Tesla and the New York Times are engaged in a war of words — and numbers — about the performance of the Model S electric vehicle. Tesla disputes a test report that suggested the range was far below what was advertised and says it has car data to prove its case.
The controversy kicked off with a test review by the Times’s John Broder published last Friday. In a detailed account of a two-day test he claimed that over the course of several charges, the car repeatedly failed to achieve its promised driving range. The test ended with the car running out of juice completely and being rescued by a flatbed truck.
Broder’s main conclusion was that the performance was particular compromised when the rechargeable battery was affected by cold weather and that Tesla’s suggested solution of running the car in a stationary position with the heating on wound up using more power than it reclaimed.
Tesla was quick to respond, with CEO Elon Musk tweeting that the “NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour.”
The company also noted that when providing test vehicles, it switches on data logging on the vehicle. It has now published the data from Broder’s vehicle, showing the distance, speed and charging levels throughout his journeys. Labels attached to the data appear to show several inaccuracies in Broder’s report and Musk outright wrote ” When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts.”
Broder issued an initial response to the Tesla complaint but at the time of writing had not yet responded to the release of the data. He has told Business Insider that, in response to Musk’s implication that he was a dishonest journalist, “We’re preparing a detailed response to the factual assertions in Mr. Musk’s post, but I don’t think we’re going to respond to these and other ad hominem attacks ”
Broder notes that the test drive was designed to assess new charging points installed by Tesla, not the car itself (which has previously had good reviews from the Times.)
It wouldn’t be at all surprising for Tesla to take this one to court. The risk, though, is that it may get into a situation where people come to the conclusion that although the specifics of what Broder wrote were inaccurate, the broad principle and conclusions of his report was correct.