Musk Spanks NYTImes for Bogus Electric Car Review

February 15, 2013

When future generations write the history of this era, perhaps one footnote will be about the peculiar disconnect between the Journalist class and the ground reality of what is happening, and what is important.  There is an inexplicable hostility among certain elite journalists to a) the truth about how dire our planetary situation is, and b) the good news about actual solutions that are at hand.

Recently, such a journalist wrote a scurrilous and misleading report about the all-electric Tesla Model S sedan. Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded by handing John Broder his ass, complete with graphs.

Teslamotors Blog:

You may have heard recently about an article written by John Broder from The New York Times that makes numerous claims about the performance of the Model S. We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates. Indeed, our highest per capita sales are in Norway, where customers drive our cars during Arctic winters in permanent midnight, and in Switzerland, high among the snowy Alps. About half of all Tesla Roadster and Model S customers drive in temperatures well below freezing in winter. While no car is perfect, after extremely thorough testing, the Model S was declared to be the best new car in the world by the most discerning authorities in the automotive industry.

To date, hundreds of journalists have test driven the Model S in every scenario you can imagine. The car has been driven through Death Valley (the hottest place on Earth) in the middle of summer and on a track of pure ice in a Minnesota winter. It has traveled over 600 miles in a day from the snowcapped peaks of Tahoe to Los Angeles, which made the very first use of the Supercharger network, and moreover by no lesser person than another reporter from The New York Times. Yet, somehow John Broder “discovered” a problem and was unavoidably left stranded on the road. Or was he?

After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story. In the case ofTop Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being “tested”). Our car never even had a chance.

The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Here is a summary of the key facts:

  • As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.
  • Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.
  • At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.
  • The charge time on his second stop was 47 mins, going from -5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of EPA Rated Range, not 58 mins as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.
  • For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?
  • The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broder’s trip. When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

When Tesla first approached The New York Times about doing this story, it was supposed to be focused on future advancements in our Supercharger technology. There was no need to write a story about existing Superchargers on the East Coast, as that had already been done by Consumer Reports with no problems! We assumed that the reporter would be fair and impartial, as has been our experience with The New York Times, an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity. As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

When I first heard about what could at best be described as irregularities in Broder’s behavior during the test drive, I called to apologize for any inconvenience that he may have suffered and sought to put my concerns to rest, hoping that he had simply made honest mistakes. That was not the case.

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.”

When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts. Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: please investigate this article and determine the truth. You are a news organization where that principle is of paramount importance and what is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.

Vehicle Logs for Media Drive by John Broder on January 23 and 24

Google Map with Tesla comments showing actual performance of Model S and Broder’s intentions:

Subsequently a CNN crew drove the route with no problem. Their finding?

 ..the Model S provides a pretty amazing mix of smooth and silent performance along with brain-squishing acceleration. So even if you’re not driving from Washington to Boston, it’s an impressive car, all on its own.

As for the Supercharger network? Turns out that works, too.

Broder’s weak response here.

35 Responses to “Musk Spanks NYTImes for Bogus Electric Car Review”

  1. Nick Carter Says:

    Very unfortunate. As someone who is slowly easing out of the profession, all I can say is that we seem to be in a new era of yellow journalism, not unlike the days of Hearst, etc., where the sheer volume of newspapers prompted some editors to sell fiction and opinion as news. Today, we have the internet, with no man its master. That means garbage and sometimes outright propaganda become the quickest sell to the masses. Fourtunately the great equalizer to lies is the equal and opposite beacon of truth that so many private citizens can now operate, courtesy of this “new medium”.

  2. Nick Carter Says:

    …and Thank you, Peter for this information. I’m saving it and will re-purpose it to those in my tribe, whom I know, will try to invoke NYT.

  3. Electric CARS to the rescue??? What is exactly ecological about them? :-/

  4. andrewfez Says:

    There’s a 7 day cut off, so….

    How to Submit a Letter to the Editor

    Letters to the editor should only be sent to The Times, and not to other publications. We do not publish open letters or third-party letters.

    Letters for publication should be no longer than 150 words, must refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer’s address and phone numbers. No attachments, please.

    We regret we cannot return or acknowledge unpublished letters. Writers of those letters selected for publication will be notified within a week. Letters may be shortened for space requirements.

    Send a letter to the editor by e-mailing or faxing (212) 556-3622.

    You may also mail your letter to:

    Letters to the Editor
    The New York Times
    620 Eighth Avenue
    New York, NY 10018

  5. Anne Shoup Says:



  6. A group of Tesla Model S owners are going to retrace Mr. Broder’s trip and show that it can easily be done.

    We now have a new verb: to “broder” an EV you intentionally let the battery run down.


  7. MorinMoss Says:

    GreenCarReports has some details on the upcoming attempt by 3 Model S owners

    That said, I think the East Coast superchargers are too far apart and the company should consider putting another midway between the existing ones.

  8. You know, instead of adding multiple tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of excess weight to every electric car, we could instead inductively charge our highways. The technology is just about there.

    That way, you could arrive with more charge than when you left, and you could actually afford an electric car, because it would need a much smaller battery. Goodbye to range anxiety.

  9. daryan12 Says:

    Admittedly as someone who has worked (briefly!) on alternative fuelled vehicles before, there is an issue with their range in cold weather (as the batteries tend to loose charge quicker and occupants are more likely to turn on the heaters).

    But clearly this sounds like a bit of a hatchet job.

  10. rayduray Says:

    Electric Road Trip: Tesla’s Supercharger Network

    Co-Founder and chief technology officer of Tesla Motors JB Straubel discusses building charging stations and the new range of the electric car.

    Full video can be seen for free at:

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