Tesla Model S
Broder said he never set out to "fail" the Model S before or during the trip

Tesla Motors and The New York Times have been in a "he said, she said" war over a recent test drive for the Model S sedan, and now, the NYT staffer who took the road trip has prepared a rebuttal to the automaker's claims.

For those who aren't up to speed, here's some backstory: NYT staff writer John Broder took Tesla's Model S sedan on an east coast road trip this winter with the intention of checking out the new East Coast Superchargers, then writing an article about. The article, published February 10, described a horrible adventure where the electric vehicle's range failed on many occasions and eventually had to be towed.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk became suspicious of Broder's claims, since so many other journalists had made similar or more tasking trips in the Model S. He pulled the driving logs from Broder's Model S and discovered that the NYT article had some inaccuracies. Musk accused Broder of having a biased opinion against EVs before even receiving the Model S, and hence, set the car up for failure in many "no-win" scenarios.

Now, Broder has published yet another article in response to Musk's claims.

"Elon Musk , the chief executive of Tesla Motors, has now responded in detail to the account of my test drive of his Model S electric car, using the company’s new East Coast Superchargers, that was published in The Times on Feb. 10," said Broder. "His broadest charge is that I consciously set out to sabotage the test. That is not so. I was delighted to receive the assignment to try out the company’s new East Coast Supercharger network and as I previously noted in no way anticipated – or deliberately caused – the troubles I encountered."

Broder explained that over the course of his trip, he spoke to Tesla employees several times to confirm certain information about battery conservation, Superchargers along the way, etc. He specifically named Christina Ra, Tesla's spokeswoman, and Ted Merendino, Tesla's product planner in California, as his main two sources of advice during the trip.

Broder addressed each of Musk's concerns individually, as Musk laid out in his post on Tesla's website today.

Musk said that the car never, at any time, ran out of energy during the trip even though Broder's article said it did (and needed a flatbed truck to be towed). Broder said it did, and the car couldn't even move or have enough power to release the parking brake. The two truck driver even needed to speak with Tesla's New York service manager Andy Williams for 15-20 minutes in regards to moving the vehicle onto the tow truck.

Musk's earlier post also pointed out that Broder, on his final charge of the trip, disconnected the charge cable when the range display showed only 32 miles when the last leg of the trip was 61 miles total (however, despite not fully charging the car, it managed to travel 51 miles -- and still wasn't completely out of charge when the flatbed truck was called for a tow). Broder replied to this statement saying that he consulted Ra and Merendino at the time, who said to only leave the car connected for an hour and the previously lost range (due to not being charged overnight) would be restored enough for the last leg of the trip.

Also, during that last leg of the trip, Musk said Broder drove right past a charging station where he could have given the Model S another boost. Broder said he wasn't aware of that charging station, and the Tesla employee he was speaking to only made mention of the station in East Haven, Connecticut -- which is where he was trying to go.

Musk also said that Broder never set the cruise control to 54 MPH or drove at 45 MPH, as stated in the article. Instead, he drove at speeds of 65-81 MPH for a majority of the trip. Broder responded saying he "recalled" setting the cruise control to 54 MPH and also driving at 45 MPH in spots, but the discrepancy may lie in the car having 19-inch wheels and all-season tires instead of 21-inch wheels and summer tires (which is what was supposed to be delivered). Broder said this could have impacted the recorded range, speed, rate of battery depletion, etc. Broder added that he drove "normally," and that the spikes in speed could have happened when in cruise control because of downhill stretches. 

As for the cabin temperature, which Musk said was kept at 72 degrees at most times (and that Broder had actually increased the temperature to 74 degrees when the article stated he turned it down), Broder said he "raised and lowered the cabin heat in an effort to strike a balance between saving energy and staying somewhat comfortable." He mentioned that the driving logs showed he turned the temperature down significantly on two occasions.

Musk further noted that Broder's charge time on the second stop was 47 minutes, and not 58 minutes as stated in the article's graphic. He said that if Broder didn't turn off the Supercharger at 47 minutes and went for the full 58, it would have been "virtually impossible" for him to run out of energy so quickly. According to Broder's notes, he plugged into the Milford Supercharger at 5:45 p.m. and disconnected at 6:43 p.m. and the range said 185 miles.

Musk pointed out that Broder only recharged the car to 90 percent on his first stop, to 72 percent on the second Supercharge and to 28 percent on the last leg -- significantly cutting charging times at each stop. Broder said he only charged the vehicle enough for the number of miles he planned to travel. He also said that he only charged for an hour on the lower-power charger in Norwich per the advice of Tesla employees.

As for the "driving in circles" claim that Musk directed at Broder -- which said the NYT staffer had taken a long detour in Manhattan and proceeded to drive the car in circles in for over a half mile in a tiny parking lot upon entering Milford, Connecticut (where the range display said 0 miles) in an attempt to kill the battery -- Broder said he was at the service plaza in Milford looking for the Supercharging station because it wasn't clearly marked, and he drove in circles looking for it. He also added that the detour through Manhattan was only an additional two miles to the overall trip.

Broder ended the article saying that Musk had not only apologized to him for the poor experience, but also said that the charging stations should be placed 60 miles closer together and offered Broder a second test drive when new stations are added.

"Before I set out in the Model S, I did speak with the company’s chief technology officer, J B Straubel, about the charging network and some of the car’s features and peculiarities," said Broder. "Neither he nor the Tesla representative who delivered the car to me provided detailed instructions on maximizing the driving range, the impact of cold weather on battery strength or how to get the most out of the Superchargers or the publicly available lower-power charging ports along the route."

Updated 2/15/2013 @ 8:58am
Thanks to commenter Logical_Thinker for pointing out that CNN performed the same trip from DC to Boston and made it without running out of juice or requiring a flatbed truck. 

Source: The New York Times

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