tesla datalogged NYT tripI’m already in the market to buy an electric or extended hybrid so I tend to pay attention to these story more then most people. Now, I do not exactly consider the New York Times the go to publication for news on electric cars, however, like most people, I normally accept anything I read in the NYT as reporting that is normally held at the highest standards.  Thus when I read about Elon Musk taking up arms against a poor review from a NYT reporter on poor review of their model S, I decided to check into this a bit more.  What I discovered is two things, I cannot trust the NYT, at least anything from John M. Broder and second, the Tesla model S has really great data collection!

{UPDATE}  We have a response from the NYT.  Reading it now..

In John’s post titled Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway, he claims that the range of the Model S is so bad, that he had to turn down the heater, drive at 54 and at one point call for a tow truck.  Now here is the funny part, data logging was turned on the test car he was giving and it was MORE then clear, they John did everything just short of disconnecting the battery cables to insure the car would not perform up to standards.  In the past, there would have been no way to ever know what really happened, so you have to take the reporters word and the fact they are with the Times, you would think you could depend on that word.  Well clearly not!

Elon wrong a repost post titled A Most Peculiar Test Drive where he take apart John’s post point by point using data collected from the car directly. Lets have a look taken from Elon’s post…

Here is a summary of the key facts:

  • 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.
  • The final leg of his 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.
  • 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 (see images below). 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.
  • Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. 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.
  • At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.
  • The charge time on his second stop was 47 mins, going from -5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of EPA Rated Range, not 58 mins as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.
  • For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?
  • The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broder’s trip. When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” 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. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

As you can see, its more then clear the Broder had an agenda, or he is pretty clueless about electric cars, either way, the evidence is pretty damning.  I have yet to hear anything from NYT about this.  I would expect a retraction at the very least as well as Broder getting canned. That or perhaps all this data that Elon is releasing could itself be fabricated, but right now, the evidence seems to be pointing to bad reporter. I’m REALLY interested to hear John’s reply to this. But if Elon’s data is correct, the what is really concerning is someone would go to such extents to make an electric car fail in a test.  Makes you wonder if either he does not understand electric cars or he has an agenda.  Elon wondered that as well.

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. 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.

tesla datalogged NYT trip parking lotHowever, this is only one aspect of the story that I find interesting.  When you look at the data, it’s really interesting.  If the day ever comes I can afford a model S, I would want every little bit of tracking turned on.  I want to know charging, power consumption over various movement attributes; acceleration, cruise regenerative breaking, 220v vs 110c charging, etc… During a visit to the Tesla plant when I first saw the very first Model S still in build, I was enticed by the large table display in the car. I would LOVE to have this detailed data right there on the screen. I do remember asking if there would be an SDK so coders could write apps for such things.  I was told; ‘Perhaps… “.

One thing you may notice is the graphs are pretty rudimentary. I would LOVE to redesign this and write a more intuitive and dynamic display where drivers like me can see instantly how my driving habits affect positively and negatively on the cars performance.  I remember I rented a Prius last year and loved playing with it as I drove, trying to squeeze every amp I could.  I think all electric cars should have super detailed data, not just ones turned on for reporters.

Given all the data cars are collecting now, not just electrics, when should we be worried about our privacy?  I have no issue with it, but I bet you a tonne that John’s does right now.



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