Just how far can you drive an electric car? That’s the subject of a mild argument between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and The New York Times, after the latter published a story claiming a Tesla Model S electric car couldn’t drive as far as its range estimates predict.
Reporter John M. Broder planned to test Tesla’s new Supercharger network by driving a Model S with an 85-kWh battery from a Supercharger point in Newark, Delaware, to Milford, Connecticut — a distance of 206 miles. Yet Broder says that the car arrived at the Supercharger point with its range readout pointing to 0 miles, because parking the car overnight in cold weather had apparently sapped 21 miles of battery range.
Eventually Broder ran out of charge on a highway exit ramp, and the Tesla Model S had to be towed to a charging station. “If this is Tesla’s vision of long-distance travel in America’s future,” he wrote, “it needs some work.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, however, was less than pleased with this story. He publicly accused the Times of manipulating the story and providing an unfair verdict on Model S driving ranges. Musk’s assertion was based, in part, on checking vehicle charging logs that are available through the Tesla’s in-car telematics system.
“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,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “Am not against NYTimes in general. They’re usually fair & their own prev Tesla test drive got 300+ miles of range!”
A spokeswoman for The New York Times told Reuters that the paper denies Tesla’s claims. She said that Broder, “followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel” and that his account of the road trip, “was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake’ is, of course, flatly untrue.”
Tesla predicts versions of the Model S equipped with an 85-kWH lithium-ion battery can drive 300 miles on single charge, although the EPA said the cars can manage just 265 miles on a single charge. While Tesla acknowledges that battery life can degrade by about 10 percent in cold weather, the automaker still believes its car should have traveled than Broder managed in his road trip.
It’s worth noting that our colleagues at Motor Trend managed to drive a Tesla Model S from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, a distance of 212 miles, even despite crossing tall mountain ranges and occasionally using the car’s air conditioning. And subsequently, editor in chief Ed Loh drove the same Model S 285 miles on a return trip to southern California.