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> Problems With Precision and Judgment, but Not Integrity, in Tesla Test

Oddly, I would write the exact opposite headline. The NYT review has minor problems with precision and judgment, but major problems with integrity.

Imagine a gasoline car review: "I'm here at a gas station with an empty tank, and I have 61 miles to the next gas station. I'm going to put in half a gallon of gasoline, hang up the nozzle and start driving to the next station. Oh no, I ran out of gas! Well, this proves the technology is still immature and that gas cars suck."

Can you imagine this being a publishable review to the NYT editors?




The key facts here are:

1) Broder reached out to Tesla on multiple occasions during the trip asking for advice when oddities happened

2) He behaved in accordance with the advice he was given.

3) The car ran out of charge

Regarding the non-sequitur of charging overnight, Tesla's marketing materials clearly state that you can keep the car unplugged for extended periods of time without a significant dropoff: "The Model S battery will not lose a significant amount of charge when parked for long periods of time. For example, Model S owners can park at the airport without plugging in." (pulled from http://www.teslamotors.com/models/facts , older discussion http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5209639)

The only way to attack the integrity of Broder is to argue that somehow he wasn't advised to do something. Guess what: there are call logs, and those should be brought out. It's a he-said-she-said right now and everyone sides with the car CEO rather than the journalist. That's all fine, but in this case Tesla has a way of definitively proving that Broder was being malicious: If the call logs clearly show that Broder wasn't acting in accordance to what he claims was Tesla's judgments, then Broder deserves all the criticism. Otherwise it is Tesla's fault.

Until we see the call logs, siding with Tesla is hero worshipping.

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Broder deserves to be called out on his inaccuracies.

But the thing that made the story was your point #3. And it could have been completely prevented if the people who gave out the advice in #2 gave better advice.

We can call Broder an idiot all we want, but it seems like there were bigger idiots on the other side of the phone. They could have erred on the side of caution and just told him to spend more time charging at every opportunity. As a result, #3 would likely not have happened, and Broder's article would have been seen as a mildly negative article, but also a forgettable one.

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> 2) He behaved in accordance with the advice he was given.

I think that's not clear. In particular, in the event the NYT ombudsman calls out as bad judgment on the reporter's part, the one hour charge at Norwich, the reporter changed his story about Tesla's advice in a crucial way, but in a way that most readers didn't pick up on.

Originally, he claimed Tesla told him he'd charged it enough and could unplug and go, despite it still showing insufficient range.

Later, he weasel worded that they'd told him up earlier, before charging, that an hour charge "should" be enough, and so after an hour (that was really 3/4 hour) he took off. This was deliberately weaselly, both in the not really and hour, and in the taking off despite not having range back on the gauge.

Many readers, even here on HN, are still under the impression that Tesla was consulted after an hour of charging and told him it was okay to unplug and go (his original article's language). Instead, after less than an hour of charging and warming the battery, he unplugged knowing the range was insufficient and without checking with Tesla.

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I'm curious why you think the calls were logged. Certainly, we've all come to expect that recorded, "For quality assurance purposes...," when calling tech support. Still, the Tesla employees named by Broder are not technical support staff. They are from the public relations department (and one unnamed engineer). I'd actually be very surprised if PR departments regularly recorded calls, if for no other reason than to give staff the option of claiming to be mis-quoted by reporters.

Still, not even Broder claims that Tesla advised him to end his Supercharge early in Milford. I'm unsympathetic to claims that he received bad advice from Tesla later in his trip. As several Model S owners have demonstrated [1], it is entirely possible to drive round-trip from Milford to Groton on a single supercharge. Moreover, they demonstrated that it is possible to do so with a comfortable cabin temperature, a normal highway speed, and, perhaps most importantly, without charging the car overnight in Groton (and they, too, experienced some range loss during the night).

Of course, none of this proves that Broder was malicious. It is still the case, however, that each time he had the opportunity to choose between following Tesla's advice or his own common sense, he chose the option that put him in greater danger of being stranded. Perhaps the test drive was simply a disastrous chain of honest, yet abysmal, decision-making, followed a well-written essay describing how the fault was everyone's but his.

[1] http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/13905-Recreati...!

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"I'm curious why you think the calls were logged."

This is not Tesla's first time dealing with the media. After the Top Gear controversy, I would expect them to be more circumspect.

"I'm unsympathetic to claims that he received bad advice from Tesla later in his trip"

It's not his car, and if he didnt obey Tesla's advice and bricked the car he could be liable for the damages (I discussed this in more detail in a nephew post http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5240745)

"As several Model S owners have demonstrated [1], it is entirely possible to drive round-trip from Milford to Groton on a single supercharge."

Just like the CNN "test" the situation was much different, and the temperature played a significant and undeniable role, so that's an apples-to-oranges comparison

"Of course, none of this proves that Broder was malicious. It is still the case, however, that each time he had the opportunity to choose between following Tesla's advice or his own common sense, he chose the option that put him in greater danger of being stranded. "

You are choosing clever words here. He chose to follow Tesla's advice, and you can imagine the vitriolic reaction if Broder disobeyed Tesla's advice and ran into trouble.

The main reason my pitchforks aren't out is laid out in the parent reply: when you actually filter through all of the arguments, the essence of the dispute is the nature of the advice that Tesla gave Broder while he was on the road. And Tesla failed to present any evidence that Broder received different advice (other than Musk's claims, but he has so much riding on this and wasn't actually part of the conversation, so he wouldn't necessarily know what was said -- so I definitely believe there's a chance Musk is lying and there's a chance Broder is lying). As another person mentioned http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5240988 , I wonder if other customers get the same type of phone support

In general, I'm genuinely surprised by the extent to which HN treats Musk's words as if they are from god. He's a human, he has biases, and I wouldn't put it past him to improperly start a witchhunt against those who disagree with him or refuse to drink his kool-aid. Let's separate the fact that it's Elon Musk from the discussion of the facts of the trip.

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Can we discuss this civilly, without resorting to ad-hominem attacks? I'm not drinking Musk-Aid, though that is certainly your implication. I don't fully trust Musk, but there are strange inconsistencies in Broder's account, and his rebuttal to the rebuttal has many statements that are nonsensical[0]. We can't apply our bullshit detectors to only one party.

>Just like the CNN "test" the situation was much different, and the temperature played a significant and undeniable role, so that's an apples-to-oranges comparison

Sure, and the owner's test involved snowy conditions (Broder's drive had clear weather), which generally increases energy consumption. So what? If they repeated the test, but put the car in a refrigerated warehouse at 10F overnight in Groton, would that satisfy you? Can you propose any test that would satisfy you? I don't say this to be combative. It just seems like the goalposts keep moving.

I'd actually love to see a test with the car kept in a freezer, but I don't think the results would be significantly different. In the owner's test I cited above, the remaining range when returning to Milford was greater than the range loss experienced overnight by Broder. The only thing they did differently (besides leaving the heat on while driving) was to fully charge the car before leaving the Milford Supercharger.

>You are choosing clever words here. He chose to follow Tesla's advice, and you can imagine the vitriolic reaction if Broder disobeyed Tesla's advice and ran into trouble.

But that is entirely the point, my friend. Broder sometimes followed Tesla's advice, and sometimes he didn't. Yet he seemingly only followed Tesla's advice when it was bad advice [1]. He ignored Tesla's advice when they gave him good advice[2]. That is precisely why there has been such a strong reaction on HN.

[0] Broder attributes the speed discrepancy to a difference in wheel diameter. That would actually make the speedo read higher, but there's a more fundamental point: The wheel diameter isn't relevant; the tire tread diameter is. There is less than a 0.7% difference in tread circumference between the two wheel options.

[1] For example, let's assert for the sake of argument that Tesla did tell him it was ok to leave the Level 2 charger

[2] Like that he should fully charge at Superchargers

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> Sure, and the owner's test involved snowy conditions (Broder's drive had clear weather), which generally increases energy consumption. So what? If they repeated the test, but put the car in a refrigerated warehouse at 10F overnight in Groton, would that satisfy you? Can you propose any test that would satisfy you? I don't say this to be combative. It just seems like the goalposts keep moving.

The goalposts haven't been moving. That was the single most important factor of the entire trip on battery life. Period, end of story. Any attempt to "replicate" the experiment without replicating the actual event that led to failure (leaving the car unplugged overnight in sub-freezing temperatures) is missing the entire point.

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Alright, but you've carefully evaded the question. So let me ask you again: Would you acknowledge that Broder acted in bad faith if someone were to drive a Model S round trip between Milford and Groton at a reasonable speed, with the car in a freezer at 10F and without plugging in overnight?

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>Broder reached out to Tesla on multiple occasions during the trip asking for advice when oddities happened

That's what struck me the most, relative to how little attention it got. How many other people would have needed to call into a car company's customer service (and that many times!) to finish a simple test drive?

"Mommy, should I charge it all the way at the supercharger station?"

"Mommy it only reads 32 miles, will it last twice that?"

There are a hundred people more competent and deserving of such an opportunity than someone who doesn't even know the current state of vehicle logging tech.

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"How many other people would have needed to call into a car company's customer service (and that many times!) to finish a simple test drive?"

If you saw last night that you had a full tank of gas, and woke up this morning and saw the tank was empty, wouldn't you call the car company? If you saw any other critical fluid mysteriously drop in level, wouldn't you call the car company? I've done this multiple times with strange sounds and other things I never expect to happen.

If I were in Broder's situation and saw strange things happening with the range indicator, I absolutely would be calling. Especially if it's a test vehicle -- the courts have decided that journalist drivers are responsible for the cars: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/you-break-it-you-bought-it...

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I once had a car that sometimes got the fuel stuck halfway through (even with a full or even empty tank). If I knew I topped the car one day, and the next it was showing slightly above halfway, I would presume it would be an issue with the meter.

Honestly, I know next to nothing about cars, specially electric, but if I had a car that lost 30 miles overnight by doing nothing, I would call support as well. Until this controversy, I had no idea I had to keep the car plugged in at night.

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Really? I had the opposite reaction. Does Tesla offer phone support to the rest of their customers like that?

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I think the first and third are facts. Is the second one really established? Right now, I think it's just a claim.

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The wording is nuanced. Supposing that his account of the phone calls is accurate, Broder's behavior demonstrates no malice (and Musk argued past the point when he said that the advice doesn't align with "common sense").

The part that is up for debate (and I mentioned this in the later paragraphs) is the content of the phone calls.

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Ok, so then it's not a fact.

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You cannot record someone on the phone without permission so the call log is not available.

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"This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes". Happens all the time in support calls.

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That is jurisdiction-dependent. Where I live you can record calls as long as one party of the call consents, and a company can get a blanket consent from all employees through an employment agreement. The other party need not be aware that the call is being recorded.

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> 2) He behaved in accordance with the advice he was given.

And you know this how? Musk says very directly that Broder did not behave in accordance with the advice he was given. You were present for this exchange and you know what the truth is? Or you just imagine it to be so?

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As I wrote (review my response):

"It's a he-said-she-said right now and everyone sides with the car CEO rather than the journalist."

Tesla didn't deny that Broder reached out, and still hasn't produced the call logs. If I were in Musk's situation I would publicly ask Broder if it was ok with him to reveal the call logs and then release it.

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Broder, first 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.

Musk: > 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.

Broder , second article: > 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.

In the first article, it seams that Broder calls after the final one hour charging, but in the second article the redaction is suspiciously vague. Perhaps the conversations in the calls were not recorded, but it would be interesting to know the times of the telephone calls.

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I think the second article is clarifying what was meant by "after an hour they cleared me to resume the trip to Milford." For example, if the actual phrase was "You're clear to go after you charge for an hour." strictly speaking he was cleared to go (with the stipulation that he had to charge for an hour). Note that this is speculation. I am waiting to see the call logs, but I'm not going to assume that Broder made something up or maliciously misrepresented the conversation.

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Re: 1)

We actually don't know if he did. I mean, he claimed so, and also claimed the tesla rep told him it was OK to leave. But how do we know he didn't lie?

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Tesla has not disputed (1), the claim that Broder reached out to Tesla during the journey (That would be the first thing I would point out if I were Musk and if Broder did not call during the journey)

While musk has cast doubt on the entire storyline, there's a very simple way to resolve the doubt. And if you read what I wrote, it's sitting in the penultimate part of the post you are responding to (reproduced below):

"The only way to attack the integrity of Broder is to argue that somehow he wasn't advised to do something. Guess what: there are call logs, and those should be brought out. It's a he-said-she-said right now and everyone sides with the car CEO rather than the journalist. That's all fine, but in this case Tesla has a way of definitively proving that Broder was being malicious: If the call logs clearly show that Broder wasn't acting in accordance to what he claims was Tesla's judgments, then Broder deserves all the criticism. Otherwise it is Tesla's fault."

Musk was completely out of line in trying to assert something in a conversation he was not a part of. Right now the only first-hand source discussing the conversations is Broder, and I am not going to assume that he is telling the truth or lying until Tesla reveals the call logs. Assuming that musk, notably not a party to the phone conversations, is telling the truth seems foolish. Let's all hear the phone conversations and then judge.

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At a gas station, the time difference between putting in half a gallon and filling the tank is about 5 minutes. At the charging station he'd stopped off at, the difference between the charge he did and a full charge is about 9-12 hours. This is a fundamental, and currently inescapable, difference between gas and electric cars.

Edit: Also, in a gas car your tank doesn't empty itself overnight unless you park in a really rough neighbourhood. He didn't have any reason to disbelieve his contact at Tesla when they said the lost range would return - hell, I've had Tesla fans tell me that their cars don't really lose range overnight, it's just calculated wrong, and I'm spreading FUD by pointing the range loss out. I bet they'd be going after Broder for that too if he'd waited for more of a charge.

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>At a gas station, the time difference between putting in half a gallon and filling the tank is about 5 minutes. At the charging station he'd stopped off at, the difference between the charge he did and a full charge is about 9-12 hours. This is a fundamental, and currently inescapable, difference between gas and electric cars.

Well, hold on there one minute. The difference between a 72% charge and a 100% charge at Tesla's Superchargers is something like fifteen minutes. Not 9 to 12 hours. If Broder hadn't stopped the charge early in Milford he wouldn't have needed to charge the next day (even including the overnight range loss in Groton) at a slow charger. Some Model S owner's recently demonstrated that: http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/13905-Recreati...!

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> Edit: Also, in a gas car your tank doesn't empty itself overnight

No, but your fuel could gel in a diesel car. Your battery could die. Your cooling system might freeze. I lived in a part of the country where people routinely plug in their gas powered cars for the night.

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Yep, and he could have talked about that as an issue. That would have been absolutely legitimate - discussing the overall time to complete this trip, including charging time on the way, and comparing it to gasoline.

Intentionally draining the battery, refusing to charge it up at any of the numerous opportunities to do so, and then blaming the car is not.

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Did he not in fact charge it until it reported sufficient range?

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He did the first two times. He didn't at the unscheduled third charging stop after it lost range overnight, supposedly on the advice of Tesla staff. (There were reasons why they may not have wanted him to linger there too long - it was at a much slower 240V charger which made the car look bad compared to the Superchargers he was meant to be demonstrating in the article.)

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Mr. Broder stated that he unplugged his car and departed on a 61-mile leg of his journey with the car telling him it had 32 miles of charge remaining. So the answer to your snarky question is "no".

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It seems like the 32 mile thing has been a bone that is constantly being picked in discussions about the article. Broder continued the drive based on Tesla's advice:

"It was also Tesla that told me that an hour of charging (at a lower power level) at a public utility in Norwich, Conn., would give me adequate range to reach the Supercharger 61 miles away, even though the car’s range estimator read 32 miles – because, again, I was told that moderate-speed driving would “restore” the battery power lost overnight."

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/that-tesla-data-w...

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Consumer Reports confirms that when the batteries warm up a little, they'll start reporting a longer range:

"Anyhow, after a seven-hour overnight park (unplugged) and temperatures dropping below freezing, the "rated" range dropped to 65 miles." ...

"But by now I've gained enough familiarity with our Tesla to assume the car would readjust once I started driving and things warmed up. (Owners would likely pre-condition the car before leaving, using household current to raise the battery temperature and heat the cabin.) Indeed, 30 miles into my trip, the car predicted 55 miles of range."

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2013/02/tesla-model-s-w...

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Ah, I see this detail is in the follow-up article and seems to be egregiously missing from the original article. It seems that, if we take Broder's word, that he believed the car would mysteriously regain lost range after being charged for an hour, but he left a charging station knowing the range readout was lower than the distance he needed to travel and -- and no-one seems to have pointed this out on either side -- never having received such a pleasant surprise in the course of the journey.

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