49 minutes, its on-board computer indicated that it was “fully charged” and had 242 miles of range.
Very low or high temperatures can lower the maximum amount of charge available from a lithium-ion battery pack like the one employed in the Model S. Tesla’s battery pack is climate controlled to mitigate this affect.
However, after driving just 68 miles, Broder reported that the battery had already lost 85 miles of range. He wrote that he then turned the heat down to conserve energy and set the cruise control at 54 mph on a stretch of road where the speed limit is 65 mph.
Suffering from freezing feet and knuckles turning white from the cold, Broder took what he describes as “a short break in Manhattan,” and set off again with 79 miles of charge left, with the Milford station 73 miles away.
Despite the fact that the car had turned off the heater completely and was telling him to "recharge now" miles before he reached the station, he made it, and plugged in the car for “nearly an hour,” receiving 185 miles of range in return. He does not say what the temperature was at this point, or whether or not the computer indicated that a complete charge had been achieved.
But Musk says Broder’s account was less than accurate.
As the price of Tesla’s stock fell on Monday, possibly a reaction to the review, Musk tweeted “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.”
Tesla enables data-logging on all of the cars it loans to the media for test drives as a safeguard against inaccuracies in reporting. It’s a feature available to owners, as well, to help provide the company with information to further develop its vehicles, but only with their express written permission.
In an interview with CNBC following the tweet, Musk called the article “something of a setup,” and “really misleading.” He went on to accuse Broder of not fully charging the battery, taking an extended tour of Manhattan and driving the vehicle faster than recommended on the highway, as much as 10 mph or more above the posted speed limit.
“We explicitly warned him that you can’t do these things,” Musk said.
Musk compared it to not filling up the tank of a gasoline-powered car, meandering around and then racing to your destination only to be surprised that you ran out of gas.
“People would just think you’re a fool.”
In response, The Times issued a statement calling the report “completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred,” adding that there was “no unreported detour.”
Tesla said it was preparing a blog post detailing its complaints with the article, but it has not yet been published on the company’s website.
During the CNBC interview, Musk went on to say, “there are times when The New York Times has published articles that are, well, less than accurate. I think, unfortunately, this is one of those cases.”