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NY Times' Broder Responds To Tesla's Elon Musk 609

Posted by samzenpus
from the ding-ding-ding dept.
DocJohn writes "NY Times' John Broder responded to Elon Musk's blog entry. Accused of driving around a parking lot for no reason, for instance, Broder notes he was simply looking for the poorly marked charging station. Worst of all, much of Broder's behavior can be attributed directly to advice he received from Tesla representatives — something Musk fails to mention."
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NY Times' Broder Responds To Tesla's Elon Musk

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:17PM (#42905611)

    There is another reporter duplicating this exact run.
    Open the window and turn up the heater. Drive in circles in a parking lot.
    Use the advise from Tesla motors in an odd way to maximize drain.
    I await the other reporters story not this con job.

    • by Coisiche (2000870) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:22PM (#42911341)

      Male motoring reporters don't like electric cars. Simple fact.

      In the UK Top Gear program, the only presenter ever to make a grudging positive comment about an electric vehicle is James May, nicknamed Captain Slow by the others. I suspect there might be an agenda at work there.

  • A couple of points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:17PM (#42905613)

    A charging station he had previously been to...which makes his claim seem pretty suspect to me.

    Also, Musk did say this: "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."

    That was the most damning accusation, and on that note, Musk refutes the claim that he was told by Tesla employees to act as he did.

    • by number11 (129686) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:13AM (#42906041)

      Musk refutes the claim that he was told by Tesla employees to act as he did.

      What, you figure Musk was there when they talked to him? No, he called the employees and asked them what they said. You figure they're going to admit screwing up to the big boss who's clearly pissed off? Or, Musk may just be claiming the advice was different, without even checking. I don't know, you don't know, and (unless Musk was recording the calls) nobody knows for sure what was said.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:49AM (#42906261)
        By "screwing up" do you mean that they told this reporter that even though the display range said 32 miles, they told him it would go the 61 miles planned?

        This is not the kind of thing that is a "screw up" -- this is the kind of thing that someone would claim to have happened while lying his ass off.

        Do you even listen to yourself?
      • Dont 99% of customer service lines have some sort of disclaimer which says "this call may be monitored for customer service purposes"?

        You think they have no oversight into what their reps are saying?

    • by EvanED (569694) <evanedNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:23AM (#42906111)

      A charging station he had previously been to...which makes his claim seem pretty suspect to me.

      When? On the way up?

      Not true: there are separate service plazas on each side of the highway. Furthermore, if you look at Google's "satellite" photo [google.com], they are not symmetric -- the parking lot is a completely different layout on the two sides, and the Tesla charging station (marked on the Google image) is in a different location.

  • come on... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by apcullen (2504324) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:28PM (#42905727)
    They clocked the speed he was driving at because the tires were a different size? There's some mysterious huge downhill on the new jersey turnpike that caused him to hit 80 despite setting his cruise control to 54? Really? Is that the best he can come up with?

    The model S may or may not be a good car. It sure seems like it's a pain to charge up on long trips. But this guy Broder sounds like he's full of it.
  • by gQuigs (913879) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:29PM (#42905733) Homepage

    Was there a GPS logging that could confirm one story or the other? 54 mph vs 60 is quite a big difference on this long of a journey...

    • by adisakp (705706) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:55PM (#42905943) Journal

      Was there a GPS logging that could confirm one story or the other? 54 mph vs 60 is quite a big difference on this long of a journey...

      The data logging showed speeds as high as 81 MPH. That's hardly limping along at 45 and it's certainly not a "difference in wheel sizes" as the reporter claims. Plus he drove .6 miles in circles mostly at speeds between 10-15 MP while supposed "looking for a charging station". If you didn't find it on your first time circling the small 100 car lot, why wouldn't you just slow down to look for it rather than going in circles around the lot 30-40 times at a speed too fast to carefully look?

      • by number11 (129686) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:25AM (#42906125)

        Plus he drove .6 miles in circles mostly at speeds between 10-15 MP while supposed "looking for a charging station". If you didn't find it on your first time circling the small 100 car lot, why wouldn't you just slow down to look for it rather than going in circles around the lot 30-40 times at a speed too fast to carefully look?

        I expect that you've identified the problem. He ran out of juice because he drove the car 0.6 miles further than they'd planned for.

      • by EvanED (569694) <evanedNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:40AM (#42906195)

        If you didn't find it on your first time circling the small 100 car lot, why wouldn't you just slow down to look for it rather than going in circles around the lot 30-40 times at a speed too fast to carefully look?

        30-40 times? Hah.

        My estimate of the perimeter around the main parking lot area is about 500 feet. That would put it at 6-7 times max to get 0.6 miles.

        But look: the Tesla charger isn't in that group of parking spaces, it's lower down to the left. Directly in front of the building. (Google helpfully has it marked.) Going around the whole building would take the distance up quite a bit more, depending on what path you follow. (It's not totally clear from there what paths are legal, and there doesn't seem to be street view.) If you got there, drove around the main parking lot a couple times looking for something that wasn't there, went up and down an aisle or two, then found yourself going around the north side of that building, that'd probably be sufficient to hit 0.6 miles.

        And furthermore, 0.6 is even an overestimate. Based on Musk's own graphic [teslamotors.com], that 0.6 includes much of the exit into the service plaza. Just that exit could easily account for 20% of that 0.6 miles.

        I'm not saying that Broder is in the right when it comes to the whole story. I think there are a number of unanswered questions, and some parts of his review + Musk's data that are suspicious. But, I also think that a couple part in particular of Musk's post are grasping at straws, and I think "Broder was driving around trying to run the car out of power" is one of them -- I find Broder's explanation way more credible than Musk's pseudo-accusation of sabotage.

      • Was there a GPS logging that could confirm one story or the other? 54 mph vs 60 is quite a big difference on this long of a journey...

        The data logging showed speeds as high as 81 MPH. That's hardly limping along at 45 and it's certainly not a "difference in wheel sizes" as the reporter claims. Plus he drove .6 miles in circles mostly at speeds between 10-15 MP while supposed "looking for a charging station". If you didn't find it on your first time circling the small 100 car lot, why wouldn't you just slow down to look for it rather than going in circles around the lot 30-40 times at a speed too fast to carefully look?

        1) There was a single, brief spike to 81 MPH.

        2) When he claims 45, the log shows a little over 50. He doesn't claim that the discrepancy was caused by a difference in wheel sizes - he mentions it as a possible explanation (which sounds quite unlikely to be the case).

        3) By my estimation on the map, 0.6 miles is 2circles around the quite large parking lot in Milford. That's not excessive. 2. Not "30-40." And his speed "too fast to carefully look?" He went 0.6 miles in 5 minutes, meaning his speed was 7

    • Was there a GPS logging that could confirm one story or the other? 54 mph vs 60 is quite a big difference on this long of a journey...

      I don't know for sure, but it seems like there was. When Broder claims he was driving around [nearby streets, presumably] looking for the [in his words] poorly marked charging station, Tesla is saying that he was driving around in a parking lot. The only way Tesla could know the difference would be GPS data. This stands to reason because as remarked elsewhere, when an electric car is low on charge, it alerts you verbally, and asks if it can "lay in a course" [Star Trek term :-)] to the nearest charging

  • Believe it or not! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:36PM (#42905793)
    He's claiming Tesla representatives instructed him to purposefully drive past the reported range then lie about it? That does not sound credible.
    • He's claiming Tesla representatives instructed him to purposefully drive past the reported range then lie about it? That does not sound credible.

      He says that Tesla reps claimed he'd have enough range despite the range on the display. It sounds like the reps were guessing that the range shown the night before was accurate because it was given based on a warmed up battery, while the morning range was from a cold battery, which isn't reflective of the battery temperature while in use. As it turned out, they were almost right - once he got going the range display elongated and nearly got him to his destination.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @11:56PM (#42905955)

    Something that Broder also failed to mention in his original article. In my opinion, if you are claiming to review A CAR, and THE CAR says it won't reach your destination, and someone one the phone says go anyway, and you go, and it fails to reach the destination, implying there's something wrong with the car by saying it should have but didn't is either being deliberately misleading or unforgivably stupid. There's no third option.

    Clearly, tech support for computers with drivetrains is as stellar as tech support for computers in general, but if Broder is going to blame everything on bad advice, even if every single thing he says is true, it destroys his credibility as a technology reviewer of any kind. That would be no different than doing a review of an operating system and saying "it kept losing all my settings" when in fact what was happening was some tech support person kept telling you to reinstall it from scratch. That's a pretty important thing to mention explicitly. The Tesla didn't just "fail" by Broder's own words it failed because he was told to do dumb things and actually did those dumb things *against the advise of the car itself*.

    And that's the best case scenario assuming I take it as a given every single factual statement made by Broder about the test drive is accurate. That doesn't account for why CNN's route replication appears to have been dramatically different.

    • by NatasRevol (731260) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:18AM (#42906075) Journal

      The third option is the Broder is lying and didn't get that advice. Seems kind of obvious. And in keeping with the rest of the facts.

  • by Forever Wondering (2506940) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:18AM (#42906073)
    According to the Tesla data, Broder's charge percentages after leaving a charging station were 90%, 72%, and 28%. While 90% may be reasonable, and 3/4 of a tank a bit dicey, who in their right mind only fills up to just over 1/4 of a tank? If he were refueling a gasoline powered car in this manner, he'd be deemed a fool.
    • by craighansen (744648) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:57AM (#42906321)

      He was at a "regular" charging station, not a supercharging station. It was an unscheduled stop and he charged it for an hour, which he says Tesla support staff told him would be enough to get back to the supercharging station. Reportedly, they said that the lost range would be recovered as he continued to drive, warming the batteries. It would have taken as much as five hours to fully charge the car at that station.

  • by hrvatska (790627) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:37AM (#42906171)
    Is there anyone outside of Tesla that can independently verify that the logs actually recorded what Musk says they recorded? Why is there an automatic assumption by some that what Musk is publishing is what the logs actually recorded? How would we know if Musk is falsifying what's in the logs?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @01:04AM (#42906375)

      Considering two other reporters from Consumer Reports and Motor Trends drove essentially the same route without any of the problems Broder had, combined with Broder's history of electric car bias and oil friendly articles, I'm much more inclined to believe Musk over Broder.

    • Is there anyone outside of Tesla that can independently verify that the logs actually recorded what Musk says they recorded? Why is there an automatic assumption by some that what Musk is publishing is what the logs actually recorded? How would we know if Musk is falsifying what's in the logs?

      Well, Broder didn't dispute anything in the log in his response other than his driving speeds (and he doesn't even disagree with all of it, admitting to reaching 80 at one point). Everything else he corroborates.

      The only thing I found to be misleading with regards to Musk's interpretation of the log is when he said that Broder raised the cabin temperature instead of lowering. Before Broder's response, when looking at the plots the first time, I did notice that a few miles after Broder raised the temperatu

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is there anyone outside of Tesla that can independently verify that the logs actually recorded what Musk says they recorded? Why is there an automatic assumption by some that what Musk is publishing is what the logs actually recorded? How would we know if Musk is falsifying what's in the logs?

      How would we know if Musk is falsifying what's in the logs?

      Because it is a HUGE risk to take. What if the reporter had Google Tracks running on his phone? What if he made phone calls that disproved his location according to Musk? What if he stopped at a McDonalds and has the receipt and it disagrees with Musk's data? What if he drove by a security camera...

      All Broder would need to do to destroy Musk's claims is prove that any bit of his data is wrong, because then Musk would only have two options: Ad

  • by bpkiwi (1190575) on Friday February 15, 2013 @01:14AM (#42906465)
    The only real issue in this whole debacle is the large loss in battery charge while the car was parked overnight. Looking at the graph that Musk posted here [teslamotors.com] I can see the battery charge taking a steep dip right as the car is supposedly parked. The graph of remaining miles [teslamotors.com] shows it even more clearly - obviously the computer was extrapolating from the sudden battery charge drop.

    So, what caused the sudden drop? The speed graph isn't fine enough to determine of the car was driven, and although there is a cabin temperature spike, the reporter says that happened the next morning when he was told to run the heater for a while. The engineers were obviously thinking it was temperature related, and thought that with a bit of "conditioning" it would all be ok. Thus the suggestion to run the heater, and to slow-charge. Finally the assumed the computer had it wrong and told him it was ok to drive - and were probably wrong.

    So, the only real conclusion left is that the battery actually lost charge overnight. Did Broder sabotage the result by running the heater longer than claimed, or drove around in circles (again) to run it down, or maybe he just left the headlights on overnight?. We'll probably never know.

    The alternative is that the Tesla batteries discharge substantially when not being used in cold weather. That should actually be pretty easy for someone else to test.
  • by conspirator23 (207097) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:44AM (#42907387)

    After reading the Musk analysis and the Broder rebuttal, I have to come to the conclusion that Mr. Broder's assessment is honest an accurate. I think there are two critical points that he brings up. These points do not paint Musk as a conniver, but simply as a proud engineer. He is trying to defend the engineering of the vehicle, but the problem was not with the engineering. The problems were purely operational in nature. First:

    "I was given battery-conservation advice at that time (turn off the cruise control; alternately slow down and speed up to take advantage of regenerative braking) that was later contradicted by other Tesla personnel."

    There are multiple references like this in the article, but I will address them all with this statement. Mr. Broder's account shows an all too common problem: a support organization that does not provide consistent or specifically correct answers to customer's questions. Guess what? Good support is hard. For a company of Tesla's age, with a product that has very little "gamma testing" to it's name right now, it is not the least bit surprising that Mr. Broder received conflicting and ultimately counterproductive support advice. Second:

    "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. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters."

    A change in the overall tire/wheel diameter generally requires having your speedometer re-calibrated if you want it to give you an accurate reading. It is entirely reasonable to expect that there is a lot of calculation going on inside the vehicle that is dependent on being able to correctly correlate RPMs to distance traveled. It's also reasonable to expect that differences in the rolling resistance between the stock tires and the AW tires would also have some impact.

    These are not engineering problems. These are operational problems with process, knowledge, and execution. Musk should be rightly proud of the car his company is built, and should be rightly terrified that his post-purchase support could potentially burn a lot of goodwill once he runs out of early-adopting fanboys and geeks who will cut him slack and are motivated to fix their own problems. The I Just Want It To Work crowd will be a tougher audience.

  • by quantaman (517394) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:09AM (#42907499)

    I think it's quite possible that neither is being entirely dishonest.

    The main disagreement is about not fully charging the car. But it's pretty critical to remember that charging, even at a supercharger, takes a long time.

    If you're on a roadtrip would you really want to wait around at a supercharger station for an hour? I think it's fairly reasonable to assume that if the person is 150 miles from their destination they're going to wait till the range estimator reads 155 then take off.

    Also one thing not quite clear from the NYT article:
    "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."

    Note that this wasn't a supercharger station, this was just somewhere he could plug in so charging was slow. It's not quite clear to me whether he was told the car would be fine with the estimator at 32 miles, or the car would be fine after being plugged in for an hour. But I'm pretty sure there are a lot of people who could do some magical thinking to convince themselves that the guy on the phone said it was enough so it must be so!

    The speed discrepancy is hard to account for (unless it was a dumb thing like the wrong tire size), but as for the 80 mph spike, maybe he just floored it to pass someone, and even though the logs show he wasn't at 45 mph for the limping stage he did reduce his speed, which suggests he was trying to extend the range and not run it dry like Elon Musk suggested. As for all the charging stations along the final route there's no evidence Broder had access to this info.

    As for the cabin temperature the data definitely shows he drops it quite a bit, Elon Musk is definitely fudging the interpretation when he suggests it was always around 72.

    In short Broder tried to use the car like a lot of people would, spending the absolute minimal amount of time waiting at a charging station, and due to some misunderstandings and bad breaks that tend to happen when you're pushing the limits, got burned.

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