After taking to Twitter in response to a negative review of the Model S and Supercharger charging stations in the New York Times, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has released information, which he says came from the car’s onboard data logger, that contradicts some of the statements made by Times reporter John Broder.
To recap, Broder picked up a fully charged Model S in Washington, D.C. and ended up on a tow truck somewhere in Connecticut. Despite stopping at both East Coast Supercharger stations (in Newark, Delaware and Milford, Connecticut), Broder had trouble maintaining the car’s charge, resorting to cruising at 54 mph on a 65 mph highway, and turning down the heat.
Broder’s article, and some subsequent commentary, blames the 30-degree weather for ruining the Model S’ range. However, Musk says the problem was a case of operator error. Tesla has logged all data from its press drives since the company got into a scuffle with Top Gear over a test of the Roadster, and Musk is using it to substantiate his earlier claims that the Times article was faked.
On the final leg of the trip, Musk says Broder disconnected the Model S’ charger while the range said 32 miles, even though he had 61 miles to go. He also says Broder wasted energy by driving in circles in the parking lot next to the Connecticut Supercharger station.
One of the major points of contention has been whether Broder fully charged the Model S in Delaware. Here, both parties appear to be in agreement. Broder says the display read “Fully Charged,” with the battery reading 90 percent and 242 miles of range. Tesla’s graphs show the same thing.
However, Musk says Broder stopped charging prematurely in Milford, Connecticut and at a public station in Norwich. He also says Broder drove past at least one other public charging station, although since the point of the story was to test Tesla’s Supercharger network, this may have been intentional.
In the article, Broder says at one point in the journey he set the cruise control to 54 mph and turned the heater down to preserve the car’s batteries. However, Musk says the cruise control was never set to 54 mph, and that Broder “in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.” According to the data, when Broder said he turned the temperature down, he actually turned it up to 74 degrees.
This evidence appears quite damning, but Musk didn’t stop there. He’s accusing Broder of deliberately screwing up the test because of a preexisting bias against the electric car.
“We assumed that the reporter would be fair and impartial, as has been our experience with The New York Times, an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity,” Musk wrote. “As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.”
Musk’s evidence of a media conspiracy is a 2012 article Broder wrote on the state of the electric car. In the article, Broder called the electric car a “victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate,” although he also gave space to Who Killed the Electric Car? Director Chris Paine.
“When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts,” Musk said of Broder.
Musk is asking the New York Times to investigate the story. As far as we know, neither Broder nor the Times has responded.