By on February 19, 2013


The New York Times had their public editor (think ombudsman) publish a response to the whole “Dead Tesla’ fiasco (summary by our own Dan Wallach here), and it is far from kind to reporter John Broder.

While Public Editor Margaret Sullivan defends Broder against Tesla founder Elon Musk’s claims that he “faked” his test drive, she does just about everything else possible to impugn his journalistic cred. Witness Sullivan’s epic qualification when sticking up for her writer

My own findings are not dissimilar to the reader I quote above, although I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it.

Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending.

Sullivan claims she consulted with

“…Mr. Broder, Mr. Musk, two key Tesla employees, other Times journalists, the tow-truck driver and his dispatcher, and a Tesla owner in California, among others…I’ve also had a number of talks with my brother, a physician, car aficionado and Tesla fan, who has helped me balance what might have been a tendency to unconsciously side with a seasoned and respected journalist – my own “confirmation bias.”

Perhaps Ms. Sullivan’s brother could have been replaced by someone with an engineering or automotive background rather than a Tesla fan and car nut, who surely comes with his own set of biases and, in the case of the average car aficionado, opinions that are largely formed based on hearsay and a quick scan of a buff book while waiting in the CVS checkout line.

Also missing is one crucial element that most of you are aware of, but Sullivan seems ignorant of; the element of pressure from an OEM when testing a car or anything related to the car on a manufacturer-arranged drive. Tesla has operated some of the most tightly controlled testing protocols we’ve seen in some time (TTAC has yet to drive the car outside of a brief preview). If anything, invoking the Holy Cause of journalistic integrity would call for Sullivan and the NYT to push back against any interference or petulant PR campaign from Tesla and Elon Musk. In the wake of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, the Grey Lady is doubtlessly sensitive to claims of journalistic incompetence – or worse. But if Sullivan had consulted someone besides a few Tesla employees and her brother, this crucial element may have been brought to the surface, and a different tone may have been adopted.



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81 Comments on “New York Times Public Editor Throws Reporter Under The Electric Bus...”

  • avatar

    Why do people care about this silly electric POS car that doesn’t work or what a newspaper said about it?

    • 0 avatar

      The car works fine. It’s just…sometimes the door handles won’t allow you entry…

    • 0 avatar

      The Tesla does work, even if its cold weather performance needs to be fully debated.

      The ombudsman (ethics person) basically said that this was a PEBKAC problem (IT slang), or where the nut behind the wheel needed to be adjusted (automotive slang).

      Fair criticism of a guy who didn’t recharge the car fully. Would you blame the car driver who stopped at a gas station and only put in 3/4 tank before a long drive across an area known not to have any gas stations? Most people don’t blame the car in this case.

  • avatar

    “Sullivan claims she consulted with

    ‘…Mr. Broder, Mr. Musk, two key Tesla employees, other Times journalists,
    the tow-truck driver and his dispatcher…\'”

    What? She didn’t consult her housekeeper, Soledad? Sure, she drives a Rio, but her opinion may have been vital.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you dispense racist comments because it has to do with electric cars or because you a racist?

      • 0 avatar

        I fail to see how this is racist. It simply pokes fun at an uncomfortable reality within the US. The US relies heavily on low wage labor from “Soledad.”

        All great empires throughout the ages have relied on slave labor in one form or another to become world powers of their time. This is but the latest iteration.

        Racism? More like reality.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t see how it is racist either. Please explain how you have come to that conclusion.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps racist is the wrong term. Classist and stupid might be better.

        The journalist in question, the CEO who authored the data-disclosing blog, the journalist’s peers, and the tow truck driver who retrieved the inoperable Tesla seem like fine people for the public editor to reach out to. Sadly, Ms. Sullivan was unable to reach philadlj to brainstorm more relevant personnel to contact.

        google racist:
        “a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.”

        1. The housekeeper is female, named soledad (hispanic name)
        2. She drives a putative shitbox
        3. Her opinion is worthless, at least in the context of electric transport

        Does philadlj conjecture that her opinion is worthless because she’s female? Because she’s hispanic? Because she’s (presumably) poor and drives a shitbox? Maybe all 3 combined?

        Nope. Racist seems to fit pretty well.

      • 0 avatar

        Guess I’m not touchy enough, I took it to mean she also could have consulted with an “automotively challenged” individual to go along with her other ‘experts’. Would you have been less offended if it had been worded “her plumber Billy Bob, who drives a 1984 Camaro”? I just kinda thought of it as sarcasm, or is that not PC?

      • 0 avatar

        or maybe he just said it because a large % of housekeepers are Hispanic and given the low wages associated with housekeeping, housekeepers are more far more likely to drive a Rio than a Tesla.

        Truth is racist now, huh?

      • 0 avatar

        The comment was the definition of racism: He used an ethnic stereotype (hispanic housekeeper driving a Rio) to make social observations (she knew nothing about electrical vehicles) that were denigrating to a broad ethnicity and social strata.

      • 0 avatar

        It takes years of education to learn not to observe the world as it actually is.

        I suppose your housekeeper is an eccentric electrical engineer?

  • avatar

    The NYT lost all journalistic integrity among critical thinkers years ago. It’s continuing loss of readership is a testament to its lack of quality, and unbiased reporting. Now we have its editorial staff impugning one of its own writers, because apparently his reporting was not consistent with NYT readers personal opinions that PC EV’s are viable.

    I disagree with TTAC’s premise the editor was unaware of pressure by car manufacturers on car writers test drives. The test drive was supposed to confirm what NYT editors believed, it was never intended to be unbiased. TTAC’S is unaware of the pressure the NYT editorial staff places on its writers too conform.

    I enjoy watching such a biased, prejudicial, PC, and just plain untruthful organization continue to fail.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, snap.

      • 0 avatar

        This increase is a one time artifact of their recent decision to start charging for on line content.

        Their readership is not up 40%. They have a one time increase of subscribers.

        In fact, from the article you cited:

        “Print circulation of the Times, the paper reports, actually dropped during the six-month period ending September 30, 2012. Monday-Friday circulation was down 6.9 percent and Sunday circulation was down 1.8 percent was compared to last year.

        If you want to understand where the NYT is going, suggest you look here;range=20041231,20130201;compare=;indicator=volume;charttype=area;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=off;source=undefined;

        The trend is not their friend, just like every other newspaper.

        As a side note, I’ve found it beneficial to ignore people who insist on adding stupid snark like:

        “Oh snap”
        “I am shocked, shocked I tell you”

    • 0 avatar

      sideshowtom98 > I enjoy watching such a biased, prejudicial, PC, and just plain untruthful organization continue to fail.

      Rush, is that you? Projecting again?

    • 0 avatar

      Did the Troll Poll die, or can we add nominees at this point?

    • 0 avatar

      What papers do you read (and thus assume that are superior to NYT? Why do believe that, please do explain)
      Also, Which newspapers have maintained or even gained distribution in the past decade?
      I know that NYT has had its challenges, but would love to hear your thoughts on a US-based paper that has not shared the same type of challenges with it, while providing similar, original content.

  • avatar

    Broder was expecting a milk run and ran into something for which he wasn’t prepared. Frankly, I think that’s mostly Tesla’s fault – or the nature of the EV – reader’s choice on that.

    Broder probably could have done a better job if he’d taken better notes adn probably would have done so if he’d been expecting trouble and Sullivan’s final result is probably reasonable.

    Of course, the EV fanatics are continuing to pile on and condemning Broder as “lying scum,” so this won’t fade away (at least not in EV circles – public yawning already).

    What’s funny is that the NYT has generally been fairly nice to Tesla. They wrote a fairly upbeat review of the S and then another highly positive article about using the Supercharger network in California. Yet, Broder had a bad experience (and was honest about his own mistakes), wrote about it, and the EV nuts are sure that Broder and the NYT have the long knives out for EVs in general and Tesla in particular

    Due to the limitations of the EV and the charge rage, if things had gone well, Broder would have been required to spend about 2.5 to 3 hours “refuelling” at various Superchargers, as compared to a total 10 minutes refuelling a Prius for the same trip. That’s 2.5 hours of dead time and can be much worse if somebody’s using the Supercharger ahead of you.

    Subsequent successufl trips by angry Tesla owners and CNN prove little… they didn’t hit the same bad weather and are in general more cognizant of the Tesla limitations, so we’d expect better results from them. Broder’s experience would be John Q. Public’s experience… EV travel is still iffy.

    In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t very important at all. Teslas, sugared with $7500 in tax credits (and more from the States) is a rich man’s toy that sells in negligible quantities. Even the Volt, which is closer to Everyman pricing can’t reliably sell over 1200/month with the same outsize rebates. The public’s take on EVs is “not ready for prime time” and they’re right.

  • avatar

    If Tesla had a supercharger station at the IKEA near Newark airport, then drivers could pull in and go to their excellent canteen and do a little shopping while they wait. It’s a little nuts to have such a great distance between the chargers in Delaware and Milford, CT, when there are gas stations/rest stops every 30 miles on I-95. Oh, and Mr. Broder, please stop assuming the average Tesla owner is as helpless and disinterested as you are.

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla isn’t finished placing chargers throughout the I-95 corridor. That’s where the sales are, and they have plans to saturate the area.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine the typical Tesla owner would be interested in spending an hour browsing thru inexpensive assemble it yourself furniture after dining on swedish meatballs.

      • 0 avatar

        What else are you going to do for an hour? Unless there’s a motel with rooms by the hour…

        And that’s the chief problem with an EV, even the Tesla… charge times are long. If you need to go beyond the vehicle’s range (whatever it may be… less in cold weather, etc), then you’ve got to be prepared to wait. Traveling, it makes sense to synchronize your meal stops with your charge stops but I doubt that I would want to eat at the Milford rest area.

        Overall, you can count on just 3 hours of drive time for every hour of wait time. That’s not how I typically travel.

      • 0 avatar

        Motels with rooms by the hour, I think there are some places like that in Nevada, good location for a super charger perhaps?

      • 0 avatar

        IKEA’s meatballs are an affront to Swedish meatballs, the lingonberry is also served in the form of JAM, awful just awful, and the sauce… seriously lacking in the taste department. Pretty much exactly the same quality of food served in Swedish schools.

        Meatball rant over.

        IKEA’s Stockholm collection is pretty nice, as is the PS collection.

    • 0 avatar

      Its such a lovely neighborhood there by the Newark airport. Perhaps on a nice day, the lucky Tesla driver could take the food outside for a picnic.

      I can’t tell if you are serious or not.

  • avatar

    There is just one thing that gets me. Who in their right mind plans a drive in an electric car when the destination is farther away than the the car itself claims it can go?

    If the car says you have 30 miles of range, a sensible person would not try to complete a 60 mile journey.

    • 0 avatar

      But a key part of Tesla’s marketing is if you get the top of the line, big battery edition, you can drive it like a regular car. Stop at supercharger station and charge up from the sun, in less than an hour you’re on your way for another 300 miles of happy motoring.

      Well 265 miles if you listen to the EPA.

      Well 242 miles if you don’t charge the last 10% because if almost doubles the charging time and it damages the battery long term.

      Well under 200 miles if you hit traffic, drive over 60, or run accessories like heat or air conditioning in your $90,000 (remember, the BIG battery version is $89,000 – not $60,000) “luxury” car.

      And don’t take any detours. Only stay in hotels with indoor parking AND charging stations, especially if its cold.

      I guess it isn’t as good as they say…

    • 0 avatar

      Obviously this “everyman” that people keep claiming won’t have the brains to use an electric car. Amazing how those same people understand that they need to top off the tank before crossing Arizona… even if it is… inconvenient.

      Broder may have a valid point. It IS inconvenient waiting for the car to “fill up”… but he blew it big time by going the Jeremy Clarkson route and manufacturing his own drama on purpose. Did he deserve to get called out on it? Definitely.

  • avatar

    Tesla should have been called Karma, as buyers will get what they deserve.

    • 0 avatar

      I think most Tesla buyers happen to live in more pleasant climates. For electric cars, warm is much better than cold. Tesla is a California company that overwhelmingly sells to wealthy Silicon Valley and Los Angeles entrepreneurs. Nothing wrong with that at all. Hey, it’s a pretty good-sized market.

      I would love to own a Tesla, and I live in Florida, land of ultra-civilized weather, and so I too would most likely be perfectly happy with the range of a Tesla.

      In short, the reality is that we are talking about an extreme outlier case here. Not only are we driving the car in the cold, we are also pushing the limits of its range. From reading the Tesla forums, I think most Tesla owners know perfectly well their car was not designed for such long trips, at least not without long delays for charging. They are very much aware of the limitations of the Super charger network (and of course hope they are corrected over time). But I don’t think anyone’s basing their purchase decisions on their car’s ability to go on long trips (greater than the car’s range) more than occasionally.


      • 0 avatar

        “…Florida, land of ultra-civilized weather…”
        Wow! Just, wow!

      • 0 avatar

        Ultra civilized seems a tad hyperbolic given the annual bill for storm damage don’t you think?

        Your point is well taken though. You would think car companies would push EVs where they do best and are most wanted. Like in Cali.

        Florida might be challenging in some paces though. Get stuck on those causeways for too long and the AC better get turned off.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure, we have our tiresome hurricanes, but I’d take a hurricane over six months of miserable cold any day :).

        My point of view is that we have our natural disasters every few years, but those in the Northeast have a natural disaster every year, called winter!


      • 0 avatar

        Florida weather is rather hot in the summer. In fact, unbearable without AC, I understand, unless you are sitting right on the beach with a drink in your hand.

  • avatar

    “Also missing is one crucial element that most of you are aware of, but Sullivan seems ignorant of; the element of pressure from an OEM when testing a car or anything related to the car on a manufacturer-arranged drive. … If anything, invoking the Holy Cause of journalistic integrity would call for Sullivan and the NYT to push back against any interference or petulant PR campaign from Tesla and Elon Musk.”

    No. What Musk/Tesla did may have been wrong, but two wrongs don’t make a right. If what Broder (in the name of the NYT) did was wrong, and it certainly appears to be, then the NYT has no “integrity” to leverage. Sullivan could have talked to every person in the country and changed the tone all she wanted, but the ethics remain unchanged.

    • 0 avatar

      What did Broder do that was “wrong?” Did you read his initial story?

      1. Picks up car, fairly full.
      2. Stops in DE for an hour, “charge complete,” with range to Milford indicated.
      3. Pulls into Milford on “electron fumes.”
      4. Charge in Milford to 70%, with 140% of needed range indicated.
      5. Drives to East Overshoe, CT, Car sits overnight, charge evaporates.
      6. Calls Tesla, gets advice of questionable value, which further erodes mileage, heads to local lower-capacity charger.
      7. Hangs around delightful Public Utility facility in the relative middle of nowhere for an hour or so, when he has places to be and, apparently with the approval of Tesla says, “screw this, I’m going for it.”
      8. Car apparently wasn’t lying in step 7 when it said, “not enough” and he ends up FORD (Found On Road Dead).
      9. Car dragged to Supercharger in Milford.
      10. Fills effin thing completely and drives home.

      Musk has logs that allow him to quibble about exact times, exact states of charge, exact speeds, exact cabin heat settings and exact mileages but Broder ended up going pretty slowly on a section of highway where the traffic definitely flies, with the heat set on very low, much lower than I would want, and I doubt that he did that for fun. Nobody invites a rear-end collision if they can avoid it.

      Broder’s actions at #7 were probably a “mistake,” as he admitted in his article, but his journalism isn’t “wrong.”

      • 0 avatar

        3 major failures in Mr. Broder’s review:

        * Mr. Broder did not understand the effects of marginal conditions on range
        * Tesla did not sufficiently convey information re: operating the car, range expectations and the effect of adverse conditions
        * Mr. Broder inaccurately recorded and reported on his driving speeds and length of time charging

        More accurate range estimation (tools, education, experience) and charging more conservatively would have enabled the trip to be completed without incident.


        The stretch between Newark, DE and Milford, CT is 206 miles.

        Tesla provides this information on range/conditions (100% charge):
        * 32F, heat on, 60 mph highway 233 miles (210 @ 90%)
        * 32F, heat on, 65 mph highway 218 miles (196 @ 90%)
        * 32F, heat on, city driving 211 miles (190 @ 90%)

        Mr. Broder only charged to 90% at the Newark, DE station. Tesla provides a max range option to charge to 100%, but it is not the default option (due to increased impact on battery life).

        Mr. Broder did drive much of the highway route @ 60 mph, but also drove about 75 miles of the route either in city driving or at 65-75 mph. Pretty easy to look at the ranges listed above and see how he got in trouble.

        Charging to 100% OR more moderate driving OR warmer temperatures OR a more mature Supercharger network would have resulted in a less dramatic story. ’twas not to be.


        At the Milford, CT station Mr. Broder charged the car from 5% to 72%. Tesla’s logs show 47 minutes, Mr. Broder’s notes show 58 minutes, Mr. Broder’s report says “nearly an hour”.

        Rated range at this point was 185 miles. Keep in mind that Mr. Broder had just completed a leg of his trip where starting at 242 “rated miles” he cut into the reserve to complete a 206 mile trip.

        A better estimate of range based upon his observed conditions and previous driving would be around 150 miles. The Model S does provide a “projected range” indicator that uses temperature + recent driving history to show range; presumably Mr. Broder was using the “rated range” indicator, which uses neither.

        Quick check of his planned route (supercharger to groton to stonington to supercharger) shows 134 miles .. so about 8% reserve.

        Mr. Broder reported the temperatures in the morning had dropped down to 10 degrees. Cold temperatures will reduce available energy from a battery; the specific amount loss will vary based upon the battery chemistry, but all of the range loss is at the bottom. Using the 8% reserve above, if dropping down to 10 degrees reduced capacity by 10%, then he’s now 2% in the red.

        When Mr. Broder woke up and saw the range drop, he drove 11 miles in the opposite direction (at Tesla’s direction), charged for an hour @ a station that (in warm conditions) charges 15-20 miles/hour, then drove 11 miles back to his starting point. I think it’s reasonable to state that this was less than helpful.

        The best course of action would have been to be to spend 10 more minutes charging. It would have saved him 10 minutes of charging on the return trip .. and again, resulted in a less dramatic story.

  • avatar
    old blue

    Well, Mr. Broder appears to have emerged from the briar patch somewhat worse for wear.

    I’d be interested to see if he could try to repeat the trip – successfully this time, but with foresight and care. I wouldn’t blame him, though, if he decided that he never wanted to drive a Tesla again.

    I suppose that the public editor, Ms. Sullivan tried to find some way to mollify both sides, but it just appears to be a mess that has stained all parties.

    Frankly, I’d be interested in trying a nice ride in a Tesla myself. Certainly, it can’t be worse than pushing the Corvair that I inherited BACK UP THE HILL repeatedly to try to get it to start on compression.

    In the meantime, I’m certainly satisfied with my Toyota Tacoma, Subaru Legacy wagon and various other recent cars.

    That the Tesla is running at all, much less hoping to near some financial success is a miracle in my eyes.

    I say, give it a break.

    And while we’re at it, how about a little charity for Mr. Broder?
    No sense in kicking a man while he is down [or maybe just appears
    to be down]. Surely, he’s not under the bus.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s a repeat of the Broder Trip:

      Speaking of “the element of pressure from an OEM when testing a car “, take a look at what Broder covers in the Times. I took a quick look at the articles he’s written and most of them seem to be about the Oil Industry. So, was the pressure coming from Tesla, or from somewhere else?

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Why is it necessary to assume that pressure was being applied at all, at least before the article was published?

      • 0 avatar

        Well, that’s a great, highly positive report at strassenversion.

        Clearly, if I want to spend excessive amounts of money for a car that can be coaxed into a 400 mile trip along one particular section of highway on the East Coast, when the weather is sufficiently nice, by hanging around rest stops for hours on end, I’ll be sure to visit my local Tesla dealer.

      • 0 avatar

        @Jeff Waingrow

        Actually, I don’t think there was any pressure applied. I have a pretty good theory as to what happened. Broder mentioned that he was going to dinner in Stonington Ct. Some of the better restaurants there close at 9:00pm and Milford is about an hour and a half away. So, a full charge would have risked making it to Stonington in time. To be honest, that’s a real world situation I suppose. Personally, I would have just headed up to Rein’s in Vernon Ct which is open until midnight and a tradition NYC to Boston stop.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow


      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Can I sneak a note in here to mcs? Wasn’t Broder on I95? I think his problem was that he didn’t stop in New Haven for pizza. That would have made reaching Stonington superfluous. As for Rein’s, that would require a ride up I91 and over I84 to get there. And in my experience, the only thing you have a good chance of getting at Rein’s is gas. (joke)

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I’ve followed this pretty closely both here and in the Times. It’s curious to me that the comments by posters here have for the most part been pretty thoughtful (with a few idiotic exceptions), while many commenters at the Times have been intemperate and quick to judge, especially of Mr. Broder and the Times. The so-called public editor, Ms. Solomon, has been no great help either, though she’s tried. To impute malicious intent to Broder, someone with a pretty impressive resume, is unfair in the extreme. That he might fairly be open to criticism is without question, but that could apply to many of the pieces and comments at TTAC too. And to make this an overall indictment of the Times says to me, at least, that this is more about a political agenda than a concern for scrupulous journalism. Having read most of our major national newspapers numerous times, I’d judge that the New York Times stacks up well next to any of them, Judith Miller and Jayson Blair notwithstanding. I think that KixStart (above) got a nice handle on all of this, and his analysis far surpases anything I’ve read yet at the Times. So the trolls and hotheads are out, but they’re mostly there, not here. Thankfully!

  • avatar

    When this story first hit the news, I wondered if there was more to the story than initially met the eyeball.

    Then when Elon Musk made a public comment about the on-board data contradicting what the writer had said, I knew the hunt (for the truth) was on.

    Like anything else, though, I am certain that elements of everyone’s truths are all in there, spread out between the two extremes somewhere although the two may never intersect.

    Considering what these EVs cost, they’re not everyman’s car and even fewer people would be interested in buying a niche toy vehicle than can afford to. If the Volt retailed for what other vehicles in that size class sell for, the Volt would sell more.

    But seeing an EV being hauled off by a wrecker, that is worth a thousand words. Such a picture just reinforces in the public’s mind that EVs are not ready for prime time and the folly they represent.

    So, was John Broder objective? Did he put this Tesla through any other regimen than the ordinary, lowly ICE cars he tested?

    What if he put this Tesla through the same paces as every other car he test drove, and the Tesla came up short of the criteria met by all the other cars he tested?

    Which brings to mind the question, “Why does Tesla have such stringent testing protocols?” Is it to deliberately hide its weaknesses?

    Yes, the fan boys will back Tesla no matter what, like they do the Volt. And the haters will denounce both of them. Ahhhh, but it’s the fence sitters! The fence sitters are where the money is to make a reality of this behavior modification transition to EVs.

    • 0 avatar

      Waingrow –

      The NYT writes for its readership (East Coast libs and wannabees around the country) just like every paper writes for its readership.

      That doesnt mean they make stuff up, but you’re delusional if you think the worldview of its writers & editors doesnt come thru in what they chose to cover, how they cover it, etc.

      That’s what is so funny about this deal, the average NYT reader/writer loves the idea of electric cars almost as much as bullet trains, hot yoga and Kombucha. The notion that the NYT has it in for electric cars is pretty funny.

      I’d guess that the writer just didnt pay much attention to all the nuances of driving an electric car, or is annoyed by the huckster that is Elon Musk.

  • avatar

    It isn’t the first electric car to run out of juice on the street, and it won’t be the last.

  • avatar

    Sounds to me like Tesla and Tesla management are not ready for the big time – or my becoming a customer.

  • avatar

    More virtual real estate than I ever imagined has been wasted on this story. However, this confirms one thing — as a resident of a cold climate state in the middle of the country, it will be a long time before I consider ever buying an electric vehicle. Until the manufacturers, Tesla, Nissan, GM, whoever, figures out how to build a car whose battery doesn’t go kaput while running the heat (which is essential for at least 5-6 months of the year), I ain’t buying. Nevermind the lack of infrastructure here in flyover land.

    Tesla is a niche car for a niche market for niche parts of the country. It may be a technological marvel, but its a limited one at that.

    Also, Tesla clearly has the economic motive to take down Broder. I don’t know what motive Broder might have had, but it’s far less convincing to me that it was to undermine Tesla. And, even if he wasn’t an EV car fan to start, his report only confirmed what most folks knew already — colder weather is not kind to EVs and the infrastructure to charge them is still pretty spotty. Oh, yeah, and the sun rose this morning…

    Can we move on to something more meaningful and leave Musk and the Twittersphere to spin in their self-contained echo chamber?

  • avatar

    As an actual EV driver (Leaf) for the last 4 months, here’s my few cents:

    1. I have never seen my battery’s range bleed off overnight or in the cold. I think Tesla ought to explain this allegation by Broder. My Leaf has sat out all day in 10 F weather without losing more than a mile of range.

    2. All EVs have compromises with respect to regular cars. Tesla’s ‘no compromises’ claim has solely to do with performance, comfort, appearance, and – to an extent – range.

    3. The compromises inherent in an EV must be learned and accepted. For instance, you should never, ever plan a commute equal to the stated range; you may or may not make it.

    4. ICE cars lose range when you use climate control or exceed the speed limit. It’s just that their fuel economy is so poor nobody notices or cares. When your EV can get 100 MPGe, that number becomes highly sensitive to every variable. Just consider the bashing of Hyundai’s and Ford’s 40 mpg EPA claims.

    5. Refill time is a technology issue common to all EVs, which won’t be solved any time soon. The 5-minute fillup is decades away, if ever.

    6. Tesla’s management of the test is intended to help EV nubies cope with the nuances of an EV car. If you ignore the guidance, disaster will result.

  • avatar

    I’ll pay full price for a new EV if and when:

    a) EV battery packs are standardized so that you can pull into any battery EXCHANGE station (to hell with charging stations- the 5-minute charge ain’t gonna happen before the next arrival of Haley’s Comet)and be on your way in less than five minutes with a new battery that’s good for 300 miles at 70 mph with the heater (or air-conditioner) on full blast and all electrical accessories in use,

    b) Said battery-exchange stations are as plentiful everywhere in North America as gas stations currently are,

    c) The cost to switch to a fully-charged exchange battery (including the inevitable “fuel” tax)is less than half the cost of the quantity of gasoline providing equivalent range,

    d) Failing the advent of battery exchange stations, and providing the 5-minute charge actually becomes reality (yeah, right) proven battery life span exceeds 15 years, during that 15 years the fully-charged range does not decrease from what it was when the battery was new and the replacement cost for a new battery pack does not exceed 25% of the cost of replacing the entire car,

    e) The selling price for said EV is equivalent to what the average buyer now pays for a new Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla.

    Yeah, I know: it ain’t likely to happen that way. But if it doesn’t, tell me again why I should buy an electric car.

    • 0 avatar

      Better Place tried to do the battery exchange thing. It’s a failed business model that was about 10 years too late.

      I hate subsidies, but I took them when I leased my Leaf. That, plus my trade-in, plus the fuel savings means my 3-year lease will cost me nothing financially.

      My ‘cost’ is to abide by the eccentricities of EV ownership, which I’m willing to do – at least for a while.

    • 0 avatar

      Battery exchange won’t work. These packs cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you owned the pack, are you going to exchange your brand new pack for one that may be significantly worn out? As for someone else owning the pack, what company is going to invest billions in capital to own all those batteries? And how much would they charge you for the privilege of leasing or recharging it? And what’s to stop hackers from breaking the packs open and swapping out the expensive cells & electronics for cheap imitations and passing along the junk to someone else?

    • 0 avatar

      @zeus01 Based on your criteria, it seems you will never buy an EV. You will also never buy a motorcycle. Or a bicycle. Or a horse. And you can’t imagine why anyone else ever would either. And you’ll never take the bus. And you’ll never ride on a train. Because none of those things are as convenient as having your own ICE car.

      I’m just kidding you of course. I’m sure you actually can imagine why people sometimes like bicycles, horses, motorcycles, buses, and trains. Try thinking about those reasons and you’ll see some of them apply to EVs.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup, I’m a cynic. (grin). I actually own a bike, have used public transit (yes, even electric-powered) and I’m one of those freaks who actually LIKE the idea of taking a light-weight sports car (like say, a 1981 VW Puma) and replacing the engine with a 10-hp Briggs & Stratton engine to generate power to charge a ten-battery pack and drive an aircraft starter-generator unit to push the apparatus down the road.

        But my previous editorial illustrates the gross short-comings of pure EVs as the market and technology currently stands: The un-viability of battery exchange stations, the high cost of replacement batteries, the short and ever-decreasing range of current battery packs as they age and the hurry-up-and-wait times while charging. And then there’s the inevitable transponders that will be imposed on us as bureaucrats scramble to replace er, supplement conventional fuel taxes by charging us per mile driven on primary, secondary and municipal routes.

      • 0 avatar

        zeus01, I remember that 1977 article from Mother Earth News about the homemade hybrid. I was excited about it too, at first. They claimed the car could get about 75mpg but their calculations assumed that you start with full batteries, end up with dead batteries, and that the electricity used was “free”. They also didn’t address the fact that a lawnmower engine has terrible emissions. By my estimates, that conversion project cut CO2 per mile by about half but it doubled the amount of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, unburnt hydrocarbons, etc. per mile. You’re much better off with a Prius.

        Consider a horse. It has a top speed of 25mph. You get wet when it rains. The range is only 15 miles, after which it takes several hours to recharge. It has the huge advantage of running on renewable fuels but it also produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Another advantage is that you can go off road with it. Would I rather have a horse or an EV? For me, the EV wins hands down.

        Consider a train. Most of them have top speeds of 75mph but they usually end up going much much slower. Every few miles they have to stop and let people on and off. The routes are fixed; you can’t go exactly where you want unless the track happens to go there. A major advantage is that someone else does the driving. Another is efficiency; the train moves huge amounts of people and cargo with relatively little fuel. But my EV has a very similar efficiency and it gets most of its energy from renewable sources. Would I rather take the train or drive my EV? For distances less than 100 miles, my EV wins hands down. For distances over 100 miles, I might take the train.

        Consider a Toyota Corolla. It has a top speed around 80mph, a range of 300mi, fuel cost is 15 cents per mile and its carbon footprint is around 70 pounds per 100 miles. Would I rather have a Corolla or an EV? Well, the 300 mile range is about ten times farther than I drive each day and the EV has a fuel cost of 2 cents per mile instead of 15. Over the life of the car, that saves me about $20,000 which is way more than the price difference of the two vehicles. Most days, recharging takes about 30 seconds of my time. About once a month, I might have to use a public charging station that takes 19 minutes to get me from 10% to 80% before I continue on my way. And my carbon footprint is more like 10 pounds per 100 miles instead of 70. Would I rather have a Corolla or my EV? For me, the EV wins hands down.

        Of course, if I had to commute 80 miles to work each way, I’d have a different perspective and reach different conclusions.

        I hear what you’re saying about the transponders but I hope the bureaucrats will recognize that 99% of wear and tear on roads is caused by heavy trucks, not private automobiles, so it’s only fair that heavy trucks should pay 99% of the road taxes.

  • avatar

    Excellent conclusion, Mr. Kreindler. I hope Sullivan pays heed.

  • avatar

    This story is ALL about journalistic, editorial, and the NYT’s, integrity, which has gone the way of the passenger pigeon. ( that means extinct, BTW)
    Most everybody outside of a few New Yorkers know that their vaunted newspaper is riddled with corrupt writers and staff who blindly pursue their own agenda without any regard to real journalism.
    In this day and age of ‘gotcha’ media, you better get your facts straight, as too few ‘journalists’ bother to do anymore, even on blogs like this one, sometimes.
    I have no sympathy whatsoever for Broder, he deserves to lose his job.

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    What goes unmentioned in the article is a $5K 10 year old Asian shitbox can make that trip there and back without filling up more than once.

    • 0 avatar

      True, but it won’t hit 60 in 4 seconds, and the ‘fuel’ for the trip will cost about $30 more than the Tesla’s.

      Nobody is saying the Tesla is the preferred vehicle; this stunt was only arranged to say the trip is possible. And the Tesla is a nice ride.

  • avatar

    ike this. Glad t
    I call nyt times reporters idiots, but truth is they are average intelligence. and average driver will have same problem.

    yes a team of trained engineers with temperature correction tanles can make this trip in perfect weather. but in most country,for most drivers, this is an expensive joke. one i dont want subsidize.

  • avatar

    just in case anyone has drifted off point……
    The car costs 50-70 THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!
    Now lets get back to reviewing cars that really matter!

    • 0 avatar

      Most people who buy a $27,000 ICE car end up spending $27,000 in fuel over the life of the car (not to mention repairs).

      What’s so outrageous about spending $50,000 on an EV that will only use $3,000 worth of fuel over its life span? Especially if it’s a car you enjoy driving?

      • 0 avatar

        If you’re concerned about how much gas you use over the life of the car, there’s other ways to dramatically reduce your fuel consumption without spending a ton of money on an electric car to do it.

      • 0 avatar

        average price of fuel + carbon footprint, per year:
        2007 Ford Explorer V6 2WD $3,400 + 10,400kg
        2010 Dodge Grand Caravan V6 $2,850 + 8,700kg
        2012 Toyota Corolla 5-speed $1,800 + 5,500kg
        2012 Mitsubishi i Miev $550 + 3,000kg (national average, less if you use green power)

        @KixStart Yes, replacing a 2007 Ford Explorer with a 2012 Toyota Corolla yields a comparable savings to that of replacing a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan with a 2012 Mitsubishi i Miev. It also helps to make sure your tires are properly inflated and avoid jackrabbit starts. But if you really want to maximize your fuel savings, nothing beats an EV. Over the life of the car, the money you save on fuel far outweighs the extra cost of the vehicle itself.

      • 0 avatar

        That only begins to ring true if A) the electric car you’re using to calculate running costs is a poverty spec golf cart like the Mitsubishi, B) access to a real car for longer distances, winter, etc. is treated as free, and C) you buy expensive new cars and drive them until they die.

        Hitting even two of those is so unlikely as to divert your argument into irrelevant strawmen of 7 year old SUVs and phobias of soda bubbles in the air.

      • 0 avatar

        @Dan I was trying to answer KixStart’s comment about dramatically reducing fuel consumption without buying an EV, so I used the example of a 2007 Ford Explorer because it seemed silly to expect someone to replace a 2012 with another 2012. Have you ever seen anyone do that? I haven’t. Then I chose a 2010 Dodge Caravan to show that even comparing an EV to a car that’s only a few years old, the EV still cuts total CO2 by more than 50%. Yes I assumed that if you buy an EV it’s a new one. I haven’t seen many used EVs for sale (yet) so that seemed only fair. But the point is I was agreeing with KixStart that it’s possible to cut your carbon footprint by a lot if you are currently driving a 7-year old ICE SUV and you replace it with a new ICE subcompact. The amount of fuel cost and CO2 you save switching from an SUV to a subcompact is comparable to the amount you would save switching from a minivan to an EV and it’s actually MORE than what you save by switching from a subcompact to an EV. Feel free to make your own list with any selection of vehicles you care to choose. I got these numbers from the EPA website . After you select the vehicle, be sure to click on the “energy and environment” tab then under Greenhouse Gas Emissions select “show tailpipe and upstream GHG” and select “metric tons per year”.

        Yes you’re right, I forgot to include the cost of renting an ICEV for long trips. I’ve had my EV for about six months and I’ve rented an ICEV once, for 800 miles. The car I rented was a Prius. It cost me a total of $190 (including $40 for fuel) and added about 200kg to my carbon footprint, but it also means I drove the EV fewer miles than the EPA estimate, so the net increase is $20+100kg. If you assume that an average Mitsubishi owner does this once every six months, the total fuel cost is $540 instead of $500 and carbon footprint is 3,200kg rather than 3,000. Again, that’s the national average and it’s less if you get some or all of your electricity from green power, like in Oregon where 48% of all our electricity comes from renewable sources.

        If you don’t like the Mitsubishi, feel free to substitute any EV of your choice. The 2012 Tesla model S, for example, has an estimated annual fuel cost of $700 and a carbon footprint of 3,750kg per year (national average, less if you use green power).

        No, I didn’t assume that you drive it until it dies, I only assumed that SOMEONE will drive it until it dies. If you drive it for two years then sell it to someone else who drives it for two years and they sell it to someone else etc. the numbers work out exactly the same. Over the life of the EV, the total savings in fuel cost (even including the extra cost of renting an ICEV once in a while) far outweighs the price difference between an EV and an ICEV.

        • 0 avatar

          “It cost me a total of $190 (including $40 for fuel) and added about 200kg to my carbon footprint, but it also means I drove the EV fewer miles than the EPA estimate, so the net increase is $20+100kg.”

          What, those 800 miles you drove the Prius would have cost you $170 in your electricar?!?

  • avatar

    I’d have to agree with oldyak, we’re talking a low production fringe element car that is being embraced by people as much for the ‘wow’ factor as the practical factor. Until EVs are as easy to use as ICEVs, they’re never going to be more than an interesting novelty.

    We’re looking at building an infrastructure for fueling, which will cost what… hundreds of millions? I certainly don’t want the government spending increasingly scarce finances to underwrite the cost of developing, manufacturing, purchase subsidies and refueling infrastructure on a mode of transportation that is essentially, at it’s current state of development, a toy.

    What would the fuel costs be if you had to start paying market rate for the electricity that is currently free (subsidized) at charging stations? Also, I can’t imagine that EVs will be cost free over their lifetimes in regards to maintenance.

    Yes we’re going to run out of fossil fuels someday, but until that happens, people are going to keep buying trucks and SUVs. Well, until the next spike in fuel prices. Societies memory is short term, as shown by the rise and fall of sales of gas guzzlers that march in step with the price of gas. Americans love big cars, and love convenience. When you can hop in your EV and drive without concern about range (yes, I know that range is an issue in ICEVs, but you can refuel to max range in 15 minutes at hundreds of thousands of ‘recharging stations’), then MAYBE more than 2 or 3 % of the population will consider making them their primary choice for transportation.

    As they currently stand, it’s like arguing that Ferraris aren’t practical, we *know* that. They are what they are, and if you want to have one, you accept it’s limitations. I realize that the early adopters are fanbois who are going to say “this is just as good as an ICE, you just have to make allowances”. For me, knowing that a cross country trip would have to be planned like the Normandy invasion, plotting distance between charging stations, allocating time for charging, etc, it’s just not something I want to do.

    Broder made some mistakes, from the tone of his original article, he wasn’t trying to slam the car, (IMO). I think that if you took an average vehicle user off the street, put them in a Tesla and told them to drive the same route, in the same weather, they’d have problems too. BUT… this car isn’t made for the masses, it’s a limited production car, that appeals to a small segment of users, who’ll sit with maps and calculators to plot out their trips, sit for hours to recharge a group so they can sit in a rest area and feel good about themselves. Before you say “it only takes an hour”, to recharge the ‘convoy’, it took hours. Can you honestly see a bunch of average gearheads putting together a drive where the fueling will take up as much time as the driving?

    As they said in South Park, we’re going to be blanketed in ‘smug’.

    It’s a tempest in a teapot, amusing to read about, but as relevant as arguing paint quality on a Bugatti Veyron vs a Mclaren.

    If the government were serious about cutting energy usage, they’d impose fuel taxes like Europe, and force everyone into more fuel efficient vehicles. Now that’ll never happen, no matter who’s in the White House. Far easier to dump gazillions into something that has little *immediate* impact on the bottom line of the average Americans’ budget. After all it’s just “Government money”, if they changed that to “money that you worked for, the government took from you, and spent on things that would outrage you if you really knew where it was going”, maybe people would be more involved.

    (FYI, before anyone starts throwing names, I don’t care which party politicians come from, they’re all basically feeding at the public trough, and quite willing to spend money that isn’t theirs if it will keep them in office). Heck, give me a government credit card, and I’d max that sucker out too, it’s human nature.

    • 0 avatar

      @RogueInLA Okay, since you asked, the actual market value of the lifetime electricity use by an EV, based on the rates that public utilities actually charge their customers and not including any free-to-use public charging stations, would be more like $4,200 instead of $3,000. The national average is about 12 cents per kWh and I estimated that an EV will use about 35,000 kWh over its lifetime. Of course, the price of electricity varies quite a bit depending on where you are. Where I live it’s more like 8 cents per kWh.

      And, yes, EVs will need repairs which cost money, just like ICEVs need repairs which cost money. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think the journalist shouldn’t have told an untruth.

    But the fact remains that if you are required to expend lots of energy designing and planning a simple journey, then this is for the diehards.

    How much government money has been spent on Teslsa. That is subisdies, cheap government loans, handouts, rebates to purchasers of the vehicle etc.

    This kind of vehicle isn’t required in todays world.

    As I have stated, this vehicle currently is a “feel good experience” for people who think they are saving the planet.

    Contrary to what arguments that are around, battery technology will still advance just through electronics. Maybe in 30-50 years we should look at this type of transport.

    But theirs and yours (EV buyers and your tax dollar) money would be better spent providing better energy infrastructure so millions in the US can access natural gas instead of using heating oil (diesel). This in turn will reduce pollution far more effectively than trying to appease socialist greenies.

    The tax dollars that these upper middle class and rich use to buy these vehicles also comes from the less fortunate in your country. Really a fair system.

    • 0 avatar

      What did Broder say that was “untrue?”

      • 0 avatar

        * duration of charging (he said 58 minutes, tesla’s logs show 47 minutes)
        * speed of travel (he said cruise set to 54 mph, tesla’s logs show always > 60, sometimes 70-75 mph .. later said 45 mph, logs show always > 50 mph)
        * climate control temp (he said “my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white”, tesla shows climate control turned down to 64F .. maybe tesla’s climate control is just really bad?)

        More generally, the narrative that he painted was that the Tesla S was broadly unsuitable for long-distance highway travel. In truth, a combination of poor planning on his part (failing to adequately charge) and poor education / flat-out wrong phone advice on Tesla’s part led to his problems.

        • 0 avatar

          All fricking rounding errors. If he had said three hours when it was half an hour, or under 30 mph when it was actually over 90, those would have been untruths. But quibbling about 58 minutes vs 47, or 54 mph vs 62?!?

          Piffle, hogwash, nincompoopery!

          That’s a little less than an hour vs a little less than an hour, and about 60 mph vs about 60 mph — in the range of rounding errors.

          Rabid Elon Musk is off his head, and so are all his slavering fanbois.

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