Elon Musk Claims To Have The Data That Proves His 'Fake' NYT Review Charge

Elon MuskElon Musk driving a Tesla

Photo: Bloomberg West

We’ve reached the next round in the New York Times versus Tesla fight.To recap, reporter John Broder wrote a review critiquing the Model S’ battery charge on Sunday.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk fired back on Twitter, Bloomberg and CNBC calling the review “fake” because Broder had left out parts of his trip that would have put extra stress on the car.

Broder responded on the Times’ website, saying Musk had actually called him to apologise for the car’s poor performance before slamming him on cable.

Now, Musk has posted a detailed blog bulleting the alleged flaws in Broder’s review.

Tesla installs all sorts of monitors in to track the car’s movements when it’s given to journalists after a similar allegation about the car’s battery capacity was leveled two years ago on the British show “Top Gear.”  

Musk says the data tell a different story than Broder’s. 

“While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story,” he writes.

That’s a pretty heavy charge to level against a journalist.

So let’s break it down…

First, Broder’s story:
The Model S is supposed to go 265 miles before it needs to be charged.

The trip was from suburban Washington DC to Milford, Conn. and the weather was hovering in the ’30s. Broder says he left with a full charge, reached a Delaware charging dock with the battery still having “roughly half its energy remaining.”

He got lunch, and 49 minutes the display read “charge complete.” The “estimated available driving distance” was now 242 miles.

When Broder crossed into New Jersey, things began to go wrong:

…the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating. At 68 miles since recharging, the range had dropped by 85 miles, and a little mental maths told me that reaching Milford would be a stretch.

When he made it to Manhattan, the car had 79 miles left, and the Milford charging station was 73 miles away.

But “about 20 miles from Milford, less than 10 miles of range remained,” he said.

He did make it to Milford and was able to recharge. He drove on to Groton and went to bed with 90 miles left.

When he woke up, the temperature had plummeted — and so had the mileage remaining.

The display showed 25 miles of remaining range — the electrical equivalent of someone having siphoned off more than two-thirds of the fuel that was in the tank when I parked. 

The whole time, Broder tried to follow the car’s voluminous rules and advice for max performance, still to no avail.

And now, Musk’s take:
He claims the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time. Here’s his annotated chart that allegedly proves this:

tesla chart

Photo: Tesla

But another chart does show the estimate mileage twice hit zero:


Photo: Tesla

Musk says “the final leg of [Broder’s] trip was 61 miles and yet he disconnected the charge cable when the range display stated 32 miles. He did so expressly against the advice of Tesla personnel and in obvious violation of common sense.”

But Broder actually says this:

Instead, I spent nearly an hour at the Milford service plaza as the Tesla sucked electrons from the hitching post. When I continued my drive, the display read 185 miles, well beyond the distance I intended to cover before returning to the station the next morning for a recharge and returning to Manhattan.

And upon pulling in to Groton in the evening:

When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford.

Musk quotes* Broder that “the car fell short of its projected range on the final leg” and that Broder “bizarrely states that the screen showed ‘Est. remaining range: 32 miles.’ 

“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.

On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.

Most of Musk’s resposnse hinges on these types of allegations — that Broder did not include essential parts of his trip that drained the car’s battery further.

This would include, as Musk writes, “an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said ‘0 miles remaining.'”

And when he to to Milford…

Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in.

It’s unquestionably true that trying to find parking in Manhattan* could drain both man and machine, but it seems dubious to pin this on a detour that lasted less than two miles.

You can read the whole thing here. 

For all the detail in Musk’s post, it doesn’t wipe away how taxing it seems to be to obey the car’s demands.

Update: Broder emails regarding the Musk charge that “While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story.” 

We’re preparing a detailed response to the factual assertions in Mr. Musk’s post, but I don’t think we’re going to respond to these and other ad hominem attacks. 

*Correction: We originally said Musk cited quotes that did not appear in Broder’s review. They were actually in a caption accompanying the storyWe also incorrectly said Musk alleged Broder was trying to find parking in Manhattan. It was acutally Milford.

For the original Elon Musk frustration, see here >

Watch below our review of one of the best electric hybrid cars we’ve seen – The Chevy Volt

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