2013 Tesla Model S

NY Times' writer Broder makes EV rookie mistakes on failed Model S road trip

When the NY Times writer John Broder wrote about his failed Tesla Model S road trip, experienced electric car drivers world-wide rolled their eyes in disbelief over the mistakes he'd made.

Last weekend the NY Times published an article by John Broder about his failed attempt to take a Tesla Model S on a road trip. The article collectively started electric car owners eyes rolling because of the litany of rookie mistakes Broder made. But the story became richer on Monday when Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk took to twitter and a CNBC interview to slam Broder for publishing a fake story, and promising to write a blog post going over facts and figures. That blog post has not yet been written, but experienced electric car owners such as this writer wish that Broder were just a teensy bit more experienced with electric cars, or had gotten better advice from the Tesla service department.

Elon Musk may have been over the top in his criticism of the Broder's piece, describing the article as "faked" or a "set-up". He must have realized he'd gone too far because within an hour of the first tweet, Musk tweeted that he's not against the NY Times in general, and that their coverage is usually fair. It appears his complaint is with the quality of this specific story.

For a different analysis of this issue see John Goreham's writeup: Tesla's Elon Musk and New York Times in a spat over test

Broder's story covered a road trip he took with a Model S provided by Tesla Motors. He picked it up in Washington D.C. and charged at the Supercharger station in Delaware. He then drove to the Supercharger station in Milford Conn. but along the way noticed the power draw was enough that he wouldn't make it to Milford, and instead he took unnecessarily extreme measures to conserve energy including turning off the climate control and driving at 55 miles/hr in the right-most lane. He barely made it to Milford, and then continued from there to an overnight stay with a friend. Inexplicably he failed to grab a full recharge in Milford. Waking up the next morning the car had lost quite a bit of range, presumably due to the cold weather (10 degrees F). He claims to have been given bad advice from the Tesla service department, drove to a charging station in Norwich 20 miles out of the way, but then he compounded the bad advice by not snagging enough of a charge to make it to Milford. With insufficient range to make it to Milford, he understandably ended up stranded at the side of the road requiring a tow truck trip to the Supercharger station. That gave him an opportunity to snap a picture of a Model S on a flatbed tow truck.

What did Broder do wrong? Any halfway experienced electric car driver can spot several mistakes that Broder made, and we don't need the blog post promised by Elon Musk to diagnose the missteps along the way. We're relying on a blog post by a fellow, Peter, who has taken long distance trips with his Model S, and wrote an open letter to John Broder pointing out his mistakes. Most of what Peter wrote is conventional wisdom for EV owners, some of it is specific to the Model S.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.

Share this content.


National Geographic - Tesla Model S : youtu.be/1OiG8uB6Cic
If I understand correctly, the range displayed by the computer fluctuates and is subject to change, and requires one to have a plan B to compensate for weather, etc… The model S is a great car, and I’m not defending the NY times, but I think they have a valid point, and the reported acted as any consumer would do. Is it fair to expect the same outcome from a car as its gasoline cousin? Maybe not, but until EV can alleviate the range anxiety, they have a long way to go. The technology is new, and quite frankly, we can adopt diesel in the US as they have in Europe to get more bang for our buck.
I agree that diesel is a stepping stone to alternative fuel vehicles, but it isn't the answer. What the NY times reporter proved to everyone is that driving an EV is different to driving a gasoline vehicle. Applying gasoline mentality will land you in trouble. With a car as capable as the Tesla S, the journey should have been straightforward with some planning. He failed to plan or research the car he took delivery of. Two Frenchmen circumnavigated the entire globe in a 60 mile range Citroen EV using mostly trickle charging. They never ran totally out of charge, even through remote portions of the globe. The reporters failure to navigate through Connecticut is laughable in comparison.
I wonder, what would any normal person's response be to someone who said to them, "I drove my SUV out into the middle of the desert yesterday with only 2 gallons of gas in it. Would you believe it ran out of gas in the middle of no-where and I had to call the AAA to rescue me! These gas cars are junk!" Unfortunately, separating stupidity from motor-journalists seems to be difficult. Why on Earth would they decide to stay overnight where they couldn't plug the EV in? That is basic EV driving 101. {brucedp.150m.com}