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Motor Trend named the Tesla Model S the Car of the Year, but you'd think that electic cars still aren't ready for prime time if you only read The New York Times. On February 8th the Times published a brutal review of the Tesla Models S by anti-electric reviewer John Broder in which he claimed that it failed to reach the milage estimates the computer gave him and that it eventually ran completely out of charge and had to be towed.
Stalled Out on Tesla'€™s Electric Highway

Unfortunately for this liar, the Tesla computer logged every detail of his trip. Tesla CEO Elon Musk published a detailed debunking on the Tesla blog:
A Most Peculiar Test Drive


As I crossed into New Jersey some 15 miles later, I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating. At 68 miles since recharging, the range had dropped by 85 miles, and a little mental math told me that reaching Milford would be a stretch.

I began following Tesla's range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic. I turned the climate control to low - the temperature was still in the 30s -€” and planted myself in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 54 miles per hour (the speed limit is 65). Buicks and 18-wheelers flew past, their drivers staring at the nail-polish-red wondercar with California dealer plates.
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.

But the Model S had other ideas. "Car is shutting down," the computer informed me. I was able to coast down an exit ramp in Branford, Conn., before the car made good on its threat.

Elon Musk:
Here is a summary of the key facts:

As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.

The final leg of his trip was 61 miles and yet he disconnected the charge cable when the range display stated 32 miles. He did so expressly against the advice of Tesla personnel and in obvious violation of common sense.

In his article, Broder claims that "the car fell short of its projected range on the final leg." Then he bizarrely states that the screen showed "€œEst. remaining range: 32 miles"€ and the car traveled "€œ51 miles," contradicting his own statement (see images below). The car actually did an admirable job exceeding its projected range. Had he not insisted on doing a nonstop 61-mile trip while staring at a screen that estimated half that range, all would have been well. He constructed a no-win scenario for any vehicle, electric or gasoline.

On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.

Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.

At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.

The charge time on his second stop was 47 mins, going from -5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of EPA Rated Range, not 58 mins as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.

For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?

The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broder’s trip. When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said "0 miles remaining." Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

There is more. The computer logs debunk pretty much everything Mr. Broder had to say. Let the NYT know that they need to post a full retraction and fire Mr. Broder.
Detail showing car driving around in circles in front of the Milford Supercharger trying to get Model S to stop with zero range indicated:

1:37 PM PT: First time on the rec list! Thanks!

5:39 PM PT: Broder responds.

Lots of finger pointing both ways. Poor communication between Tesla and Broder? Faulty test model? Reviewer with an agenda who was determined to get a photo of the Tesla on a flatbed? I leave it to you to decide.

Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 12:59 AM PT: Great comment from Woochifer below:

About an hour ago, CNN posted its Tesla Model S test drive results using the same route that Broder used.  No surprise, the CNN reporter made the trip with power to spare.  Of course, a story about a car performing the way that it's supposed to doesn't generate sensational headlines and page hits.

That mere 70 miles of buffer made me a little nervous, especially after I missed an exit and added a few miles to the trip. I followed Tesla's recommendations and kept the cruise control pegged to between 60 and 65 much of the way and kept the climate control at 72 degrees. And I minimized stops.

But I made it. And it wasn't that hard.

Test drive: DC to Boston in a Tesla Model S

I read Broder's purported rebuttal, but the basic fact remains that not once during his entire test did he drive using a full charge, and the last leg of his trip was driven using a range that fell 30 miles short of the destination.  Trying to blame this on a Tesla engineer just doesn't pass the smell test.

Any auto journalist trying to test the driving range of a conventional car isn't going to do so with half a tank.  And nobody with any smidge of common sense isn't going to fill their tank one gallon short of the range needed to reach their destination.  

From what I see, Broder was trying to score a few cheap hits at Tesla's expense.  The photo of a Model S on a flatbed truck was supposed to be the punchline, but judging from the snarky tone of the original blog post, I get the impression that Broder didn't expect to get called out and have the microscope focused on his sloppy reporting.  At a minimum, this is failed disclosure.  At worst, it's a deliberate attempt to fabricate a story, no different than how Top Gear completely fictionalized its test of the Roadster.

Originally posted to KenInCO on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 01:03 PM PST.

Also republished by Kosowatt, Science Matters, and DK GreenRoots.

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