Musk promised to post the detailed vehicle logs from Broder’s trip on the Tesla Blog. In order for his allegations of “fakery” to stand, they will have to reveal that the reporter did more than speed and sightsee. He also posted a comment on Twitter saying that he is “lining up other journalists to do [the] same drive” that Broder did, but until more details emerge, the press should be as leery of Tesla and its litigious behavior as Musk is of the press.
[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.