Followup: Tesla Model S Versus New York Times (Update)

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 14

Tesla Model S in New York.

Tesla Model S in New York.

As we eagerly await Tesla’s blog post, which we’re now led to believe will almost completely refute cold-weather range claims made against the Tesla Model S by The New York Times, we’ve decided that the proper course of action here is to analyze some of the specifics related to the claims made by The Times and to compare those claims with Tesla’s own information regarding the Model S’ real-world range.

Here’s a look at how Tesla details the range of the Model S:

Range estimates as provided by Tesla's team of battery engineers.

Range estimates as provided by Tesla’s team of battery engineers.

It’s obvious from the graphic above that speed impacts range, so the next logical question is “How fast did NY Times reviewer John Broder drive the Model S?”

While we don’t yet have access to all of the vital data, this NY Times graphic tells portions of the story quite well:

NY Times graphic on Model S review.

NY Times graphic on Model S review. (click to enlarge)

Tons of useful information can be gleaned from this graphic provided directly by The NY Times, but what leaps out at us (courtesy of some avid Reddit users) is that Broder covered the first leg of his journey (114 miles) in only 84 minutes.   That translates to an average speed of approximately 81 miles per hour.

Though this first leg is not where Broder had issues with range, it does seem to suggest a heavy-footed driver with no interest in maximizing range.  Let’s point out that, if driven at such a high rate of speed, no gas-burning vehicle comes even close to its EPA-rated highway mpg.  This is common sense.  Yes?

And several Reddit users called out Broder for some obvious discrepancies.  A screen grab of just a portion of that conversation is posted below.

Reddit post in response to NY Times review of Model S

Reddit post in response to NY Times review of Model S.

We guarantee that this story if far from over.  It’s quite likely that Tesla Motors and The New York Times are in discussions at the moment trying to decipher all the data and details.  Though Tesla CEO Musk was quick to speak out, automaker Tesla Motors will definitely take a more cautious and thought-out approach to this matter.  We hope to bring you data and detail directly from Tesla Motors at some point today, but that’s dependent upon Tesla releasing the information in a timely manner.

Update: Rebuttal posted by NY Times writer John Broder.  Click here.  Still no official word from Tesla.

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14 responses to "Followup: Tesla Model S Versus New York Times (Update)"

  1. cody says:

    So how long did it take him to drive from Newark, Deleware to Manhattan. Seems like it took him from 1:15 to 3:45… so that’s 2.5 hours. Thats about a 54 mph average… if you include some bottleneck time at the holland/lincoln tunnel.
    That part seems legit.

    1. Alex says:

      National Geographic – Tesla Model S : youtu.be/1OiG8uB6Cic

  2. Lindsay Patten says:

    This seems pretty straight forward, he left Norwich for Branford, a distance Google Maps gives as 49.8 miles, with the car showing 35miles estimated range, according to the graphic. The only part I don’t get is he said that Tesla’s expert cleared him to resume the trip to Milford.

    “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.”

  3. vdiv says:

    Looks like the reviewer kept reasonable notes. That overnight stop in Groton, CT, where the estimated range fell from 90 miles down to 25 is very suspicious. Why did the car use so much energy presumably to keep the batteries warm? Or was the estimated range at the time of arrival exaggerated? Telling the driver to “condition” the batteries while the car was not plugged was also a faux pas.

    That said the reviewer should have planned the trip so that he could have charged the car overnight, preferably at a 240V 30A station. He should have kept a log of the outside temperature, and the inside climate control settings, his speed, and SoC after each charge.

    It is hard for me to say that the NYT is impartial. Publications like them and Consumer Reports thrive on publicity. Both sides in this story have ulterior motives, however the depths of one far supersede the other.

    (Disclaimer: I have 15 shares of TSLA, none of NYT)

    1. Open-Mind says:

      The NYT author has posted a followup piece:

      http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/the-charges-are-flying-over-a-test-of-teslas-charging-network/

      In that follow-up, he claims that the unexplainable overnight loss of charge was called a “software glitch” by Tesla. No clarification yet what that means.

      1. cody says:

        Thank you for the link to the NYTimes update piece!
        This pretty much puts the ball squarely in Elon’s court!

      2. Eric Loveday says:

        Thanks for the link… It’s now added to the bottom of this post.

      3. kdawg says:

        I’m laughing (and crying on the inside) at the ridiculous/uninformed comments on that article. Just show’s we got a ways to go to get everyone up to speed on EV’s.

        Also, I wonder how Broder tests cell phone chargers? Does he not fully charge, never charge overnight, and just leave it out in the cold to then say “This cell phone sucks?”

        1. Bill Howland says:

          Uh, the only thing I can say, is lets not be like Elon Musk and be too hasty in assigning blame. Let’s try to figure out precisely what happened here…

          Our NYT friend went to bed with 90 miles of range and woke up with 25. So assuming 300 miles is 85 kwh then he lost a bit over 18.4 kwh over 10 hours (9:45 pm to 6:45 am), or 1840 wh per hour, or an effective ‘drain’ of 1840 watts.

          Assuming he could plug into a 12 amp 120 volt outlet, that would mean he would get ideally 1440 watts (In practice less), but that would mean that the 120 volt charging cord would not keep up with even the battery heater and he would have still lost range.

          That is an earth shattering conclusion. This means that someone with a car port in cold weather and only a 120 volt plug available will not only not gain miles, but will lose them in cold weather, even with the car constantly plugged in all the time.

          I’ll have to do an experiment with my Roadster, but I bet the results are acceptable. With my roadster, I’m estimating the car would need 6 hours to preheat the battery in very cold weather at 110 volts (around 900 watts, around 3100 btu / hour) , but then would alternate between charging and heating….probably on a 50 % duty cycle, but at least if left in the cold constantly (such as in an air port parking lot), with it heating at 8 amps and charging at 12 amps, after 6 days (144 hours) the battery would go from totally dead to max range of 244 miles. This is no doubt because there is not much metal surface area exposed to the elements, seeing as the battery is almost relatively square. Its true under these ‘less than ideal’ conditions I would need almost a week’s time and 173 kwh from the power line to get 53 kwh into the battery, but it Would Work.

          I guess what I’m saying is that the Roadster heat loss appears to be about 450 watts in very cold weather vs. the Model S’s flat HUGE metal surface area heat sink battery loss of 1840 watts.

          This means the Roadster can be successfully charged at 120 volts, however apparently the Model S Will Not Charge in Very Cold Weather using the 120 volts available from the motel. Granted, had the NYT writer tried, he would have at least had enough range to finish the trip without a flatbed truck.

          Apparently, this is the precise kind of Cold Weather Test Tesla should have completed before letting their cars out for winter reviews.

          1. Bill Howland says:

            Qwerty’s article on the more recent Musk rebuttal of a lady making a minnisota trip in cold whether provided postive proof in fact the car will lose range in very cold weather when plugged into 120 volts as was calculated here.

  4. Josh says:

    This should have been his route after not plugging in the car 110v overnight.

    http://goo.gl/maps/sSvtW

    Less miles and faster charging.

  5. GeorgeS says:

    This never would have happened if he was driving a Volt 🙂

  6. kdawg says:

    Why didn’t he record the remaining charge at arrival of each stop?
    Why did he only charge for less than an hour?

    It almost seems like he was setting this trip up to fail. In the first leg, he leadfooted it, and the Tesla still got there, so he had to start getting creative in how he would make it fail.

    There would be no news article unless it failed.

    1. taser54 says:

      Uhh, note that the NYT reviewed the Tesla before, in temperate climates and on the West coast supercharger network. So this isn’t a set up.