The Tesla-New York Times brouhaha has reached all the dimensions of an international incident and will soon be appearing on front pages all across America.
At issue is Times energy-and-environment editor David Broder's attempt to drive the Tesla Model S from Washington to Boston. The question is not so much the performance of the car as the adequacy of Tesla's chain of East Coast supercharging stations. (On the West Coast, stations are much more common.) The weather proved unexpectedly cold on Broder's two-day journey and this required more cabin heating and lowered battery performance. Broder says he also lost considerable range while parked the first night. When he started out for the supercharging station in Milford, CT next morning he soon realized he was in trouble.
On the phone and Internet constantly with Tesla advisors, he tried speeding up and slowing down to draw power from the regenerative braking but still lost power. He was finally forced to stop at a non-super charging station in Norwich but after being plugged in for an hour barely had enough power to make the 61 miles to Milford. He didn't make it. The Tesla ran out of power five miles short of another slow charging station in East Haven. Broder says the car didn't even have enough power left to release the electronic brake. The tow truck driver had to spend 15 minutes on the phone with Tesla trying to figure out how to move the vehicle with the wheels locked.
Elon Musk has exploded over this report, accusing Broder of sabotaging the vehicle and having "disdain" for all electric cars, based on a review Broder wrote a year ago about the industry's troubles. Musk has published the log of the journey (above), saying it proves Broder's account of his trip is false. He says that over a 182-mile stretch where Broder claims to have had the car on 54-mph cruise control, his speed actually registered above 60. At one point he hit 80 mph. Toward the end of the journey, where Broder says he was trying to conserve charge by "limping along at 45 mph," the log shows he was actually driving over 50. Musk even accuses Broder of deliberately "driving for 6/10ths of a mile around a parking lot" in Connecticut trying to drain the battery,
Broder says he was driving around the parking lot in the dark trying to find the poorly marked Tesla recharging station. As for the mileage discrepancies, he says it may be because the car was delivered with 19-inch wheels instead of the specified 21-inch variety. (But that would make the speedometer register a lower speed, wouldn't it?)
In any case, the story has set off a techie world war. Several Tesla owners have already videotaped a search of the Milford parking lot, saying the supercharger is easy to find. Others are already duplicating Broder's trip. Tesla supporters have called Broder a "shill" for the auto companies while Broder supporters say the car has obvious limits and is basically an "expensive toy."
Throughout all this, no one seems to be taking note of an obvious solution - build more charging stations.