His Tesla gored, a miffed Musk trashes the Times
Mark Rechtin is West Coast editor for Automotive News.
It's a scientific fact: Electric vehicles fare poorly in cold climates. And with no engine to push heat into the cabin, an electric heat pump and seat heaters are needed to warm the car's occupants, further draining the EV's battery.
So when The New York Times took a Tesla Model S for a spin from Washington to Boston in freezing temperatures -- ending with the vehicle out of juice on a flatbed -- it was almost to be expected. The surprise was Tesla's response.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the Feb. 8 account was "fake" and said data-loggers on the car's computer will "tell true story that [the reviewer] didn't actually charge to max & took a long detour."
In September, the Times tested a Model S using newly installed charging stations between Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- a drive the Times recounted in gushing detail. But this latest report threatens to cause serious damage to an automaker in startup mode.
EVs get no slack when it comes to mileage and range. If you drive one on the autobahn full tilt, your mileage and range will drop precipitously. But the same is true of a Porsche 911 or Toyota Camry if driven in a similar fashion. Yet while traditional cars get a pass, the reaction to an EV's reduced range is "Aha!"
Musk is trying to change the world with an EV that doesn't run out of juice after just 75 miles, like everyone else's. He says the Model S can do upward of 260 miles on a charge.
True-believing Model S owners were quick to jump on the anti-Times bandwagon, recounting their own long-range cold-weather drives that suffered no conk-outs or noticeable losses of range. (CNN conducted the exact same road test. Its simple review: "We're here. ... It worked.)
Whether the Times tested a car with a glitch or the reviewer was unfamiliar with EV charging procedures, it didn't matter. The car failed in a very public forum.
If Musk is truly going to change the world, it means operating as close as possible to an internal-combustion vehicle.
You can reach Mark Rechtin at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Mark on