[Update, February 12, 5:00 p.m.] On Tuesday afternoon, Broder posted a long rebuttal of Musk’s charges on The New York Times’s Wheels blog. “My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it,” he wrote, before going on to provide even more details about what happened on his trip.
“One final note,” Broder concluded at the end. “Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country. He offered me a second chance at a test drive in a few months, after additional Supercharger stations come online. I’m game.”
[Update, February 14, 5:30 p.m.] As promised, Musk published the data log on Wednesday evening, along with a bulleted list of nine points explaining why he thought Broder, “simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.”
Some of Musk’s points are nonsense. For instance, he says, “As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.” Well, that may be true, but the log also shows that the car’s range was “less than zero miles” when Broder’s trip came to an abrupt halt. It seems reasonable that the battery can hold a charge, but not enough to power the car.
Other points that Musk makes are pure semantics. For example, he says:
In his article, Broder claims that “the car fell short of its projected range on the final leg.” Then he bizarrely states that the screen showed “Est. remaining range: 32 miles” and the car traveled “51 miles,” contradicting his own statement. The car actually did an admirable job exceeding its projected range. Had he not insisted on doing a nonstop 61-mile trip while staring at a screen that estimated half that range, all would have been well. He constructed a no-win scenario for any vehicle, electric or gasoline.
Seems reasonable, but Musk is simply spinning the intent of Broder’s words, who surely meant that the car fell short of its projected range when he left the Milford, CT supercharger station the day before he broke down. At that time, the car assured Broder that he had plenty of electrons to complete the final leg of his journey.
Musk does have some valid points, however, but most of them dance around Broder’s central complaints about the Model S—that the battery’s charge dropped precipitously overnight in cold weather, that electric vehicles’ range can vary significantly, and that Tesla’s two supercharger stations can’t, on their own, alleviate electric vehicles’ range problem.
For example, it appears that Broder was averaging about 60 mph around the time he said he had the cruise control set to 54 mph. It also looks like he turned the heat up around this time, rather than down (although he did drive for long stretches in freezing cold weather with the thermostat turned down), as he reported. While these reportorial discrepancies are certainly concerning (and Broder tells me he plans to respond to the data log posting soon), it should be noted that these behaviors took place well before Broder charged up in Milford for the last leg of his trip, and thus have no bearing on his running out of juice.
Musk also alleges that Broder drove around in circles for five minutes in a parking lot next to the Milford supercharger, unsuccessfully trying to kill the battery, and that he charged the battery for 47 minutes, rather than 58 minutes, as reported. Again, the reportorial discrepancies are concerning, but even the second of these details has no bearing on what happened afterward (whether Broder charged the car for 47 minutes or 58 minutes, the car told him that he had enough charge to get back, and then the charge dropped unexpectedly and precipitously).
The most damning charge that Musk makes is that Broder was driving faster than he reported right before he ran out of juice. Rather than “limping along at 45 mph,” the data log shows a stretch where he was driving just above 50 mph, followed by a stretch where he drove above 60 mph (even briefly exceeding 70 mph at times). That surely drained the car’s battery, but again, the main problem was that most of the depletion occurred spontaneously while the car was parked overnight in cold temperatures.