This whole controversy has been a little depressing to read...not that the Tesla vs. NYT discussions here have been worse than on other forums, but just because it shows how technical minded people are as easily swayed by preconceptions and alliances as more ostensibly non-scientific minds.
How many words have been expended in the other HN thread to allege that Broder -- after most have already established that he is a charlatan -- is receiving oblique funding from his Big Oil paymasters? It may very well be that Broder got a swimming pool full of BP-money in his offshore hideaway...but isn't it possible that just maybe, that Elon Musk has a vested interest in advocating for Tesla? Like, just a little bit?
It doesn't have to be that Musk is trying to cover up the truth. It could just be that this is his big project and he is overly sensitive to (some of it admittedly unfair) criticism to the point where he'll see malice where there is none. It's possible: bias from sentimental influence is not unheard of in the scientific community.
One of the most disappointing things about Musk's response was how he closed it with an out-of-context anecdote:
In his own words in an article published last year, this is how Broder felt about electric cars before even seeing the Model S:
"Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.”
If you read that article, Broder was clearly referring to the controversy behind the Chevy Volt, which he also compared unfavorably to a "lawnmower".
So basically, if you think Musk knows what he's talking about, then Broder spoke the truth about the Volt. Yet Musk uses Broder's assessment as a closing statement of damning circumstantial proof that Broder is decidedly anti-electric car.
Oh I know, this kind of cheap rhetorical trick is what all politicians and businessmen do, and it's OK if someone we all really admire does it, as long as his heart's in the right place. Maybe so, but I don't think it hurts to be a little more objective towards our heroes and realize that they can be prone to misjudgment too.
I've read all the arguments on both sides, and while both have made good points, there is one that stands out.
This reporter clearly barely made any attempt at recharging his empty vehicle in Norwich, and then attempted a drive well beyond the car's capabilities, then made the "running out of fuel" his headline.
If he would have done this on gasoline, the result would have been the same, and I think that is getting lost in the clutter of all of the other points being made on this subject.
"When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford. It was a different story at 8:30 the next morning. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the display showed 25 miles of remaining range"
"I called Tesla in California, and the official I woke up said I needed to “condition” the battery pack to restore the lost energy."
Looking back, I should have bought a membership to Butch’s and spent a few hours there while the car charged. The displayed range never reached the number of miles remaining to Milford, and as I limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately. Mr. Merendino, the product planner, found an E.V. charging station about five miles away.
But the Model S had other ideas. “Car is shutting down,”"
Sounds like he was in constant contact with Tesla and they incorrectly stated that the ~65 miles lost overnight would magically return, and Mr. Broder, unfortunately, took them for their word and left the charging station with the dash showing less than the amount needed to make the trip.
You're missing a part of the article (that supports your point) - here's a paste of two paragraphs straight from the article
Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford.
Looking back, I should have bought a membership to Butch’s and spent a few hours there while the car charged. The displayed range never reached the number of miles remaining to Milford, and as I limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately. Mr. Merendino, the product planner, found an E.V. charging station about five miles away.
He clearly states that the displayed range never reached the distance to Milford, and that he (essentially) ignored warnings to recharge. Nevertheless, the Tesla employee he spoke to cleared him to resume the journey.
There's a lot of nonsense being thrown around here, but THIS is where the stall occurred. It would be great to see a call log, if one was available - did Mr. Broder clearly state when he was cleared that the displayed range was not sufficient to meet Milford and did the Tesla employee clear him to go despite this? Was he cleared, with the Tesla employee assuming mileage was sufficient, and Mr. Broder chose not to correct this assumption?
I've seen a lot of people drive around with their 'check engine' light permanently lit up. This is because somebody told them it's ok, that it means their fuel cap is a little loose but it's not a problem, or whatever other reason that isn't serious. If the Tesla employee was aware of the displayed range and still cleared Mr. Broder's departure, then the 'correct' party in this case seems obvious, and his behavior is not in any way unusual.
Mr. Broder's reply in the other thread was "I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires."
I dont know how it measures speed whether GPS or wheel rotation or both and if that would make a difference. Anyone care to fact check?
Looking at the Tesla Model S website both 19" and 21" wheels (not tires) are available. The 19" wheels have 245/45R19 tires and the 21" wheels have 245/35R21. Punching that in to a tire size calculator shows the following:
The NYT upgraded their paywall this week, so there is a good chance that most of HN did not in fact read the NYT article before commenting on it.
Also, there is a disturbing amount of herd mentality in these comments; people are instinctively shielding/supporting Elon Musk, a fellow techie, rather than the "interloping" journalist, even though even a cursory Google search of other reviews of the Model S, the Roadster, and other manufacturers' EVs will show that they all suffer from the same battery charging/status problems.
It should also be noted that Elon Musk has made public misrepresentations in the recent past about competitors to SpaceX, in particular, about the cause of Boeing's battery problems, and he had a history of making similar remarks about credit card companies while he worked at Paypal.
"When I parked the car for the night at a hotel, the range meter showed 90 miles remaining, and I was about 45 miles from the Milford Supercharger. As I recounted in the article, when I awoke the next morning the indicated range was 25 miles. The rest of that story is told in the article, including a Tesla official’s counsel, which I followed, that an hour of charging at the Norwich, Conn., utility would restore much of the range lost overnight, which had disappeared because of what he called a “software glitch.”"
In my own car during day to day driving? Of course not. If I was reviewing a car and was told that it was OK? Of course! Don't curious minds want to know if the missing miles will actually return on their own? It's not like his life was in any real danger, or that he was late for work or something.
Well remember that the car "lost" 60 miles of range overnight. If the Tesla people told him that charging it for a bit would restore the range it is conceivable that he would think that the whole 60 miles would come back. Remember that not everyone has a detailed understanding of how cold temperatures affect lithium ion batteries.
Maybe. It's an electric car. I don't have a lot of experience with electric cars and I already know that the range estimate can be off by a lot. I'd probably call up Tesla and ask them, which is exactly what Broder says he did.
"Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford."
Well, if Broder's headline was "Tesla Employee Let My Car Run Down", he'd have been telling the story you can extract out of the text.
However, "Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway" somehow tells a story where blame is a lot more fuzzy.
Broder told a complicated story and put a poetically negative spin on it. It is entirely understandable that Musk would want to simplify this down to negative claims he could refute. This might seem unfair but I don't think it is because the New York Time reader isn't going say "well, either the driver, the Tesla employee or the car made some mistakes or just couldn't understand each other, what does this prove?", a reader in these days of simplification will just get "Tesla doesn't work in the cold" and so Musk is correct to refute this arguably false claim.
"Broder told a complicated story and put a poetically negative spin on it."
I will never forget when my friend and I released an iPhone app, and two years later Apple comes out with a product of the same name. My friend got contacted by a reporter asking these innocuous questions, for instance "do you expect Apple to remove your app from the App Store?". He said he doesn't expect any problems, but that we're willing to talk about it with Apple.
The headline? "Indie developer braces for legal battle over app named ###"
Looking back on it, the questions the reporter asked were absolutely leading questions to suit his own (anti-Apple) agenda. This is why anyone talking to the press needs to be very careful what they say.
I think "Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway" is actually a defendable claim, if we see the entire thing as a test of the current state of Tesla's recharging network. But claiming that their current recharging station network is not a drop in replacement for gas stations and gasoline fueled cars is of course a hugely unfair spin of a story about Tesla and electric cars in general.
Just to be clear, there is a very reasonable case to be made about the miles that did not "magically" disappear. Unless the battery was giving off heat all night, where else did the energy go?
The "conditioning" sounds like a explanatory shortcut to explaining that ambient temperature affects measurements, and therefore also estimated range.
Without really understanding the details, I think two things: The NYT should have more sophisticated reviews, Tesla should have better QA over its support services to make sure fewer people are given unreasonably optimistic assessments about their range.
Tesla says you don't have to plug in the vehicle overnight -- that you can leave it at the airport for a week. Maybe their marketing team overruled their technical team, but holding Tesla to something that Tesla claims to do isn't horrible.
Other Tesla owners have reported this exact problem (inaccurate charging gauge) in the Roadster; other reviewers have noted this problem in the Model S. Moreoever, this problem is endemic to all pure-electric vehicles in cold climates, such as Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts. (Google for references)
Ergo, the likelihood of (1) the reporter not fully charging his car's battery and (2) the fuel guage inaccurately reporting a fully charged battery is the realm of more likely than not.
If the car tells you it has half a tank left, and if you find out 10 miles later that the car is almost empty, who do you blame? Do you blame the driver for not having filled the tank or do you blame the car for potentially misreporting the levels?
In context, I wonder if the data recorded by the tesla is indeed the same data reported on the dashboard. What would be cool and definitive is if they could present "screenshots" of what was displayed.
More general, what I would like to see, given the detail Tesla kept on the car, is a log of the phone calls that Broder made to Tesla during the journey.
If you assume that at no point during the journey did the gauge correct itself, and that the reporter was right to just drive past fueling stations until he "had to be towed", then you assume the vehicle has serious operational problems.
I will wait for more evidence before I believe that to be the case.
The reporter's behaviors are indeed consistent with what he claims he was told by Tesla when he called them during the journey. If the car manufacturer told me that regenerative braking can help extend the mileage, as dumb as it sounds I absolutely would repeatedly brake the car. I'm not an expert in electric vehicles, and if the company is telling me this is good for the car I wouldn't be in a position to refute it (especially under duress).
This is why I want to see the logs of the conversations. If the guy is running low, calls tesla and they say its not an issue, I can't blame him for malice. If he intentionally misdiagnosed the situation and presented it in a way that he would have received the advice he got, then we could blame him for malice (and it would be apparent from the log)
On the driver side, I'm surprised he didn't stop and take photos of the dashboard showing the range drop (especially if he thought it wasn't normal). I do this all the time (taking a picture of the dash, including odometer and fuel level) because I park in garages and I've noticed that, every once in a while, I'll come back and see the gas levels fall much more than expected.
Regenerative braking should not use the brake pads.
More importantly: battery chemistry is weird and differs widely between technologies (for example, should you completely empty lithium ion batteries every now and then, or is that disastrous for the batteries? How is that for NiMh batteries? Does the memory effect exist? Etc.).
That overnight loss likely was (mostly) not a loss at all, but due to the difference in mileage you can get out of a warm vs a cold battery pack, or maybe even out of one that had recently seen small charge cycles due to regenerative braking vs one that hadn't (IMO unlikely, but as I said, battery chemistry is weird)
If Tesla told me that regenerative braking would improve available range in this situation, I think I would take them for their word.
> If Tesla told me that regenerative braking would improve available range in this situation, I think I would take them for their word.
Think about what you're saying.
Thesis: periodically pressing on the brake pedal and allowing some of the car's energy to be captured by flywheel generation actually improves battery life and vehicle range compared to simply driving along at the same average speed. True or false?
In order for the above to be true, and given that acceleration takes battery energy and regenerative deceleration delivers battery energy, to argue that pressing on the brakes improves battery life is to argue that braking produces more energy for the battery than acceleration requires from it -- in other words, that the car is a perpetual motion machine, free of all natural constraints and scientific laws.
Beyond the above-quoted thermodynamic law, there is the energy conservation law, to wit: energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_energy_conservation). Therefore it is impossible for the car to deliver more energy by decelerating than it acquired by accelerating.
Therefore if someone at Tesla actually offered the advice that stop-and-go driving actually increases battery life and vehicle range, that person needs remedial physics education before being allowed to speak to customers again.
I don't think I said that; I certainly did not intend to.
Let me retry: the amount of energy you can get out of a battery will drop slowly, but we can ignore that.
Because of the properties of the battery, the amount of energy you can get out in a form that can drive the car may be a lot lower (extreme example: 1W of power may not be enough to even drive the electronics that control the starting of the engine. If so, a 1GWh battery that is full but delivers at most 1W will not take the car anywhere)
Secondly, the amount of power that you can get out and use to drive the car will depend on the environment (temperature, in particular) and, likely, on previous charge/discharge cycles. I know I am not an expert on this, but I know this isn't simple. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery#Conditionin... shows I am not alone in that. After scrapping the 'may's, 'belief's and 'debate's, little information, if any, is left.
Also, I understand the battery control software has safeguarding against full decharging, as that would be a costly affair. That software may have quirks. Given the age of the car's design and the number of hours all cars combined have been on the road, I think it is a safe bet that it does have quirks, especially for uncommon scenarios.
If the battery had more power than the software estimated, and that that power would be able to drive the car, once the battery warmed up, it all was a matter of convincing the software about that.
If the car's manufacturer suggests multiple small recharge-charge cycles (using regenerative braking) to do that, why would I distrust them? I know almost nothing about the chemistry of the batteries, and even less about their control software.
I would have thought the problems with the notion that you could recharge your car by driving it funny to be obvious: that would make it into a perpetual motion machine. Such things do not exist, nor can they.
You lack knowledge of physics, not chemistry. The implications of entropy are what you do not seem to realize. These things are independent of the car's inner workings.
> If the car's manufacturer suggests multiple small recharge-charge cycles (using regenerative braking) to do that, why would I distrust them?
The answer is simple -- they're wrong. Regenerative braking cannot recover more energy than was lost in getting the car to its present velocity, so the advice to engage in stop-and-go driving emanates from someone who doesn't understand physics.
Phase 1: Acceleration -- energy is provided by the battery to the car's electric motors. The battery energy required is greater than or equal to the car's final velocity as shown in m * v^2 / 2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_energy).
Phase 2: Braking (deceleration) -- energy may be recovered from the act of braking and delivered to the battery. There are two choices -- either turn the car's energy into heat with brake pads, or turn some of it into electrical energy that flows back into the battery using a method called "regenerative braking".
Can the energy recovered by Phase 2 equal the energy expended in Phase 1? No, this is not possible -- because of the second law of thermodynamics, one cannot recover all the energy, there are inevitable losses.
Therefore (read carefully) stop-and-go driving is always less efficient than driving at a fixed speed. Always.
> I know almost nothing about the chemistry of the batteries, and even less about their control software.
I'm not addressing what you may or may not know, only what the facts are. And if someone at Tesla actually offered the advice to engage in stop-and-go driving in order to increase the car's range, someone needs to go back to school.
I agree that that's the weirdest part of the journalist's story.
Why doesn't Musk focus on that? Instead of trying to discredit the reporter by saying he maliciously lied about when he turned the heat on or off by a couple miles, or whether the car had actually run out of juice at the very end.
I have a question for you. Knowing that Broder definately misrepresented the facts, based on what we do see in the logs, why should we then believe his recounting of the conversations that he had with Tesla support staff?
> After making arrangements to recharge at the Norwich station, I located the proper adapter in the trunk, plugged in and walked to the only warm place nearby, Butch’s Luncheonette and Breakfast Club, an establishment (smoking allowed) where only members can buy a cup of coffee or a plate of eggs. But the owners let me wait there while the Model S drank its juice. Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford.
Looking back, I should have bought a membership to Butch’s and spent a few hours there while the car charged. The displayed range never reached the number of miles remaining to Milford, and as I limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately. Mr. Merendino, the product planner, found an E.V. charging station about five miles away.
So if you read just Musk's piece, you get the perception that Broder lied about not knowing that he was under-juiced. To paraphrase:
Broder: "I should've stayed at the diner and charged for more hours"
Musk: "Broder is an idiot who should've stayed at the diner and charged for more hours"
OK, no argument there. But if Broder is trying to show what a lemon the Tesla is, he's sure doing about it at a roundabout way (which I guess I what we'd expect a well-heeled Big Oil secret agent to do).
So Broder is a professional journalist at the Times, but as far as I can tell, his role is to not describe what it's feels like to be a tech-expert who owns a Tesla. His scenario is not at all alien to anyone who's driven a gas-powered car and skipped "just one more" off-ramp even as the fuel meter hovers at 0.
Irresponsible? Sure. But this is how an average car owner might act. Not every car owner has, on a given day, the ability to wait around an extra hour after breakfast at a diner for the car to keep charging. If the charging stations are as commonplace as the map Musk produced indicates, then Broder may have thought (and misjudged) that he could make it to the next public station.
I think a passage from earlier in Broder's review is a good insight to what he was thinking:
> I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn’t smiling.
Instead, I spent nearly an hour at the Milford service plaza as the Tesla sucked electrons from the hitching post. When I continued my drive, the display read 185 miles, well beyond the distance I intended to cover before returning to the station the next morning for a recharge and returning to Manhattan.
The success of Tesla depends on the electric infrastructure improving dramatically. Until that comes about, there is apparently a lot of babying and thinking ahead that a Tesla owner has to do even when the car is running just fine.
I find it funny that so many people here are so quick to jump on Broder for not being so patient and tech savvy. While not everyone here is a huge Apple fan, I think most would laugh at a hardware manufacturer who delivered a high powered laptop that performed with variable results depending on the conditions of the day: it's powerful, and cutting edge, you'd just have to remember to plug it at night remember that the battery's decline won't be at a constant rate for more than the usual range of reasons.
It's not Tesla's fault that charging stations aren't ubiquitous, and Tesla deserves a lot of credit for trying to change it. And it's not Tesla's fault that people are sometimes dumb, impatient, and not constantly vigilant. But that's the reality of the market Tesla is selling its $100,000 vehicle for, and this is the market that the media writes for.
I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that people need to put a little more thought into a car that's fundamentally different than standard cars today.
Your last paragraph is making a bad comparison to try and put down this point: a laptop operates off of all one reservoir, while the current ICE car uses gas to drive and a battery to operate the "other stuff". We watch the gas gauge and see that it drops in a direct correlation with our driving and for the most part ignore the battery charge gauge.
When an EV starts pulling both driving and "other stuff" power from the same reservoir, we're surprised because we weren't aware before of the usage of the other things. Thus, a bit more mind needs to be paid to aspects that we didn't care about before. Though it's not the best comparison either, travelers switching from horses to cars had to start thinking about things like fuel reservoirs; it can just be the nature of disruptive advances.
That's not quite right. Traditional cars have batteries, but those batteries are just to smooth out energy usage so you can start the car a few days after stopping it, power the radio for a few hours, etc. But of course the charge used fundamentally comes from gasoline, via the engine's alternator.
No, if something is different than you need make is stand out.
Its something like this, before mechanical vehicles came in you could ride your horse cart even if the horse was a little hungry. When cars came along it was the responsibility of the car maker to provide with an accurate fuel gauge so that the customers could refuel when needed.
Very clearly Tesla's charge indicators have a bug. They don't take into consideration or in correctly calculate mileage when temperatures change.
The Supercharger is a hell of a lot faster than the charging station in Norwich he set off to get to it from, though. As in, it can do a full charge in the amount of time it'd take him to get any kind of meaningful additional top-up at Norwich .
>>Except, he would need to wait around at the next charging station anyway. So, taking a risk more or less stupid behavior.
Your new car's fuel indicator says you have more than half tank full of fuel in the night. You sleep, when you get up in the morning it says you only have something like 4 liters left. Something like half tank worth fuel vanishes overnight.
What will you do? Will you suspect fuel leakage, faulty fuel gauge or something else. Since the car is new, you are likely to call the dealership. The guy there says, just add an additional liter and fuel gauge should be pushed enough to show the last night's reading.
Clearly the customer is at no fault here. A bug in the fuel indicator due to temperature is not his problem.
>>As to people doing the same thing, of course they do. Do you have any idea how many people run out of gas despite how common gas stations are and the standard reserve capacity?
Its one thing to have a empty fuel tank out of absent mindedness and totally a different thing when your fuel indicator says you can go 90 miles before parking for a night and then 45 miles in the morning.
To assume that your customer must be intelligent is the biggest mistake you can ever make.
I worked at the Dell technical support call center some years back and our training said very specifically until you ascertain the caller actually knows what he is doing, you need to assume they are dumb. This saves a lot of trouble.
There are countless times when some one calls and I have to explain them they can get internet on their computer only if they a internet connection. It takes a lot of patience, to explain to someone that the the CD needs to be put in the CD drive with the shiny side facing down. Many people don't understand that they need something like VLC player or a codec to play a video.
Many people would view a computer as something similar to a TV. They simply expect things to work out of the box. There are times when I have assisted the elderly in creating email id's and teaching how to use email. There was one elderly woman who had literally become friends with me, I had to call her everyday and practically tutor her. The managers were OK, because many times this sort of calls bought in sales.
And this is beyond real issues that we would solve.
You can't adopt a programmers approach of RTFM or get lost approach or act like 'I know it all' with ordinary people.
In this case not everyone will understand enough chemistry behind how batteries work. That is simply too much to ask from an ordinary user. Your product automatically needs to check for the temperature around, do the magical calculations and tell the user EXACTLY what they need to do. And when someone calls you for help you need to first ensure they are safe before beginning to do any trouble shooting. At the call center, we would specifically instruct the customers to shut down their machines before trouble shooting for any thing more than a trivial software install. In this case the guys at Tesla should have asked him to get this batteries to be charge to 100% before investigating or advising him any further.
And yes customer support is a part of the product not something apart from or outside it. Its all a part of the package. If you a sell a great car with bad customer support, you are ideally selling a bad car.
>To assume that your customer must be intelligent is the biggest mistake you can ever make.
It's not about customers being less intelligent than you; that's an arrogant stance to take in these kinds of situations. Lots of people are intelligent enough to understand how batteries work -- or how computer programs work -- if they should choose to spend the time and effort it would take to do so.
But they're not choosing to do so. They're not your R&D team. They're your customers, and they're paying you big money for something that will make their lives easier.
In this case, they're paying for a car that's going to get them from point A to point B with no hassles, so they can focus their intelligence on problems of their choosing, not on problems with your product.
The reporter didn't really use the car correctly, agreed. There were other factors involved as well though: the poor performance in bad weather conditions, the weather conditions, and Tesla not providing good customer support. If Elon wants to stop this happening again, perhaps he should look to the factors he can control?
I didn't want to take sides either way, because it's obvious that Broder's and Musk's interests are diametrically opposed and so both viewpoints need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
However, after reading this article it's clear to me that the data shows Broder flat-out lied about several things (like turning down the heat or setting cruise control to 54 MPH). He also clearly did not just use one of myriad charging stations on the way, even when it was apparent that the car would run out of juice soon. He chose not to recharge. He also chose not to charge the car fully at any of his other stops. While it's fine to play fast-and-loose with your "gas tank" like that (heck, I've done it with normal cars), it's another thing if you do it deliberately to write an "out of gas" headline.
It doesn't matter if the author finds several of these points convincing or not. If the log data is to be believed, it shows that Broder did several things that actively contributed to his running out of energy, and then he lied about doing them.
Both of those assertions are semi-true, at least - It looks like he averaged around 54mph between 400 and 460 miles. He also turned down the heat as claimed, but not when he stated - roughly between 250 and 300 miles. I'm willing to chalk that up to poor note-taking.
I don't think Broder was violating his journalistic integrity but I do think he fell into the confirmation bias trap. He took the car for a test drive with the preconceived judgement that electric cars are not ready yet esp. in cold weather conditions. Then he subconsciously starts doing things to support his hypothesis, hiding behind his flawed reasoning that this is what any common person would do. The experiment was doomed to fail from the start. I can very easily create a similar situation with a gas-powered car -- it really isn't very hard to run out of gas if you are not vigilant about how much gas is left and where the gas station is located. In this case the charging stations are no where as widespread as gas stations are.
You are misquoting the interview. Basically, he said "Tesla is not doing hybrids because we think that hybrids cannot be as efficient as pure electric or pure gasoline cars". He never said that hybrids are a dead end, just that he and his team think that they cannot be pushed to the same level of efficiency.
The lawnmower comment is out of context and the link you provide misquotes it as much as you do. Specifically, "And then when you have consumed your 40 miles, which is not going to happen every day, but maybe every third day, you are going to have an engine that is really underpowered. It's kind of like a lawnmower engine trying to power my sedan. So it's going to be running at very high RPM, it's going to be working really really hard..." (with some stuttering taken out).
You can in fact question a lot of what he said. The Chevy Volt does not have two drive trains. The engine does not power the wheels directly, but is connected a generator which powers the electric motor. The gas engine in a Chevy Volt spins at three very comfortable RPM levels, and I believe the highest is 4500 RPM or so. I think what he did is slyly switched the topic from the Volt to other plug-in hybrids like the Prius, where I can see some of these problems being an issue. In other words, you are right, he definitely is trying to downplay any competition. However, he did not say that the Volt is a lawmower.
I am also somewhat confused as to why a 40 mile powerpack needs to exert 5x the power of a 200 mile powerpack, though this may be my own lack of understanding.
The "Norwich Charge" data point is all you need to understand what happened here. Notice how vague Broder is in his original account:
"After making arrangements to recharge at the Norwich station, I located the proper adapter in the trunk, plugged in and walked to the only warm place nearby, Butch’s Luncheonette and Breakfast Club, an establishment (smoking allowed) where only members can buy a cup of coffee or a plate of eggs. But the owners let me wait there while the Model S drank its juice. Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford."
At every previous charge, he noted the exact mileage remaining when he headed out. Why not this time? Because the estimated range when he left that charging station was less than he needed to reach his destination and he knew damn well that that was the case.
(How he convinced the Tesla people to "clear" him at that point is a mystery that hasn't been followed up on by either party.)
Later he hand-waves past this by saying he was testing the superchargers, not normal chargers. But the fact is he knew he would run out of charge midway to his destination if he didn't charge the car longer. Instead, he decided to intentionally set up a situation where the car would be stranded.
Elon might have been better off concentrating on this point more, rather than some of the smaller inaccuracies. But the data is clear: the reporter was in full control of the situation and manufactured the failure himself.
> Elon might have been better off concentrating on this point more, rather than some of the smaller inaccuracies.
I agree. Often when you're arguing, you have a really strong argument and a few weaker ones. You'd think that making both the strong argument and the weaker ones would be the best case, (ie, that the strength of your case equals the sum of the strength of its components). In fact, in public discourse often the opposite is true. People will knock down your weaker arguments, making you and your case look bad. So I think the strength of your case might actually be closer to the minimum of the strength of its components.
For this reason, Elon would likely have been better off to emphasize and shore up his strongest argument--that Broder knowingly did not charge enough at Norwich--rather than try and nickle and dime Broder on a lot of smaller issues.
Worse than that: imagine you have one absolutely damning issue and four weak ones. If the weak ones are swatted away one-by-one or muddled, the reader doesn't even remember the damning one that remains. It even comes off as "well, the person making the accusation prefered to spend time talking about the weak ones while he could have been talking about the ostensibly strong one, so how strong could it really have been?"
I would argue it's nearly always best, both rhetorically and analytically, to reconstruct your opponent's case as generously and sympathetically as possible, and then bear down very hard on your strong point.
> In fact, in public discourse often the opposite is true.
This isn't just true in public discourse by the way. It's true in proposal/grant writing, legal argumentation, or even just arguing with your parents. You should always lead with your strongest arguments, and think very carefully before including any weak ones. Humans are just bad at doing weighted analysis of persuasive arguments. Say you have an argument, with three points, with weights: 0.9, 0.05, and 0.05. Your opponent destroying your two weak arguments is going to convince the reader or decision maker far more than the 0.1 combined weight of the arguments.
My exposure to the subject has been in the legal context. This is a popular textbook on legal argumentation: Gardner, Legal Argument: The Structure and Language of Effective Advocacy. Someone has an older edition for cheap on EBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/LEGAL-ARGUMENT-THE-STRUCTURE-AN-/310.... The text is quite general, not all that specific to the legal context.
Earlier in the article, Broder claims that Tesla blamed the mileage inaccuracies on a computer glitch, and that some battery reconditioning would restore the range lost overnight. So it's not impossible that either he, or Tesla, (or both) believed the mileage readout to be inaccurately low, caused by a bug triggered by low temperature readings. I think the author implies that this was the situation, but it is indeed vague. Unless a transcript of the phone calls is released, this will probably remain a contentious point forever.
That all comes down to what Broder claims someone told him on a phone call. Except he doesn't quote them verbatim and never provides the name(s) of the people he was talking to.
Given all that they had at stake, namely a disastrous NY Times review, how likely is it that Tesla would knowingly say "Oh, your reading says 30 miles, but you have more than twice that still to travel? Meh, it's probably just a computer glitch. Carry on."
"[Quoting Elon]'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.'
"The Tesla personnel whom I consulted over the phone – Ms. Ra and Mr. Merendino – told me to leave it connected for an hour, and after that the lost range would be restored. I did not ignore their advice."
If I had to guess, I'd bet they talked to him on the phone, saying "Try plugging it in for an hour, that should fix it", figuring after an hour he would call them back if it needed more charge. He didn't call them back, and instead set out knowing he was about to be stranded and have a great story, since he could always claim "Well I followed their advice to the letter! It's their fault!"
I think you've missed the most important part of that paragraph:
>"...Tesla’s experts said that pumping in a little energy would help restore the power lost overnight as a result of the cold weather, and after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford."
Tesla themselves cleared Broder to make the trip. If I was driving a BMW with a BMW engineer in the front seat, and he told me that I would be able to make my journey despite the "empty" or "check engine" lights flashing, I would believe him and keep driving. I don't see why this scenario is any different.
To people who say that Broder is just making it up, and that Tesla never cleared him to make the journey, I ask you this: why won't Musk release the call logs to prove it?
I guess it's time to muddy the waters. The truth is in the middle!
Of course, the entire debacle can be summed up with the following exchange:
Q: "How many miles did you have left to drive on the final leg?"
Q: "And how many miles did your car tell you that you could travel before recharging?"
Of course, Broder claims that Tesla told him it was OK to leave. I think this is bullshit, but will never know. The fact is he basically was stupid enough to essentially leave a gas station with half a tank when he had a full tanks worth of distance to travel. The only way you would do this is if you want to get stuck. I don't care how scientific you are trying to be, you wouldn't risk being stuck out in the cold with a dead car unless you really wanted that to happen. Why we should take anything this man writes about cars seriously is beyond me.
Yeah, I think it's a little unfortunate actually that Elon Musk threw in so many other more minor points of contention. While they did help him spin a narrative of intentional malice (useful for his purposes but debatable as truth), they are also easier to quibble about (well maybe the driving around the parking lot was just trying to find a spot, etc).
The most sensational part of the article was the photo of a cutting-edge luxury car on a flat bed. That situation was directly caused by ignoring common sense. That's the main point Tesla's blog entry should have made; the rest is noise.
> The fact is he basically was stupid enough to essentially leave a gas station with half a tank when he had a full tanks worth of distance to travel.
Part of the problem is that apparently the Tesla's displayed range can show one value after a cold night, then will increase when the battery warms up and is providing more energy. So you legitimately can start driving with too little range, and then it will come back. I assume that's why the Tesla rep cleared it too.
Measuring usable capacity left in a battery is much more art than science still. You can model the drain rate and change your estimates based on historic usage and do all kinds of fancy FFT and other signal processing, but in the end it's still an estimate, batteries are not immune to physics, and li-ion batteries won't save the world (but they will create lots of hazardous waste in creation and disposal).
What if I'm in the car and it says 32 miles and I ask the BMW sales guy if we'll make it 60mi. He says, yeah, it is a 100k car and has a new engine you've never used before, it's just the cold weather which as it warms up will cause the reading to show more range.
This seems to be the killer argument from Elon Musk.
What's interesting is that Rebecca Greenfield doesn't see it as convincing argument at all. Here's her explanation for siding with Broder:
"Broder also explains that he did not charge fully because of the time it took to charge. He wanted to show the real world experience of a real driver, who might not want to endure the hour and a half it takes to charge up, when only needing a certain amount of energy to get to point B"
What?? In what 'real world' would someone needing to travel 61 miles leave a charging station with an estimated range of 32 miles?
I get the feeling that Rebecca Greenfield realised that an article titled "Elon Musk's Data Doesn't Back Up His Claims" would generate more interest than "Elon Musk's Data Doesn't Back Up Most Of His Claims, But For One Of His Claims the Data Is Compelling"
I'll third this. Here are his quotes from the article about Broder's motivation:
> [for why he didn't fully charge:] He wanted to show the real world experience of a real driver, who might not want to endure the hour and a half it takes to charge up, when only needing a certain amount of energy to get to point B.
> [for why he didn't use any of the non-supercharging stations:] Broder wanted to see how the car would do on a long range road trip relying on Tesla's two official Supercharger stations.
They're entirely compatible. Non-Supercharger stations like the one he stopped at are really, really slow at charging compared to Supercharger ones - we're talking "leave your car overnight" slow here!
"Convincing? No. His other chart shows the mile range dipped below zero, which would indicate the car could not move. "
Wow, I wish I could be as sloppy and awful at my job as these journalists are. Had he actually bothered to truly read the response he is commenting on, he would see that Musk states that, when the car's range dips below zero, it is running on reserve power. It takes some miles after "zero" for the car to actually stop moving.
What a hack. There is truly nothing worse than reading something by someone who has no education in comprehending quantitative data try to critique it.
However, I do agree with his statement on the climate control. That was something I noticed when I read Musk's response. Clearly, the Broder turned the heat down, just not as early as he thought/claimed.
Can I add on argument 6.:
>>No. That wasn't the point of the article. Broder wanted to see how the car would do on a long range road trip relying on Tesla's two official Supercharger stations. <<
Ok, he wanted to rely on only official stations, but did he really have to completely discharge the car? Why couldn't he just stop and charge when he was super low at any normal charge station, and explain in the article that the two supercharge stations, failed? Well that's because then he couldn't post a nice article titled >>Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway<<
Yeah, I've seen journalists trying to defend Broder, acting as if he had zero incentive to have the car die on him. Funny how they say that, yet the article went to the front page of virtually ever link aggreagator out there, while glowing reviews are old news and are thus ignored.
Broder knew it, and he wanted the car to die. We all know that. What is in debate here is to what degree he went to make the vehicle die that differs from what an average driver who wants to get to point B would have done.
I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Broder might not have wanted to "be evil". He might be like the guy who doesn't actually want to hurt the company he is working for but still spends all his day playing games at work.
Given that his job was to write an accurate review, the fact that he didn't really want to wait until the car is fully charged and was bored driving the car at normal speed and so on, we can say he did a poor job with the review.
As someone who's tried, with varied success, to work with reporters on technical stuff, I don't subscribe to "the somewhere in the middle" view.
To us geeks, often, stuff is either true or not true, with no room for maybe.
To reporters, they're both trying to understand what's happening without direct knowledge as well as convey that in a way a layperson can understand. Unfortunately, in that game of telephone, a lot of important details get lost.
I also think reporters deal with imperfect information and rely on their judgement to determine if any particular detail is important to the overall narrative, often influenced by the competing agendas of the players involved.
What's great (rare) about this story is there's published data, the validity of which no one disputes (yet), to chew over.
And I don't get how there's this perception here on HN that Tesla's data is ironclad.
The logging routines were probably written by humans, so there could be bugs in them. Logs are usually written to text files, which can be edited. The people interpreting the data could be making mistakes with the analysis before it even gets to Musk (look at all the posts about the problems with Excel on HN in the past couple of days).
Tesla's a startup. Startups can be a little chaotic. Their procedures and controls with respect to their data may not be as robust as, say a credit card company's, yet there's this big presumption that the data is all good and pure.
I would give Tesla the benefit of the doubt, since it would be very stupid to doctor up the data, but let's not all kid ourselves and not assume that Tesla's not going to shade their "analysis" in a way that is favorable to their argument. It's not much different than what the NYT reporter and the NYT are doing.
From the NYT Company's "Guidelines on Integrity" :
"... it is imperative that The Times and its staff maintain the highest possible standards to insure that we do nothing that might erode readers’ faith and confidence in our news columns. This means that staff members should be vigilant in avoiding any activity that might pose an actual or apparent conflict of interest and thus threaten the newspaper's ethical standing. And it also means that the journalism we practice daily must be beyond reproach."
Correction: For the NYT's business, their reputation for integrity is what's important, not the actual integrity of their work. For example, it could be better (or just safer) for that reputation to make up a story that agrees with the conventional wisdom than to tell an unexpected truth that does not.
The Judy Miller incidents directly refute your assertion that they don't deal in controversies (and arguably gossip). Arguing that they don't do those things at all, except when they do, isn't very convincing, and your conclusion is a non-sequitur at any rate. "Many other occasions!"
Also, that's the heater setting, not the cabin temperature. I can set my car's internal heat setting to 50 degrees after getting it nice and toasty, and as long as I don't turn the A/C on it's going to stay warm for quite some time.
Quite a few newer cars don't draw a distinction between running the heater or A/C: you just set a desired temperature, and the climate control system figures out what to do based on internal and exterior conditions. (Whether this is a good approach for a car's climate control system is another question, however.)
> someone who has no education in comprehending quantitative
You need to a degree to understand a pretty basic line graph ? Give me a break.
People on here (and in the article's comments) need to stop acting like sanctimonious assholes. Electric cars are not some advanced technology that only the precious genius of Musk and IT nerds can comprehend.
The fact is that the truth seems to lie somewhere in the middle here. Big surprise.
I get why you're irritated, but when I say "education" I don't mean necessarily a degree. I mean just some fundamental, working knowledge, whether that's from a degree, course, autodidactic, whatever. I did sound sanctimonious, but you know what? I didn't write a critique of someone's data dependent analysis. And if I lacked quantitative analysis experience, I wouldn't try to.
But to be fair, I have no way of knowing the author lacks this experience. My intuition told me this with the numerous mistakes made in the article.
What mistakes? I work with data for a living, and I agreed with The Atlantic's points (having reached the same conclusions last night when the story broke).
The particular mistake you cite results from a lack of domain knowledge, not analysis skills. The chart says "rated range remaining." If you're not familiar with EVs, you'd think that means the car will not move anymore. That assumption has zero to do with chart-reading abilities.
It is unreasonable for someone to expect the truth from a journalist? This is an issue about integrity. If the truth does, in fact, lie in the middle, it doesn't matter if the NYT author had a hidden agenda or not, it matters that the NYT author did not tell the truth.
I expect Tesla employees to be biased toward Tesla. I expect journalists to tell the truth.
"Tesla Motors initially expected to sell at least 5,000 units in 2012 and set a sales target of 20,000." (1)
As of January 2013's run rate, it takes GM 72 hours to sell that many cars. (2)
How about a comparable luxury target?
MB did 305,072 vehicles in 2012, so they do Tesla's sales every 2-weeks. (3)
Perfect comps? No way, but still . . .
To call Tesla an "early adopters" brand where you're going to run into some bullshit, is an under-statement.
I was considering a Model S as my next vehicle, and even if the NYT article is accurate that dissuades me zero percent. I get that this vehicle is going to have some problems - BUT IT'S ELECTRIC AND BIG AND SEXY AND FAST AND NOBODY ELSE HAS ONE!
But watching Musk's response to going full-Nerd-Nuclear (without CONCLUSIVE data) to trash a journalist and the institution of the NYT actually does give me pause in wanting to support that brand.
In other words, in my personal case (of one person, one piece of data) Musk is damaging Tesla's goodwill more than he's helping it.
> Musk accuses Broder of thinking "the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story" (which is an odd choice of adjective for a car review)
The story was "Electric cars suck". Broder is well known for having anti-electric car opinions, so it's not surprising that he would want to write a negative review.
Argument 1: The length of the detour is not as important as the type of driving during that detour.
Argument 2: "But Broder never claims he turned down his heat at the 182 mile mark." - well, he does claim he turned it down and doesn't mention he had turned it up. People can lie by omission.
Argument 3: "But the section before he broke down it does look like he chugged along at a pretty low speed.", perhaps. But not at the 45 mph claimed in the article.
Argument 5: "No. His other chart shows the mile range dipped below zero, which would indicate the car could not move." The car has a small reserve. 0 charge would mean "charge the car right now".
Argument 5: "Broder also explains that he did not charge fully because of the time it took to charge. He wanted to show the real world experience of a real driver, who might not want to endure the hour and a half it takes to charge up, when only needing a certain amount of energy to get to point B." I hope any real driver would know that a distance of 60 miles would need enough charge for a 60 mile journey, and that giving 30 miles of charge would be a stupid thing to do. Just as if you needed to drive a distance needing 20 gallons you'd be stupid if you only filled with 10 gallons.
This article is, frankly, idiotic.
All it takes is one person to drive the same journey, but with proper charging, and to release the logs to disprove Broder's points.
For Argument 2 and 3, why would he not slow down and turn down the temperature earlier (such as when he claimed to have turned them down).
If you already know you don't have sufficient range, why would you not try to be more efficient to extend your range as soon as you can? He knew what to do to make the car more efficient, he just chose not to until he could get the result he desired.
I don't fully trust Musk and his counter claims, but this article and the other NYT pieces are obviously very Top Gear in their formulas... Which is very unfortunate for the EC revolution.
Article makes a few good points. There has been a lot of "Hurry for data! Boo journalists! Off with the oil shill
Broder's head" talk here and elsewhere, but Tesla's data seems too far from an ironclad refutation of the article. The supposed circling would have lasted less than five minutes at 10-15 mph. It is a strictly subjective "he said, she said" situation about whether Tesla did tell Broder that he was good to go in Norwich. And unless the towing company is lying, the car did shut down, contrary to Tesla's claims.
That is a good point, except he followed up with tangible details relatively quickly. It took a few days for his technies to compile the blog post, but Tesla did provide the data--it's not doubt for doubt's sake. Now that the data is out there, we see the picture is not as clear as either side wants it to be. In hindsight, that's the obvious conclusion.
I wish that Broder had been running a few cameras in the car during the whole trip. Then we could have some data to compare against Tesla's. For example, we could correlate the readings from the car's speedometer with video evidence from which we could calculate speed.
If you need to bring in graphs to show that someone was going 50 instead of 45 MPH (if the data even matches the speedometer), you've already lost the battle. This is all very aggressive on Musk's part when the overall review still holds up (Tesla cars are bit ahead of the curve for normals). If the log showed gross exaggeration I could see this reaction, but Musk is being a brat and wasting a lot of goodwill. Remember, car reviewers are car reviewers, not QA engineers. Things will go wrong, numbers won't match up exactly. If you want positive coverage, don't post your MPG (or the electric equivalent) with "best case" numbers like a normal gas car. Give yourself some wiggle room. Calling the flatbed tow truck is a pretty bad negative event for a normal car owner who is used to being able to ride on E for a few more miles.
I thought the most convincing part of Elon's post was his 3rd bullet point, which relies on no data outside of the article, and which this Atlantic Wire journalist ignores entirely:
"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."
The car said it would go 32. It went 51. Broder claimed this "fell short". Clearly it didn't.
"Driving a 2013 Model S with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which has an EPA range rating of 265 miles...the car barely reached the next Supercharger, 206 miles away in Milford, Conn. The next day, in 10 degree weather, the car fell short of its projected range..."
So when you read the statement in context, and you actually look at the graphic, you realize that the "fell short of its projected range" is a claim made in the summary of the graphic, in which it is clear that, because of space reasons, the journey is described as day by day segments.
So the NYT does not assert that the Model S's final leg was just the 32 miles left on the car. That "fell short of its projected range" is referring to the 265 EPA that the car normally would've had had it not been so cold out.
Should the NYT have been more verbose? Well, maybe. But I guess they also expect readers to actually look at the infographic, the purpose of which is to show greater detail.
It's quite misleading for Elon Musk to harp on a summary-statement in a different context.
That's not how I read it. The summary was pretty specific... "The next day" isn't a summary of the trip, it's a summary of that day. That day, the car projected 32 miles. It delivered 51. It didn't "fall short" that day.
Notice how his red highlighted area encompasses the summary (which is in a different font-size) and the bullet-point-like annotations...yes, I guess if you read the infographic in that left-to-right fashion, you would make that connection...but if you read it in numerical order (as indicated by the numbered bullet points), you would not associate the two statements.
If his only defense is bad advice from a marketing person, then this reporter has not adequately protected himself in this situation. This was a product review, and if he had used the product in the same way that any other consumer would use it then his only misfortune would have been some extra charging time. It's possible that if he had spent the extra time charging and then reported that, then Tesla and its obstreperous leader would have responded, "don't pay attention to the gauge on the screen, just listen to our marketing dude!" But that wouldn't have reflected as poorly on Broder as the current situation does.
This is true even if you assume the best intentions from this reporter: he should know that Tesla is his adversary in his search for the truth and they will not suffer criticism passively. Many on HN and in the general public do not assume the best intentions of any reporter, and in light of that reporters should conduct themselves even more rigorously.
One interesting tidbit is that those quotes are from the graphic that ran with the story, and the graphic refers to Broder in the third person as a "Washington-based reporter". I wonder if he was responsible for the graphic.
The most interesting point on the range graph isn't mentioned in Tesla's repsonse (or anyone else's), which is the huge drop in range overnight at mile 400, fron 80 miles of range to approximately 20. That is the Achilles' heel of the Tesla that caused the car to run out of juice in this (possibly contrived) example.
I thought this was all pretty convincing. What are your complaints?! I really don’t get it. How would you suggest measuring distance? Is Google Maps really not a good tool for doing so? Plus, Google Maps wasn’t really the centerpiece here, for any argument.
You and your weird wishes for replication. Not gonna help.
Plus, your framing is completely out of whack. You charge in there with your preconceived notions.
As far as I can see, the only thing weird or unusual in the data is the speed. It’s not at 54 mph, it’s higher. That’s pretty inexcusable in itself.
The rest seem like total non-issues to me. He never said he turned the temperature down at exactly mile so–and–so. The drop in estimated mileage from 90 to 45 actually happened (plus he is not contradicted by Tesla in his claim that customer support told him just driving even if the estimated range is so low would be ok). He did slow down to 45 mph. The explanation of being unable to find the charging stations and circling around is completely coherent and makes lots of sense. (Have you seen photos of those charging stations? They are pretty small.)
So, the speed is the only issue here. We can ignore all the rest as FUD from Musk. Sad, really.
If someone takes the same car and follows the same route and gets the same results, then it's going to prove the reviewer correct. If repeating the trip by someone else who isn't trying to wreck the car gives different results, then that is very much a valid point here.
> There is nothing wrong with replication, it’s just that it’s wholly unable to clear anything up in this case.
Sorry, but not only John Broder's intentions are in question here. If a bunch of other journalists replicate the trip, but come out with results more in line with Tesla's view, then this calls into question Broder's accuracy, intent or no.
You know, there's an empirical context underlying everything here.
>> If a bunch of other journalists replicate the trip
Is it really a replicable test? They'd need the same weather patterns, traffic conditions and the same car (untweaked or modified since Broder's drive), not a different, "equivalently equipped" model.
In the documentary Revenge of the Electric car, there's a scene where Musk walks into a warehouse full of cars, all having different issues preventing shipment. For all we know, there was a problem isolated to the particular car Broder drove AND, at the same time, Broder was embellishing his story. In other words, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Of course, we'll never know because we'll never get access to the raw logs.
> They'd need the same weather patterns, traffic conditions
> and the same car
Find an honest 3rd party who already owns the same model.
> not a different, "equivalently equipped" model.
Now you're just being obtuse. Consumer Reports gets to test a car that's the same model. They're not required to come to your house and test your car!
> In the documentary Revenge of the Electric car, there's a scene where Musk walks into a warehouse full of cars, all having different issues preventing shipment.
That's a completely different car! They were taking Lotus bodies and fitting them out with batteries and motors, somewhat by hand. This one is built on a bona-fide assembly line and designed to be electric from the ground-up. Sorry, but this is a huge stretch.
> For all we know, there was a problem isolated to the particular car Broder drove AND, at the same time, Broder was embellishing his story. In other words, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
I'm sorry, but this tactic of thinking of all the confounding things you can, then throwing up your hands and saying "middle!" is the sort of thinking you expect on Fox News or on the playground. If replicability can't settle such debates, then science is in deep doodoo. However, we know from the history of science that it can settle debates 10X more acrimonious than this.
To be fair, you are right that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Exactly where is important and something we can get a good locality of through replicating.
Why? Even individual cars produced in assembly lines can have problems.
When I worked at Toyota, there was a problem with a Lexus model that was so hard to isolate. Eventually, after a long data collection period, they found that the problem was only existent in cars painted in a certain color.
> Why? Even individual cars produced in assembly lines can have problems.
So? If there's some conflicting results, we can then turn around and test the same car as well. If there's a problem, those are measurable.
> When I worked at Toyota, there was a problem with a Lexus model that was so hard to isolate. Eventually, after a long data collection period, they found that the problem was only existent in cars painted in a certain color.
Color and whatever other factors were measurable. Empiricism is possible. Your example supports my point.
>> Color and whatever other factors were measurable.
Sure, but it was such a rare problem that they tried to reproduce it using the same model and year and production run, assuming the problem would show up but it didn't. They didn't think colour would have been the identifying indicator of the problem until they had amassed enough data to lead them down that path.
Broder drove a car that has probably been used several times for review and other uses, and may have had more wear and tear and/or maintenance and service than a car sold to anyone else. It could also have been driven under stress conditions that a brand new model may not have been.
All I'm saying is that there's a lot about that car that could be different from other review cars. It could have been a freak occurrence and Tesla was unlucky enough that Broder was reviewing that car when it happened.
It has to be asked, given the tone and rapidity with which this article went up: what relationship does Rebecca Greenfield (or maybe the editors at The Atlantic) have to Broder? This really feels like a "got your back" kind of thing. Media figures don't, as a general rule, write stories with the sole purpose of knocking down criticism of other media figures.
Media figures try to write timely articles in an effort to get as many pageviews as possible. This is a perfect example of that phenomenon- I would bet that this will be The Atlantic's most popular article of the week.
Sometimes the reality is simpler than the conspiracy.
Elon's complaints have been silly from the get-go.
When a company reviews your car, they don't use the standards which you want them to use. They don't do things precisely as you want them to. Reviewers make mistakes, they are new to the equipment, they don't know everything about your car. And you know what?
That's a great thing.
Electric cars, specifically, are unique products. They are novel, new (well, technically they've been around for a hundred years, but haven't been common for the past eighty or so). People don't know what to think about them. Average Joe Sixpack from the NYT treating this car as a normal driver would, and providing us his opinion, is a godsend.
James hasn't tweeted since February 8th, but retweeted John Broder today about 9 hours ago (screenshotted for posterity in case someone following up to blog about this wants it later)
I have the feeling that Musk shot himself in the foot with his original blog post. He accused Broder of a host things, that now are being reduced by some to seemingly critical points to the story while others debate minor points like the point at which the AC was turned on and if Broder missed the charging station or was trying to empty the battery.
I think it boils down to this:
1) Does Broders trip represent a typical experience driving a Tesla Model S?
2) Could Broder have avoided running the car down to empty and having it toed?
This article has confirmed crucial aspects of Broder's version with third parties, such as the truck driver who picked up the inert car (it doesn't matter if the battery still has 28% power if the parking brake won't turn off, iirc Priuses also refuse to discharge their batteries below a critical threshold), and used Google Maps to verify other issues (finding the Milford supercharger).
I haven't seen anyone attempt to verify actual speeds based on computing the area under the speed graph, but I suspect that this won't help Musk's case. 19/22 (ratio of the wheel size of the car driven and the wheel size specification) is actually the perfect ratio to explain the variation between recorded speeds and reported speeds. Perhaps one is based on GPS and another on wheel rotation.
The correct response to this story was: we need to improve our customer service, software, reporting of range (especially w.r.t. temperature) and messaging; customers need to better understand the tradeoffs of gas vs. electric cars, and not claiming a senior NY Times reporter will lie to generate some extra hits on a pretty minor story.
> I haven't seen anyone attempt to verify actual speeds based on computing the area under the speed graph ...
Area under the curve -- then that would be to establish average speeds, yes? I think the recorded road distances and travel times would be a simpler way to establish that.
> The correct response to this story was: we need to improve our customer service, software, reporting of range (especially w.r.t. temperature) and messaging ...
Yes, that would have been a nice alternative to what actually happened. My pet gripe about Tesla in this affair was their advice to Broder to engage in stop-and-go driving as though that would help the car's range (it can't do that, it can only hurt compared to driving at a steady speed).
Area under the curve is distance. (Integral of speed over time is distance.) We know what the actual distances are so the actual distance could be compared to the area under the graph to verify its accuracy.
Musk's rebuttal is too wide reaching. It makes some accusations that the evidence supports, but does not prove. This leaves his rebuttal open to a counter rebuttal, when the whole issue revolves around one facet of the data:
The reviewer left Norwich with the car telling him he could travel 32 miles, when he needed to go 62 miles. If he hadn't done that, he would not have had an issue.
The atlanticwire article doesn't address this point at all, and how could it? The car said it would go 32 miles. It went more than that, but less than 62. Any reasonable person, needing to go 62 miles, would want the number the car says to be greater than 62, because what kind of idiot tries to go 62 miles with a car with 62 miles of range left? Now, what kind of full on retard tries that with 32 miles left?
Am I the only one who feels like Musk is doing more to soil the reputation of electric cars than to advance it? It totally sucks that the media is being a bunch of meanies about this stuff, but in many ways, Teslas still aren't practical for unwashed masses.
Also, their target market here will probably research this enough that the negative PR won't matter that much. It'll ruin public perception...just like they've done with diesel over the past decades. Now where's my diesel/electric car? Diesel/electric hybrid technology has been around since the first few years of the 1900s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel-electric_transmission#Sh...
You know all this Tesla talk makes me actually want to own one now. Sure there is a lot of talk about mileage and charging stations but on the whole it is going to get better. And the more discourse we have the better chance the product will be given a good deal of attention.
The articles about this event clearly explain in my opinion not who is wrong or right here but how much even the most smart reader's opinion can be guided or misled by what a specific author writes, whether by omissions, incomplete data or other rethorical techniques
This argument has nothing to do with facts, it is just one journalist attempting to defend another, and you can tell by the language used. For eg. in Argument 3 about cruise control and speeds, she says:
But the section before he broke down it does look like he chugged along at a pretty low speed.
"It does look like"? This is a graph, it has data points, its not about "looking like" - these points represent facts. At no point in the facts is there proof of cruise control being set at 55mph.
She is taking a graph with real data and attempting to re-interpret it to fit the NYTimes story. This is an emotional argument, as with 'oh no, this was actually about testing supercharge stations'.
I really want to buy an electric car, but range anxiety keeps me from doing so. Unfortunately, the NYT article doesn't help.
The particular facts may be "peculiar," even fabricated, but the overall experience rings true. There are going to be trips that you can do easily today on petrol that would be difficult to do with the state of the art electric car from Tesla.
It's time for Tesla and Better Place (betterplace.com) to join forces.
It's interesting that one of the results of Musk's reaction might be for the next journalist to bring a camera crew. It wouldn't have to be a Top Gear-style hit piece: just record all the phone conversations with Tesla personnel trying to figure out why things are not reading consistently. It's not going to leave a favorable impression.
I've got a stupid question. Why doesn't some impartial soul(s), try to recreate exact conditions as Broder describes them in the article? Tell Tesla what you will do, film your trip there. If their experience doesn't match Broder's they should just abuse the car until they recreate the exact condition Broder ended up.
Regardless of all this, Tesla should look hard at a mapping solution that ties with their onboard sensors - the car can intelligently tell you where to stop and charge and how long to charge for by knowing where you are trying to get and what charging stations are along the way.
Elon's argument should have probably been more focused. That doesn't change the fact, though, that there are numerous pieces of evidence showing that Broder expected unreasonable things out of the car, and then blamed the car when it failed.
I'm sure there are tons of small nuances and subtle details here, but at the end of the day I'm not sure they matter. The ultimate question is whether or not the NYTimes reporter presented an honest story, and that appears to be far from true. it certainly looks like he went out of his way to try to manufacture a story that isn't reflective of actual experience. But even if that's not the case there's more than enough evidence that he twisted the account and left out crucial details in the service of titilation and excitement rather than factual accuracy.
Musk's job is to sell his cars, we accept that he might present things in a manner that is most flattering to his products. That's ok as long as he doesn't outright lie or mislead, we wouldn't expect anything else from any other company. But the reporter's job is to present the truth to his readers, and if he not only fails at that job but goes out of the way to present falsehoods what faith can his readers have in him? At this point, what makes him better than a reporter for a tabloid? Why should anyone believe anything he writes? If a reporter doesn't have a reputation for factual accuracy what good are they?
P.S. I'm reminded of Dateline NBC's "investigation" of the GM C/K series pickup trucks. The trucks were fundamentally of an unsafe design, with side mounted external gas tanks. But Dateline's crash tests included adding model rocket engines to ensure that the rupture of the gas tank caused an explosion, without revealing that to the viewers. And that, I think, is the problem here where the reporter was not content to let the facts stand on their own and went to every effort to juice up the story (although not the car). Investigative journalism is a hard job, but when you make that leap and start adding embelishments you are no longer doing journalism you are entertaining.
The problem I have with "he made it up": unless you have a computer keeping track of miles, speed and temperature, you are going to be "lying" about it. For example, I could easily say that I was riding at 67 mph but the computer point out that I actually went as high as 72, as low as 52 a lot of the time. Was I lying? Who the hell is going to remember or write about every speed change on a 500 mile trip? Was it a scientific study or a review for the average user to understand? But let's look at the big picture: I, personally, would NOT want a car that is so specific about the speed, cabin temperature and so on, or call a tow truck because the battery died out on you. 45 mph or 52mph, it's the same crap to me.
Tesla, thanks to the tracking, may have every tiny detail, but their users generally agreed with the reviewer--at a Tesla site forum no less.
Restaurant reviewer: Service was great but the food took an hour to arrive!
Restaurant owner: He is a liar, food was on the table with 50 minutes and I have order slips to prove him wrong.
Me: underwhelmed at the "evidence," 50min and an hour is essentially the same to me when waiting for food to arrive and I didn't expect the reviewer to hold a chronowatch.
Oh no, it is a perfect analogy. He stopped filling it up, and he and you act stunned when the car doesn't move as far as he wills it. Hell, is this even an analogy? It's just the same fucking thing.
If you want to make the point that charging takes to long, or that there are not enough chargers, go right ahead. It is pretty easy to make that point convincingly without resorting to intellectually dishonest bullshit about the car requiring hypermiling techniques.
who cares, but usually yes, at least in US (you go fast, you slow, fast...and police are looking for the worst offender) . My point is: a car that has to be driven with a gazillion, million, billion specific instructions or else it's a brick, maybe it isn't for me or many others. "Your car died and you're in the middle of nowhere because you went 5mph over the recommended by Tesla speed," isn't for me. Isn't this an expensive car too?
No, the car died because it clearly didn't get charged adequately.
I find people's claims that the car is somehow "inadequate" because it needs a full charge every 200 miles to be strange. I guess probably because I ride a motorcycle which gets pretty much exactly that range from a tank, and when I'm riding I've always go a pretty good idea of how much further I can go, and while I'm on a long trip I've always got in my head not only the furthest possibles fuel stop I could make, but also the "sensible" stop before that - on the off chance tha the max-range fuel stop is closed or empty. (and that happened a few weekends ago the other way round - my intended "second last" fuel stop had a blackout so the pumps weren't working, so I safely made it ~20 miles to the next town. No problem.)
> My point is: a car that has to be driven with a gazillion, million, billion specific instructions or else it's a brick,
You know that cars need to be filled with gas, right? And that using diesel in a regular (or vice - versa) is a big problem? And they need you to check the oil, and top up the oil? And that not topping up the oil is a big problem, right?
> "Your car died and you're in the middle of nowhere because you went 5mph over the recommended by Tesla speed,"
Well, no. "Your car died because you didn't charge it. You didn't charge it even though you knew you had a journey of X miles to go, and you knew you didn't have enough charge, and you were given strong advice (from the car, and from the car makers) that you hadn't charged it enough". Plug the car in - that's not a gazzillion million billion specific instructions. It's just one. Plug it in, let it charge.
Because of air drag which is proportional to the square of the velocity. At highway speeds, a large part of the energy consumed by the car to move at constant velocity is spent overcoming air drag. I think that's also why they are calling him out on going 60 mph on cruise control instead of stated 54 mph.