Tesla co-founder calls New York Times’ range test of electric car ‘hit piece,’ ‘fake’

There’s no question that Elon Musk is a smart guy. He founded SpaceX and co-founded both PayPal and the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors. We think we might have pinpointed where he went wrong, though.

We don’t count on the New York Times to be fair, at least when it comes to political coverage, but you’d think the Times would want to make an electric car look as good as possible. Today, though, Musk is calling out writer John Broder’s account of his trip in a Tesla Model S sedan with a word no journalist wants to hear: fake. In his article titled, “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway,” Broder wrote about his “creeping range anxiety” as he watched the Tesla’s estimated mileage plummet in a snap of cold weather. Musk says that’s fiction, and he has logs to prove it.

Not many people have driven a Tesla; even green celebs like Mark Ruffalo found themselves on a long waiting list. Many who have driven one, however, offer their own anecdotes.

“Fake” is a strong accusation, and Broder’s detailed account of his road trip — part of which took place in a tow truck when the Tesla’s battery died — seems real enough. Musk says that Broder blatantly ignored the company’s instructions given over the phone.

Hmm, one of the Times’ leading environmental writers wanted the car to look bad? In any case, a lot of people are anxious to get on the highway and test that car. Plenty of journalists and bloggers jumped at Musk’s offer to take a chance with their own test drive.

Tesla chief technology officer J.B. Straubel told Broder, “It takes more planning than a typical gasoline car, no way around it.”

Just what did Broder write last spring? At the time, he said “the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.”

The Times is standing by its story, issuing the following statement:

The Times’s February 10 article recounting a reporter’s test drive in a Tesla Model S was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was “fake” is, of course, flatly untrue. Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla.

  • http://twitter.com/thetugboatphil TugboatPhil

    The question is, are those charging stations only using “green electricity?”

    • Love of Country

      Nope …. they’re still running on dirty coal, lol! (shhhh)

  • Maxx

    Another liberal fabrication from the mighty fish wrap of record?

    Insert liberal response here ________________________.

    Might I suggest: “What difference does it make?”

  • Emma Jay

    Tesla seems eager to jump on any “negative” criticism. It’s never their fault, it’s always someone else that’s to blame. The “Top Gear BS” mentioned was a review of the car where several problems occurred. Tesla sued the BBC, but a judge threw out the case a year ago.


  • peteee363

    as usual, the problem is not the car, but the battery. there will be no mass use of electric vehicles until the battery problem is solved. the performance of most electric cars is superior to gas motors, but the battery is what kills them. the weight, the wait to recharge, and the negative return on the energy used to charge, vs the energy output. i will stick to my internal combustion engine, far superior to any electric car made, even the gas guzzlers are better today.

    • TomJB

      What someone needs to do is test drive one of these things for a few months plugging in at home rather at these charging stations where they can monitor and include in the results an analysis of increases in home electricity usage and costs. If normal gas usage would be $100 per month (just to toss out a round figure) and home electricity average cost goes up more, it doesn’t make much sense to get one.

      • peteee363

        you are missing two major faults with your suggestion. 1) you cannot compare the costs of both, they are apples and oranges. the gas car does not get monumental tax credits, during production, or sales, the electric one has an unfair advantage there. 2) the gas you would like to compare has taxes on it. these taxes pay for roads, and politicians siphen off money to pay for pet projects. the electric car does not. if we would all follow teh won’s ideology, we would soon face new taxes. those taxes would be a mileage tax, paid by both gas users, and subsidised electric users. if you want a fair comparison, remove all tax credits on every facet of the electric car at every level. then you would see the electric car for the joke that is is.

        • http://www.theconservativevoices.com/ dmacleo

          you mean the evil oil companies are not subsidized to the max?
          who knew :)
          the heat from internal combustion is critical in cold climates.
          iirc oregon already looking at mileage tax to offset the EV they are pushing people to buy while at same time pushing the tax credits EV buyers get.

        • TomJB

          I was suggesting only the savings in not having to buy as much gas. As for per mile taxes, dmacleo, yes. The short-sightedness of the government at it again with unintended consequences: push a higher mileage standard and people buy less gas to travel the same distances. Then they wonder why they get less tax revenues…

    • http://pennyrobinsonfanclub.net/ PennyRobinsonFanClub

      The problem isn’t even the battery, the problem is that an electric car just cannot be nearly as competitive or efficient as internal combustion, because just about anything you’re doing to make your electricity in the first place is comparable to what your car’s engine is doing — all electric cars are doing is adding a huge step in the energy transfer equation.
      Unless — UNLESS — you live in one of the very few places where your electricity is generated by REAL viable, sustainable power — nuclear or hydroelectric — and guess what, both of those are major turnoffs (haha!) to the ecofascists.

  • http://twitter.com/thetugboatphil TugboatPhil

    Serious question. I’d imagine that most of these test drives are done with A driver and nothing else. How is the total mileage per charge affected by every seat being occupied by a Beefinator and a rock collection in the truck?

    • http://www.theconservativevoices.com/ dmacleo

      or when hauling a trailer with 1200 lbs or so of cargo, so approx 2k total of pulling.
      or should I buy a truck just for that?
      gee, maybe my crown vic is, overall, the most efficient tool for the job….

      and I see the downvoters hate your question.

      • peteee363

        actually, you should be able to determine the best vehicle you need. if only they were all priced using the same formula? if i wanted to pull 1200 lbs, i would get a prius, and use a tow truck to pull both!

        • http://www.theconservativevoices.com/ dmacleo

          this is funny, I live on a short but VERY steep hill.

          twice I have had to tow a prius up it when the idiot had a small trailer on it for 2 hand mowers.

          one time I did it with my 10 foot trailer and my garden tractor on it, so end result was crown vic—trailer–2 inch nylon rope hooked on ends—-prius–trailer.
          dragged him 1/8 mile or so.
          the third time he failed I told him to deal with it himself.

  • ceemack

    Hmm…New York Times, Elon Musk…New York Times, Elon Musk…oh, God. I don’t know who to disbelieve here! Is there any way they could BOTH be lying?

  • arttie

    Why didn’t they insert the standard canned answer, ” It is all the fault of GWB”?

  • http://www.theconservativevoices.com/ dmacleo

    I would LOVE to test one here. a typical Feb morning will require tons of heat to remove snow/ice and thats a PITA when its -10f or so.
    then defrost or defrost/floor has to be full blast to keep the tire spray from other cars from freezing on windshield.
    yeah I am sure a battery will work well.
    some days we need 30 minute warm ups.

  • http://www.theconservativevoices.com/ dmacleo

    so if I had one, I lose power here like I often do and fire up generator to heat house (hey sub zero sucks to sleep in :) ) how cold to I have to be in order to supply the wattage needed to charge the vehicle?

  • michael s

    Notes from Dr. Obvious,

    1. Batteries degrade in hot weather, making them weaker in cold weather.
    2. These vehicles should be optimized for the climate they would operate. Minnesota in the winter, west Texas in the summer. Maybe Atlanta, just for fun. Remember, lights at night, wipers in the rain and big boom box speakers for the MP3 player.

    3. When you get the bugs worked out, operate the vehicle W E S T of the Mississippi. The US gets pretty big west of the Mississippi.
    4. Don’t forget to build a lot power plants to charge those vehicles.

    Or, we could unleash this nations energy resources, get gasoline under $1 per gallon and watch this country grow. Manufacturing jobs will come back. Productivity coupled with low energy costs, will put this country back on top. At least, those of us who choose not to putt around in golf carts.

    • peteee363

      why would we want to drill for evil oil here? i am sure it is more green to drill for it everywhere else, isn’t it?

    • http://pennyrobinsonfanclub.net/ PennyRobinsonFanClub

      Or if you must have electric cars, build lots of nuke plants to drive electricity costs down – remember when nuclear power was going to be so cheap we wouldn’t even be metered for it?

  • TocksNedlog

    This contentious issue could SO EASILY be solved if someone would just invent a car that runs on greenhouse gasses.