By on February 15, 2013

Pull up a chair, get some popcorn. The fireworks have been flying fast and furious. New York Times reporter John Broder wrote a piece about his press loaner Tesla running out of juice. Tesla, already smarting from the perceived slight given them by BBC’s Top Gear, decided they needed an ace up their sleeve: data logging. Chairman Elon Musk penned a response that included detailed data logs from the press car. Broder responded in general terms and then with a point-by-point response to Musk’s charges. The NYT’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, has also chimed in with the opening of her own investigation. Notably, Musk hasn’t returned her calls. Her tentative conclusion? “I reject Mr. Musk’s central contention that Mr. Broder’s Sunday piece was faked in order to sabotage the Model S or the electric-car industry.” She also called for Tesla to release all the data they’ve got in proper machine-readable form, not just their pretty annotated graphs with the circles and the arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one.

Readers are welcome to read all the back and forth and come to their own conclusion. You can read lots of smart technical people trying to reconcile both stories at this Hacker News thread. The AtlanticWire has a reasonably concise pro-Broder analysis if you don’t want to wade through a comment thread. Also, Consumer Report’s recent article and members of the independent-of-Tesla owner’s forum seem to be corroborating some of the cold-weather battery issues raised by Broder’s original piece.

Instead of going any further down that path, let’s instead talk some more about this data logging business. The Tesla Model S has the capability of logging everything about the car: it’s GPS location, velocity, even the settings on the AC/heating system. Musk noted, in a tweet, that “Tesla data logging is only turned on with explicit written permission from customers, but after Top Gear BS, we always keep it on for media.” How nice.

On the one hand, bully for Tesla. As Jack Baruth has often noted, car reviewers are often not particularly good car drivers, and this gives Tesla the opportunity to correct the record. On the other hand… Tesla is working to destroy the career of a seasoned journalist based on their interpretation of the evidence in these logs. It’s heady stuff that might give any other car reviewer a moment of pause. We believe that journalists sign something acknowledging that Tesla is watching them. But everybody else is cool, right? Let’s talk about the privacy implications.

Say you’re a Tesla owner, you enable the data logging feature, and then you let your teenage kid drive the car without you around. Does she have an expectation of privacy? Should she? Okay, now you give your car to one of the valet parking stands which many trendy restaurants force you to use these days. The valet takes your car for a joyride and you’ve got the data. (Amusingly, the Tesla Roadster had a valet mode to diffuse exactly this concern, but the Model S doesn’t seem to.) Those are easy cases. How about your insurance company or a car rental company? Maybe they offer you a discount for driving sedately and providing them with the data. Or maybe they require data logging access, particularly if you’ve got a less than stellar driving record. Drive your car more than 10 mph over the speed limit and lose your coverage? Some companies already offer variations on this sort of usage-based insurance, but Tesla’s data logging facility enables it to go to quite a different level. One step further: can a court order subpoena your data? The possibilities are endless. Hacker types might also imagine protecting their privacy by modifying the car to falsify these records. Criminal types might see this as a way to generate an alibi. Heck, unethical car manufacturers could even falsify these records to falsely impugn negative reviewers. Write a positive review or risk your career!

I don’t want to pick on Tesla too much. Any car with a modern telematics system (GM OnStar, etc.) already has the facilities to support remote data logging. Let’s just hope Tesla gets more of these cars into reviewers’ hands. That’s the scientific method at play: results should be repeatable. If there’s a real problem, it can and should be discovered by having more eyes looking at it. CNN has already set out with another Tesla. More on this story as it develops.

[This blog piece emerged from a discussion with several of my graduate students. Everybody’s buzzing today with this news.]

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84 Comments on “Tesla vs. The New York Times: Let’s Check The Logs...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    For press cars, I believe it’s fully acceptable to log what goes on. Remember NBC’s rigging of GM trucks to catch on fire in side collisions just for the camera? Just for their story? Many in the media are trustworthy, and I’m sure, some are not.

    • 0 avatar
      mklrivpwner

      NYT has a looooooooooooooong list of lying journalists. Just one more who’s going to “part on agreeable terms” and write a book about his experiences and be richer than you or I ever will.

      • 0 avatar

        Jason Blair was the best. Not only he completely fabricated his postings, but he was able to get away with it because of his skin color. Racism and lies, the New York Times way. Now even if they catch Tesla red-handed at some kind of mischief with battery life or safety, their history of lies is going to damage their credibility.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        @Pete

        “Not only he completely fabricated his postings, but he was able to get away with it because of his skin color.”

        That’s a possibility but he didn’t get away with anything. His deceit lasted less than two years.

        Are you familiar with Jack Kelley? If not, here’s a short bio of relevant facts. Mr. Kelley worked for the USA Today as a foreign correspondent.

        He was even nominated for a Pulitzer prize based on a story that had significant embellishments if not out right lies. Additionally, Mr. Kelley used friends and acquaintances as “confidential sources” and even went as far as writing “scripts” for them.

        Here’s the real kicker. This went on from at least 1991 to 2004. Fifteen years of lies, embellishments and fraud.

        So I wonder if Mr. Kelley’s skin color allowed him to get away with his actions for so long?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      And it looks like CNN didn’t need a flatbed to recreate the journey:

      http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/15/autos/tesla-model-s/

  • avatar
    7402

    This could have been such a coup for Tesla. They should have told the journo about the data logging and then released the primary data to him as a deliverable at the end of the ride.

    Actually, how about doing that for all journo test rides? Transparency, anyone?

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    This seems like a case where both sides are playing fast-and-loose with the facts. The NYT writer has displayed a disdain for EVs in other articles prior to the Tesla one, and his personal bias seems to have, at the very least, muddled some of the facts with his piece.

    That said, at least some of the snafus (not plugging in overnight) seem to be more the NYT writer being woefully unprepared for driving an EV than any sort of maliciousness. I blame Tesla for that.

    I wonder though, how many Model T owners constantly ran out of petrol in the early days of the mass market automobile? It surely got some taking used to, though every time a Model T ran out of gas it surely wasn’t written down for posterity as seems to happen with the Model S.

    To be honest, this story isn’t all that interesting to me. I’d still much rather see the data from the infamous Motor Trend/Cadillac ATS accident…a case which makes a VERY strong argument for data logging any journalistic test drive.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    There’s a lot of hubris at stake in this pissing match. Fact is though, I remember back in the old days when our cellphones “featured” easily removed batteries that could be swapped and recharged on easily. The problem occurred when you had your phone in your office and your spare fully-charged battery was in your car. But then your car was outside and your battery got cold.

    Meanwhile, in your office, meeting whatever, you used your phone and it ran out of energy. So out you go to your car, get your cold battery that was fully charged, and because it’s cold, it’s out of electricity. “What the heck? It was fully charged?!!?”

    Readers of a certain age will know what I’m talking about. It was cold for the East Coast when the drive occurred. One other thing, Drivers of a certain age will recall a time when Europeans couldn’t make air-conditioning for shit. In fact, the only cars that had aircon that was capable of handling a US summer in the South was Rolls-Royce, but only because they were using AC/Delco aircon. It really wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the Euros figured it out, but Euros, being Euros didn’t need A/C like we Southern Yanks did. So my point is, do you really think an upstart California car company is going to have battery temperatures sorted out? Most Tesla customers won’t experience the cold inside the car like this unit did. If you can afford $100k worth of car, it’s in a garage. It’s not parked on a street overnight.

    That being said, there’s a lot to the reporter’s story that doesn’t quite add up, and there’s a lot to Tesla’s responses that don’t look favorable either. From my perspective, both parties and organizations end up looking foolish. I think the NYTimes reporter should pursue other interests. He’s proved he’s not up to the task of reporting something as simple as a test drive.

    • 0 avatar
      ydnas7

      Look at logs, look at the temperatures http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/most-peculiar-test-drive

      Reality was, the Model S does quite fine crusing (60-70mph) along the freeway in winter with the cabin temperature set to temper approx. 73F

      Broder wanted to confirm a bias that EVs can’t handle winter, CNN driving 2 journos, running the same test run the same week finishes with about 96 miles spare. Which do think represents realistic use?

      Broder made up some real porkies regarding low speed and low temperatures. the logs prove it.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        The logs DON’T prove that “Broder made up some real porkies”.

        For instance, he writes that he drove about 55 mph; the logs show he actually drove 60.

        That’s pretty much a rounding error. It PROVES his story, rather than disproving it.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    That little black box in your car can yield some pretty damning data as well if the police and insurance companies want it too.

    When it’s all said and done, this little contretemps will have done its purpose and that’s getting exposure for both the NYT and Tesla. As they say in Hollywood, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Tesla is a very niche vehicle and I doubt anyone seriously thinking of getting one will be put off by this.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    At this point I don’t believe either one of them. So give me a Tesla and I’ll give it a test drive. More likely I’ll wait until TTAC gets a drive.

  • avatar
    tikki50

    maybe they should check the speedo, not to defend the writer but not all speedo’s are correct.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Test drivers will end up using their own GPS/log smartphone apps to double-check prior to writing.

      Driving an EV into a subfreezing temperatures is simply asking for trouble, I’m not surprised by the outcome. Perhaps more EV testing needs to be done in Arctic conditions, despite the logistical challenges.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Unfortunately, you simply cannot give Tesla a pass just because the author drove in freezing temperatures. Driving in cold weather, driving with cargo, driving with a spouse who wants the heat cranked to 80 even though its 60 out, driving up steep inclines…these are all realities of day to day driving.

        Until EVs can function as seamlessly as their dinosaur based bretheren they will remain niche products. You simply cannot expect the mass market to adapt to the requirements of EV technology.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      If Broder was telling what he perceived as truth about his speed, that means the car was traveling faster than the indicated speed.

      It’s possible that the car’s speedo is inaccurate, but in that case it would be designed to show a faster speed than actual travel speed, not slower.

      I seriously doubt any functioning speedo would show a slower than actual speed. The manufacturer would be in deep shit if that could be proven, due to legal and safety implications.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      I’ve never seen one under-report the speed, though. Over-reporting is common; my Miata says 75 when I’m really going 70. In this case the driver is claiming to have seen 54 while actually doing 60.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    And an Alice’s Restaurant reference for the win!

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’m less interested in the pissing match between Tesla and the NYT than I am in what this whole story boils down to: that EVs simply are not ready for prime time.

    The reality is that to drive an EV requires too much forethought, planning, accomodation and variables that completely muck up your assumptions: temperature, terrain, driving style, cargo weight, etc.

    You simply should not have to call for support or get tips on driving to maximize your range. For those who are early adopters this probably won’t be too much of a problem or inconvenience, but this will relegate EVs to a niche market for certain.

    Live and work in the city? An EV is probably a great choice. Otherwise, the ‘if, buts’ involved make this a non-starter for the mass market.

    • 0 avatar

      There are a lot of people who live and work in the city or reasonably close suburbs, right?

      The overwhelming majority of drivers would be perfectly well suited by the slightly over 200 mile range.

      Round trip daily drives of 200+ miles are extremely rare.

      And for any drives under 200 miles, you save a lot of money in fuel driving a Tesla. It costs about 20% the cost of regular cars, and all non-fuel expenses are much lower (brake pads, no oil changes, etc).

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “their pretty annotated graphs with the circles and the arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one.”

    +1 for the Alice’s Restaurant reference.

    We’re woefully unprepared for the data logging age. As usual, law is trailing technology here and the implications are enormous. Even if the law steps up and guarantees that the vehicle owner owns the data, there will be huge pressure to release the data “voluntarily” to insurance companies and law enforcement.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    So much drama over what is just an upscale toy.
    Nobody with a snowbelt heritage trusts batteries of any kind in any device. We all carry jumper cables.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    The bottom line is this: the guy didn’t completely charge the battery on two separate occasions, failed to take into account that range is reduced when cold, and tried to drive too far.

    That’s like trying to make it 2-3 days without charging your iPhone.

    Not gonna happen.

    • 0 avatar
      SpacemanSpiff

      I’ve never understood people who take the time to go to the gas station but then don’t fill up the tank. Refueling takes time away from other things in life and is generally inconvenient. I’m always going to take the extra time and spend the money for a full tank to avoid coming back until I have to.
      This same behavior with an electric car seems especially foolish to me. Why would you not charge to 100%? There isn’t a charging station on every corner!
      The fact that Broder didn’t top off the battery prejudices me against anything else he has to say.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        “The fact that Broder didn’t top off the battery prejudices me against anything else he has to say.”

        Succinct, sufficient.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Isn’t it the case that EV pushers always state something about the capability to deliver 80% of a full charge in 30 minutes when they talk about the latest quick chargers? Nobody specifies what the last 20% would take, but it sure doesn’t happen at the accelerated rate.

      • 0 avatar
        sbunny8

        As an EV owner, I can shed some light on this. The closer the battery gets to 100%, the slower it charges.

        My 2012 Mitsubishi i has a 16kWh battery pack. If I pull up to a Level 3 charger with 3kWh left, it only takes about seven minutes to add 5 more kWh but it takes eleven minutes to add another 5kWh. Right about that point, the car stops the charge cycle because it’s at 80%. If I want to keep charging, I have to disconnect, reset the charger, and reconnect. Now it takes another eighteen minutes to go from 80% to 96% (just over 2.5kWh) and then the car shuts off again and refuses to go any higher. (This is to protect the battery pack.) You can only get a 100% charge from a slower Level 2 or Level 1 charger.

        Imagine you’re 10 miles from your house and the range meter says 4 miles, so you pull up to a Level 3 charger. You only need about another 10% to get home (at which point you’ll plug in overnight). That 10% takes less than 3 minutes. Would you wait another 33 minutes to get up to a 96% charge?

        Also, there is a theory that the battery will have a longer life span if you only charge it up to 80% most of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Because charging up to 80 % takes an hour… AND THEN CHARGING THE FINAL 20 % TAKES _A_N_O_T_H_E_R_ _H_O_U_R_!

        Pretty goddam obvious why you wouldn’t charge all the way now, innit?

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    The thing I find odd is that EV’s did not just appear out of nowhere. Their technology has been discussed ad nauseum for years. I’d expect any TTAC reader to know that cold weather and batteries present challenges and to plan ahead..like adapting to the new tech needs and if that means waiting more minutes or fractions of hours to full charge..so be it. Anything less is akin to buying a few gallons of gas less than is needed to make your destination because you are what? Cheap? Stupid? In a hurry?

    The writer became a victim of the high tech and dependability of moden vehicle technology which allows him to travel mindlessly down the road in comfort with the expectation of a swift arrival. Compare that with vehicle tech immediately post WWII (or earlier) when a mere 200 mile trip in the Pacific NW was an all day journey replete with flat tires, overheated engines, stops to refill radiators, add oil, and sustenance for completely exhausted passengers.

    Our next vehicle will likely be a plugin hybrid. Electricity is cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “Electricity is cheap”

      Not that again…

    • 0 avatar
      E46M3_333

      Here in CA we have tiered rates: I pay a $0.38 per KWh marginal rate. I’d have to shut half my house down and live like the Amish to keep my rates in a normal range.

      • 0 avatar
        healthy skeptic

        You would probably recharge at night, when rates are cheaper.

        I get my juice from PG&E, and I believe that’s how it works, but not positive.

      • 0 avatar
        djoelt1

        The 3 adults and 3 children in our PG&E powered house average 10 KWh per day year round. Yet there is nothing that you can tell about our house that would lead you to think we are among the most efficient houses in our territory.

        Technology is your friend!

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “in CA we have tiered rates: I pay a $0.38 per KWh”

        In Chicago, we pay $0.09 per KWh – actually around $0.12 per with all taxes and fees and surcharges. This is all scheduled to DROP by about 30% next month as we get a new electricity provider.

        Combined with gasoline prices that are always near the highest in the country, it is no surprise that you see Volts constantly; the Leaf more rarely. I’ve seen at least half a dozen different Tesla Model S’s roaming about.

        If you think electricity is too expensive, you should consider moving.

  • avatar
    Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

    CNN just did the exact same trip as the NYT reporter without any issues:

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/15/autos/tesla-model-s/

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Not exactly.

      Single day drive in warmer weather, without an subfreezing weather and subsequent battery drain.

      • 0 avatar
        Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

        I wanted to edit my post to correct it but ran out of time. It still doesn’t change the fact that the NYT author didn’t charge the car fully at two different stops. Anything else he has to say I find completely suspect. Hopefully we’ll get the actual raw data from Tesla at some point, or another outfit will do the exact route that NYT did.

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    I have read lots of comments on several forums about this one.
    Many people complain that they shouldn’t have to change anything about the way they drive if manufacturers expect EVs to be successful.

    Aside from the fact that people adapt their driving to their gasoline vehicle all the time (e.g., would you drive a Wrangler the same way you would drive a Miata?), are these same commenters among those who praise the Chevrolet Volt for supporting their position?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Our society will happily outsource its privacy rights without so much of a whimper. The government doesn’t need to spy on you; much of the job has already been privatized, and it can just buy or subpoena the data if they want it.

    As far as Tesla goes, it is interesting to see this data dump tactic in action. It shows that many people simply can’t read data or use it constructively.

    Mr. Musk is upset that Mr. Broder allegedly drove 60 mph when he claimed to be driving 54 mph. On an interstate, no less.

    I’m sorry, Mr. Musk, but I’m not going to spend 60-100 large on a car that can’t cruise at the same speeds as a well used Toyota Corolla.

    Tesla has not solved the problems associated with battery powered cars, and tests like this show that. Even under normal circumstances, one must spend an hour waiting to charge it to get a few hours of driving out of it. That can be acceptable if you want to use the vehicle strictly for local driving, but that is still entirely too much time for a road trip.

    Broder’s mistake is that he should have driven the car normally, at normal speeds and while using the heater to his heart’s content, and then allowed the chips to fall where they may. But instead, he was trying to conserve battery life when it appeared that the car wouldn’t make it to the next charger. His effort is actually being used against him by the fanboys and the illiterati, who can’t seem to figure out that driving a sports sedan at speeds well under the flow of traffic defeats the purpose of having a car in the first place.

    He should have also made it clearer that one of the points of his test was to rely solely on Tesla’s charging network. He didn’t charge the car overnight because that wasn’t the point of the test. But it would seem that some readers were too busy misreading logs to have figured this out.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Or, put differently, the original Tesla — a converted Lotus roadster (essentially an automotive toy) was not a proof of concept for this car, which purports to have practical uses.

      I would say that, regardless of what the reporter said he was doing, the logs seem to show that he was driving normally under the circumstances, including the brief burst to 80. Certainly in my own case, when I makes this same drive (or pieces of it), when I encounter a clump of cars going 2-3 mph slower than I want to go, I don’t just navigate through them at a relative speed of 2-3 mph. I will pass them rapidly and move at a higher speed into a clear area, then slow back down to the speed I want to carry, which may be 2-3 mph faster than they are going. On a road like i-95, where most traffic is going 65-70, this will take my up to 80 or even a little more. If the reporter had driven 80 for an extended period, then Mustk’s complaint would have some validity.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “If the reporter had driven 80 for an extended period, then Mustk’s complaint would have some validity.”

        Interstate highways are typically engineered to handle 80-90 mph speeds. A car of this sort should be able to do that for extended periods if it is going to be considered ready for prime time.

        In any case, the point of Broder’s article was to show that the initial range at full charge on Tesla’s display is optimistic.

        That’s not an unusual occurrence for all type of cars, as anyone who has such a display in a gas-powered car can attest. However, this becomes a big deal with an electric car due to the limited opportunities to charge it.

        Musk has been hawking his cars based on the premise that he has solved the range problem, which should make his business uniquely valuable. But it should be pretty clear that he hasn’t. However, there is a lot of money and ego riding on this, so we can’t expect him to provide us with a fair perspective or any admission that the most innovative aspect of his business has been with the fundraising.

    • 0 avatar
      Georgewilliamherbert

      Pch101 writes:
      “Mr. Musk is upset that Mr. Broder allegedly drove 60 mph when he claimed to be driving 54 mph. On an interstate, no less.

      I’m sorry, Mr. Musk, but I’m not going to spend 60-100 large on a car that can’t cruise at the same speeds as a well used Toyota Corolla.”

      The CNN one-day sorta-re-creation drive was at 65-70 and they reported passing people in the slow lane, mostly. As pointed out elsewhere, it was warmer for the CNN drive, and other factors differed.

      But it is at least possible to do the drive at a “freeway speed” and in a day including charging.

      Taking multiple days, and not fully charging overnight / at opportunities, seems rather a poorly thought out plan. If you were in a rush, not fully charging makes sense. If you are not, then you should be topping up to full when you stop at a hotel or for a meal.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “If you were in a rush, not fully charging makes sense. If you are not, then you should be topping up to full when you stop at a hotel or for a meal.”

        Argh. This was a test of whether one could travel along the I-95 corridor relying solely on Tesla’s charging network.

        Tesla doesn’t have chargers at hotels.

      • 0 avatar
        Georgewilliamherbert

        Yes, except, he did not charge at the Tesla network (two) stations to full, either.

        If you’re doing a range test, fail to (fill tank / charge battery to full), and run out of ( gas / electricity ) you have invalidated the test. Start over again, charge or fill tank fully, try again.

        It’s always possible to contrive or accidentally screw up. Even when well within valid operating parameters.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    Because of the political implications, people seem to have a lot invested in the EV debate and are hypersensitive on both sides. Obviously, EVs have some quirks that owners will have to adjust to; I suspect actual owners will figure these quirks out fairly quickly.

    I’m a small government guy. I’m not in favor of subsidies for EVs. If these cars are the future, there should be no shortage of private money to fund companies like Tesla. And I realize the government wastes far more money on other things. I’m not in favor of those expenditures either. Heck, 90% of what the U.S. federal government does is already unconstitutional.

    • 0 avatar
      Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

      People are against government subsidies they don’t agree with. They’ll complain about subsidies, yet happily use the Internet. Fact of the matter is most of the technology that people know, love, and depend on comes from two places: The Department of Defense and NASA.

      • 0 avatar

        The argument for the technology spill-over is simply untrue. Velcro would’ve come about anyway. Another thing it keep in mind is monstrous waste at NASA. If the same money was used for something productive, we might have had things even better than Velcro. Yeah, hard to imagine. But the completely unnecessary pork rocket SLS takes about 1/3 of NASA budget. NASA leadership after Mike Griffin knew it was unnecessary and wasteful, so Garver, Bolden, and Obama tried to cancel it (it was called “Ares” back then). Porksters in Congress then passed a law than reinstated it, only renamed. We are talking about a few billions – with “b” — each year spent on something other than next Velcro.

      • 0 avatar
        E46M3_333

        I really appreciate the implication that I’m a hypocrite. Defense is actually one of the things the constitution authorizes the government to do, so I have no problem with that.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Yep. Produce what you want. Buy what you want. Use your own money. None of my business. When you start taking other people’s money to produce toys for rich people, expect lots of critical dragooned “investors.”

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Musk’s point is simple.
    The journalist lied.
    The data recorders don’t lie.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      The presumed accuracy of the data recorders puts the reporter in the underdog’s seat in the forum of public opinion. If Tesla were to sue in court though, the automatic data logger report might be excluded from evidence as hearsay. Lawyers could argue all day about whether and how automated reports should be used as evidence, and they’d be happy to do so if the price is right.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Musk is doing a wonderful job of distracting people from seeing the real point of the article.

      Current electric cars are a viable option for so many use cases that there should be no problem at all selling 250,000 or more of them every year.

      They are not a viable option for long road trips – yet. Tesla’s “supercharger” network is an attempt by Tesla to change all that. The spacing of the chargers may well be adequate in California, but not in New England. If no deviations from the script are to be allowed, then you might as well fly or take the Acela. The entire point of driving this route is to allow yourself to do whatever you please along the way. Take a detour into Manhattan, cruise a parking lot for the choicest of spots, not linger in a boring restaurant longer than you want to, etc.

      There should have been more chargers and they should have been closer together. This is not the fault of the journalist nor is it the fault of the NYT.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Chicago Dude
        If EVs are viable why are there rebates and the industry subsidised?

        EVs aren’t viable, period.

        Tesla should have to stand on its own two feet, without any assistance. When it can do that then it will be truly competitive.

        From what I can gather EVs are useful for inner city delivery work or on a golf course.

        Many countries provides tax payer money to support these “feel good” experiences. If you can even afford a Prius then you don’t need to have it subsidised.

        No wonder many OECD economies are going bust, with ill considered pandering to the wrong groups. Invest the money into worthwhile ventures, like infrastructure that will assist the economy.

        As for the argument on journalistic ethos. Who cares, most are on par with politicians when it comes to intergrity.

        The point is Tesla can’t provide a reliable and econonical alternative.

  • avatar
    Yeah_right

    The NY Times is in the same category as GM cars and unions. My hatred is pure and I immensely enjoy every time they are exposed as self-righteous hypocrites.

    But…

    I can’t figure this one out. The NYT happily serves as Obama’s Goebbels. Every Tesla on the road is one more toward Obama’s million car goal. So, if they’re going to lie (and the do on every day ending with a “y”), why would they lie to make an EV look bad?

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      First and foremost the NYT needs to sell papers. Newspapers have been having a tough go of it lately. What better way to boost circulation, clicks etc than a divisive story and as a bonus, Elon Musk, who is no shrinking violet is involved.

      I don’t know what conversations we’re had at Times HQ but I’m pretty sure the thought of baiting Mr. Musk thus extending the story came up and was looked upon favorably.

      I really don’t trust the NYT and the WSJ is quickly becoming a fish wrap.

  • avatar
    kkt

    Even if the NYT reporter did exaggerate the difficulties, the point remains that the Tesla is unsuited to long-distance drives. Maybe there’s enough of a market for an electric commute to work and back short distances car, with short weekend fun drives thrown in, for people who have a gasoline car as a backup. But it’d be a small market.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “…the point remains that the Tesla is unsuited to long-distance drives.”

      Maybe I’m missing a key fact but that has never been a point of contention. I think most, if not all reasonably intelligent and rational people realize that present day electric cars are not interstate warriors.

      In much the same way you wouldn’t use a Porsche to haul drywall from Home Depot (regardless of what Porsche marketing tells you).

      I can say that the Tesla would fit into my daily routine. I think the mid-range option has a range of 260 miles or thereabout. That’s doable and would cover all of my daily driving. We’d take something else for longer jaunts.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Norway is thick with Tesla Roadsters and there are hundreds of orders for the S.
    And it’s cold here, very cold.

    It’s a question of necessary range and a little bit of forethought. Whatever – battery packs should be easily interchangeable saving time needed to recharge, which is not going to happen, of course, though there’s an Israeli company setting up for it in various nations, including Denmark (which is flat as a pancake and not as cold.) They probably haven’t had dealings with car companies.

    For the majority of driving needs EVs do just fine, unless one lives so far from work that it’s time to relocate or find another job.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      With the high cost of battery packs, who would trade their battery pack for a different one of unknown levels of abuse? One owner might baby their battery pack by only partly discharging it, recharging at a slow rate every night, and parking their car in a warm garage while another might abuse it with lots of deep discharge and rapid charging. The simpler solution is to use EVs for short distance driving and rent a different car for road trips.

      • 0 avatar
        Stein X Leikanger

        Missing the point. It’s not your battery pack, it is just a container of energy, that fits into your car, a standardized multi-model box that is interchangeable with others. The provider makes certain it meets the required standard.

        But the idea is too good to ever get traction. With cars, things aren’t viable when they make sense.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        At least in the Better Place model, you don’t own the battery pack. You buy electrons from BP loaded into a pack whenever you switch. If a given pack isn’t holding a charge you swap it at one of their facilities. It’s actually one of the more brilliant parts of their model, insulating the owner from the risk of a deteriorating battery pack. Unfortunately the effort of creating the infrastructure for this is too difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Sure, quit your job and sell your house for the privilege of driving a golf cart.

      I liked you guys better when you were rampaging Vikings.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Stein is Norwegian. They don’t have to sell their houses, they’re selling you guys oil.

        That’s why they can afford to buy first very nice houses, then a real car or two (or three or four), and then toys like jetskis and motorbikes and Teslas.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Good point George B.
      EV engineering challenges to maintain battery integrity, cooling, dependability, and more should not be trivialized.
      It is not like swapping batteries in a flashlight.
      These things already have enough disadvantage in terms of poor energy density, mass as well as volume. And that is with optimized battery design.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Just last week:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/better-place-shutters-american-australian-operations/

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A Norwegian driving an electric car is like a rock star fornicating with a collie.

      • 0 avatar
        Stein X Leikanger

        The place is thick with collie molesters, then.

      • 0 avatar
        Georgewilliamherbert

        I thought you had Reindeer for that.

        Just send us your women, if you’re not going to use them properly. We’ll leave you alone about the other stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        Stein X Leikanger

        Interestingly, Norway is thick with EVs, somewhat putting the lie to the ‘not suitable for cold climates’ talking point. And the category is the fastest rising one in the sales charts (the other being 4WD).
        The rise would seem to indicate that word of mouth is favorable to EVs, in spite of the challenges imposed by low temperatures in winter.

        As to commuting distances, most people have far lower daily travel distances than they allow for when planning a purchase. I don’t have EVs myself, one gas/LPG Jeep and a 4WD Estate in my garage – but if I lived in Oslo I would get one. You get to use the fast commuter lanes (one reason they sell well) and there are lots of parking spaces with charge stations.
        Makes sense – without having to molest collies or reindeer in the process.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        They should just have the collies at the charging stations. As long as it takes an hour to “fill up the tank” you might as well kill two birds with one stone.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        What’s that supposed to even mean? “Typical”?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Meanwhile, CNNMoney got from D.C. to Boston in a Model S without any trouble (and 96 miles to spare). Granted, it wasn’t as cold during their trip…that could’ve made all the difference:

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/15/autos/tesla-model-s/index.html

  • avatar
    Michael500

    Two quotes Elon should have thought about before using the hip “new media” to defend his brand: “Don’t complain, don’t explain” (H Ford) and “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”

  • avatar
    shaker

    As I’ve said before, if you can take proper care of a dog (don’t starve it, don’t let it freeze), then you have the proper mindset to own an EV.

    I suppose that the used EV market (the automotive equivalent of animal shelters), will begin to rise in the Northeast once those incapable of “proper care and feeding” of an EV “give them up for adoption.”

    And, yes, the reality of EV’s dictates that they be used as a very efficient second car for daily commutes within the real-world range, with the intent of saving money on gasoline and saving the environment, in an incremental fashion. If everyone does a little, it can add up to a lot.

    People sacrificed as a country during WWII, with the goal of defeating the looming menace of Naziism – until we take climate change with the same level of urgency, no sacrifices will be made, and what seems like a theoretical danger could be upon us – like cancer, so to speak, and any “heroic” measures that we take may extend the life of the planet, but ultimately, the patient will die.

    I drive about 4,000 miles a year, so an EV would be a negative for me (and the planet, as it would be better for someone who drives much more than me to buy one), but I’m still considering one in the future, once my 2008 Elantra (17,500 miles) finally needs replaced.

    VVVV Edit: Oh, crap – I just saw the “collie” thing. heh — :-)

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    There is only one thing we can conclude for sure about this: the way to get conservatives to love electric cars is to have the New York a times give one a bad review.

    Next: Fox News pans the Hummer, hilarity ensues.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    One point that seems to have gone unremarked in all this: since it takes an 45 minutes to an hour (give or take) to charge at a Tesla supercharger, what are Tesla owners going to do I’d these cars actually get popular enough so that there’s a pretty decent chance that when you pull up to a charging station, someone else is already hooked up? Now your wait is long, before you even get to wait for your own charge.


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