Elon Musk is
brave. You’ve got to give him that.
the PayPal billionaire and co-founder of Tesla Motors was ballsy
enough to provide one of his six figure electric lemons (produced
courtesy of $465 million in taxpayer-extorted “loans”
to the company) to a writer for the New York Times. Who proceeded
to write about it.
Just not in
the way that Elon Musk probably hoped he would.
The NY Times
writer – John Broder – decided to fact-check the Tesla’s
claimed 265 mile range by driving the thing from Washington, D.C.
to Norwich, CT. He barely made it – and that’s
with extended pit stops along the way at Tesla-provided electric
for the full rant) about having to turn off power-sapping accessories
such as the heater (in the middle of winter) and cut his
speed to 56 MPH (on the NJ Turnpike, where traffic routinely runs
70-plus) in order to avoid running the batteries dry before the
car could gimp itself to the next “supercharger” recharging
station. When he got there, he “tanked up” the batteries
to an indicated 186 mile range, drove another 80 miles and parked
the car overnight. The car’s range-meter (the electric car
equivalent of a gas gauge) indicated 90 miles remaining, Broder
wrote. Sufficient to make it to Norwhich – or so he thought.
– after sitting in the cold all night – that 90 mile
range had plummeted to just 26 miles. The car conked out before
it got close to Norwhich – and had to be flatbedded away.
article appeared, sparks flew over at Tesla’s HQ. Elon Musk
went so far as to accuse Broder of lying about the car’s performance.
In a Tweet, he wrote: “NY Times article about Tesla range
in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t
actually charge to the max and took a long detour.”
Eileen Murphy fired back, stating that Broder’s piece was
As a car journalist
who has test-driven several electric cars, I’m siding with
Broder and the NY Times. Let me first deconstruct Musk’s Tweet:
that Broder “didn’t actually charge to the max”
and that’s like “starting off a drive with a tank that’s
not full.” Well, except when you start off with say half a
tank in a gas-burning car (the equivalent of an indicated 186 mile
range in an electric car) it doesn’t plummet to an eighth
of a tank before you actually begin your drive.
One of the
biggest functional/engineering obstacles to electric car viability
is that batteries lose power in the cold – while gasoline
doesn’t. If you leave your car parked in the garage with half
a tank, it’ll still have a half-tank tomorrow morning. And
range isn’t affected greatly by weather.
car’s range is.
it is, the shorter your range will be. Not just because batteries
are less efficient in the cold, but also because in the cold, you’ll
be using electricity for other things besides moving the car. Things
like the heater – which in an electric car is powered by electricity
– and if it’s dark out, you’ll be burning headlights
longer – which also means burning juice. Which you have a
finite amount of.
There is only
so much juice – and once it’s gone, you are stuck. As
happened to Broder.
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Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2013 Eric Peters
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