Tesla Dispute Rolls On

Journalist John Broder’s test drive of the Tesla S electric car may not have gone the distance, but the subsequent dispute is showing no signs of running out of power.

As we covered yesterday, he wrote a scathing report saying the car repeatedly failed to live up to its claimed operating range, eventually coming to a halt and having to be taken away on a flatbed truck. Tesla’s chief called the report “fake” and the company went on to release recording data that it says shows multiple parts of Broder’s report were inaccurate.

Broder has now responded both to the general charge (he flat out rejects the suggestion he deliberately set out to sabotage the testing) and the specifics shown by the data. Several of the arguments on both sides simply come down to differing accounts of who said what when Broder spoke to Tesla staff during the testing, but others are an intriguing example of how cold hard numbers can often be subject to interpretation.

Among the points of dispute after the latest exchange:

Tesla says its logs show the car never ran out of power. Broder says that both an on-screen display saying the car was shutting down and the fact that the car stopped moving and wouldn’t release the electrically controlled brake show it did.

Tesla says Broder intentionally drove “right past” a charge station when the car was running out of power. Broder says he was unaware of this station and a Tesla representative he called didn’t find it when looking online to suggest where Broder could recharge.

Tesla says Broder’s claims of setting cruise control to 54 mph and at some points driving at 45 mph are both false. Broder says this doesn’t match his recollection of the speedometer readings. He says the discrepancy may be because the vehicle was using 19 inch wheels rather than the 21 inches specified for the model.

Tesla says the data shows Broder turned the temperature up at a point he claims to have turned it down. Broder says he tried different temperatures while trying to get a balance between comfort and minimizing power use and that the data shows his two most dramatic changes were both downwards.

Tesla says Broder repeatedly failed to fully charge the vehicle when he used a charging station. Broder says he charged the vehicle as much as he believed necessary to reach his next destination with a charging point, based on the claimed operating range. He argues that this approach — which avoids spending additional time at a charging point — is how ordinary drivers would expect to operate.

Tesla says Broder intentionally “drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot” rather than use the recharging point there, a move it says was a clear attempt to run the battery to empty. Broder says he was driving round in the dark trying to find the recharging point and that he plugged in as soon as he found it.

In another development, a CNN reporter recreated Broder’s journey, but successfully this time. Valdes-Dapena did note the two differences in his test were that he did it in warmer weather and without a break. Be sure to read CNN’s article for all the details.

(Image credit: Mark Warren via Creative Commons license)