This article has been updated twice, see near the bottom for further developments.
Elon Musk calls out the Grey Lady on Twitter
By most accounts, the Model S electric sedan by Tesla has an impressive driving range. Motor Trend drove it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without recharging, a father and son team drove it 400+ miles on a single charge, and another trio took a road-trip across the USA.
But a few days ago, the prestigious New York Times published a rather negative cold-weather review of the Model S by John M. Broder. The problem? According to Mr. Broder, the Model S doesn't get the range that it claims to get, at least not in cold weather. This isn't just a minor aside, but the centerpiece of the review, with a very long description of all the anxiety and problems caused by these range issues.
Well, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has responded on Twitter. You can see the tweets above (and we'll link to the more detailed blog post when it's available); basically, Tesla now turns on the logging feature on its EVs when it allows media to borrow them, and the logs on Mr. Broder's Model S tell a different story from what is in the NYT review. We'll have to wait for the details to be entirely sure, but I don't think Elon Musk would pick a fight with the biggest newspaper in the world if he didn't have a lot of data to back his claims.
Musk also mentions that he has nothing against the New York Times, and that on a previous review of the Model S, they got 300 miles on 1 charge.
Am not against NYTimes in general. They're usually fair & their own prev Tesla test drive got 300+ miles of range! twitter.com/elonmusk/statu…— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 11, 2013
Update: An official Tesla blog post hasn't yet been posted, but Musk has done a Bloomberg phone interview, giving some more details:
Update 2: John M. Broder, the NYT journalist, defends himself in this piece. He's basically saying: "My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it", and then gives explanations for each specific accusation. He stresses that the review was of the Supercharger network and not of the Model S: "Virtually everyone says that I should have plugged in the car overnight in Connecticut, particularly given the cold temperature. But the test that Tesla offered was of the Supercharger, not of the Model S, which we already know is a much-praised car. This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a 'normal use,' no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it. Now that Tesla is striving to be a mass-market automaker, it cannot realistically expect all 20,000 buyers a year (the Model S sales goal) to be electric-car acolytes who will plug in at every Walmart stop." The ball is now in Tesla's court to produce the vehicle's logs.
I do know that as more Supercharger stations are built and their geographic density increases, any problems with being out of range of a station will fade (in most places). So even if Broder's review turns out to be entirely truthful, it's only a snapshot in time.
One thing is for sure, if Tesla's accusations turn out to be substantiated, it should keep reviewers honest with Tesla products in the future. Nothing like publicly stating that you are recording logs on your test cars to keep people on the straight and narrow path of truth.