The New York Times has said a flagship Tesla electric car’s range between charges is nowhere near what is advertised. The review has prompted an angry response from the manufacturer, claiming technical data shows the reporter was lying.
In a piece published last Friday, John Broder reported on his test of a Tesla Model S. He set off with a charged battery expecting a 265 mile range based on Environmental Protection Agency estimates, though Tesla itself claims the model can reach 300 miles “under ideal conditions.”
In fact the vehicle ran out of juice before he’d reached his destination, which was 200 miles away. After recharging he drove another 79 miles, by which point the remaining range indicated on the car display had actually dropped 95 miles.
Things got even worse the next morning: despite not having been used, the range indicator had dropped overnight from 90 miles to 25 miles. Broder contacted Tesla and followed its advice to condition the battery by running the car’s heating on a low setting. This actually reduced the range to 19 miles.
Broder says he then followed Tesla’s advice to recharge using mains power before setting off. Not only did he fail to reach his destination, but he didn’t even reach a charging station and wound up having to be picked up by a tow truck service.
According to Broder, the big problem is that cold weather appears to significantly shorten the vehicle’s operating range — and running the car heating to rectify this is hardly an ideal solution as it further runs down the battery.
Tesla says it’s looked at diagnostic data (which it leaves on during test drives) and can prove that Broder’s report is inaccurate. It says Broder didn’t charge the car to full capacity (“not even close”), that he drove too fast, and that he took a detour through city traffic where electrical vehicle performance is less efficient, but didn’t mention this in the article.
The Times disputes this, saying ” Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla.”
Tesla has previously had disputes with the media. In 2011 it sued the British television show Top Gear for staging a dramatization of a car running out of charge during a test. The producers said that although this didn’t happen, it was a simulation of what would have happened based on its calculations from the actual test results.
The case was dismissed with the judge rejecting Tesla’s argument that the show had effectively accused it of lying about the operating range. The judge said viewers would realise that the show’s testing of the car at high speed on a race track wasn’t a reflection of its normal use performance.