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Elon Musk Lays Out His Evidence That NYT Tesla Test Drive Was Staged 841

mykepredko writes "Tesla Motors CEO and founder Elon Musk definitely isn't the best guy to try to pull a fast one on. The visionary entrepreneur set Twitter a titter when he claimed earlier this week that New York Times writer John Broder had fudged details about the Tesla Models S car's range in cold weather, resulting in what he termed a 'fake' article. Musk promised evidence, and now he has delivered, via the official Tesla blog."
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Elon Musk Lays Out His Evidence That NYT Tesla Test Drive Was Staged

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  • by Ossifer ( 703813 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:33PM (#42897237)

    The blog entry explains that the logging is not done on consumer vehicles without prior consent, but that this is always turned on for the press, after Tesla was scammed by Top Gear.

  • by jacknifetoaswan ( 2618987 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:39PM (#42897317)

    They apparently fudged a test of the vehicle to make it seem like it went from having a decent charge to being completely dead within a very short timeframe. I think it was Clarkson driving, and he gave a very bad review of the car.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:40PM (#42897325)
    That was never an issue. The issue was that Broder did not charge it fully and then ran it down. IOW, the tow truck driver is simply confirming what everybody agrees on.
  • by HaZardman27 ( 1521119 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:40PM (#42897327)
    Pretty much the same thing. They implied that the car could break down inside its range and showed the staff pushing a functional car back to the garage.
  • by ThePiMan2003 ( 676665 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:42PM (#42897371)

    Top Gear had a pre-scripted show, where they decided in the end that the Tesla would run out of power, so they had a shot of their people pushing the car, even though it still had plenty of power in its batteries. Top Gear claimed it was OK doing this, because they were showing something that could happen, even though it didn't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:45PM (#42897433)

    RTFA, but basically they wrote a scripted event showing the car running out of energy prior to actually testing the car. Tesla found out about it when Top Gear left a copy of the script while the car was being tested.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:45PM (#42897435)

    Musk is not claiming that the car still had a charge. If you RTFS you'd see that the accusation is that the reporter purposely did not charge the car and that is why it ran out of electricity. This occurred after behavior was logged that appeared to indicate an attempt to drive the car in circles in a parking lot until it died. When that failed, it was minimally charged and driven until it died on the road. Assuming the Tesla data is accurate, it doesn't disagree with your claims from the tow company and there's no reason to think there's anything more to it than what Musk describes.

  • by _bug_ ( 112702 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:49PM (#42897497) Journal

    That Jalopnik article has since been updated, pointing out how both Musk and Broder could be correct.

    UPDATE: A source who has seen the data logs explains how it's possible how Broder and Musk could both be truthful but sort of wrong. The high-voltage battery in the pack, allegedly, had enough power to move the car a much greater distance than needed to move the car onto a flatbed, maybe as far as five miles, but the 12V battery that powers the accessories and gets its juice from the high voltage battery shut down when Broder pulled into the service station.

    When Broder decided to turn the car off, which was a mistake, the parking brake (operated by the 12V battery) was rendered unusable. If Broder was told not to turn the car off, it's his mistake. If Tesla told him to do it, or didn't inform him he shouldn't do it, then it's their mistake.

  • Re:I'm a skeptic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by preaction ( 1526109 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:51PM (#42897519)

    According to TFA, Consumer Reports already did a review of the car.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:55PM (#42897573)

    Actually I watched that show, what they claimed was that at a track (where one might want to drive the roadster) while driving at track speeds you get very little range. Which is probably true since it is true of gas cars as well. The difference being the refueling time.

    There is no doubt that they sensationalized the filming of it, as they do (this is top gear after all)... but the point Clarkson made was that you got a very short amount of track time out of a car that is really built for the track, followed by having to recharge rather than just gas up.

  • Re:Sorry, no (Score:4, Informative)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:56PM (#42897583)
    "the New York Times. They don't lie" I think there is a bit of misplaced faith here. I would be wary of trusting *any* American news source, even one as famous as the New York Times.

    Aside from potential dishonesty, the NYT employs reporters who routinely fail to have experts check their statements. Just read through the "Technology" section if you want examples (the most extreme examples can be found there). Like most American media, the NYT is desperate to get their story out there before their competitors; double checking facts and ensuring accurate statements are secondary objectives in the best case.
  • Re:I'm a skeptic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by chaidawg ( 170956 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:56PM (#42897593)

    Replying to a bit of a troll, but:
    Consumer reports [consumerreports.org] basically the same route.
    Motor trend car of the year 2013 [motortrend.com]

  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:57PM (#42897599) Homepage

    The brake isn't held on or off by electric power, because that would be illegal.

    What happens is that a surprisingly small electric motor (about the size of an electric window motor) tensions up the perfectly ordinary mechanical handbrake mechanism through a screw jack. The friction of the screw is sufficient to stop the tension in the brake cables slackening it off.

    This is pretty common on cars now, for some reason. I think they're fairly horrible to use and make hill starts difficult.

  • NYT is not perfect (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:57PM (#42897625)

    Disgraced NYT writers:
    Science writer Jonah Lehrer - plagiarism.
    Jayson Blair - plagiarism and fabrication of facts.

    There are a few more but I'm at work right now. Whether the writers are staff or free-lancers it's irrelevant - the editors should be thorough in grilling their own writers for facts and accuracies. They're supposed to be the gate-keepers.

    Why would Broder lie? Who knows. Maybe personal fame for "calling out" a big company, so he can be contracted to write for other organizations. If it was a positive review, it would come off as an ad, and people would forget about it.

    People typically remember "investigative" journalism - hit pieces where someone has done wrong. Articles where things go right are often forgotten and delegated to Readers' Digest. Nobody wants to be known for writing "soft" pieces (also known as "fluff").

  • Re:I'm a skeptic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:00PM (#42897687)

    So did Motor Trend... They named it their 2013 car of the year. As did Automobile Magazine.

  • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:00PM (#42897689) Journal

    Read the linked story. That was just one of the lies Musk alleges the journalist wrote. The reason the journalist got stranded was because he didn't charge the car enough to actually do the intended journey. That's like putting a gallon of gas into a car to drive 100 miles.

  • by _Shad0w_ ( 127912 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:01PM (#42897691)

    Top Gear hasn't been journalism for years, it's entertainment pure and simple - the shows are entirely scripted.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:02PM (#42897709)

    Normally when someone is this far off factually I'd tell them to RFA. But it appears you read it and failed to comprehend it.

    Tesla never said you can't drive 65 or have your temperature at 74F. *Broder* - you know, the lying liar who lies - claimed that he had to do that. Musk simply provides evidence that his claims are false.

    I agree that the range sucks, but, as the article clearly points out, the car not only made its recommended range, it did it after being driven at high speeds and charged significantly less than the recommended time. Broder had to drive the thing in circles to get it to run out of range!

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gma i l .com> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:03PM (#42897725) Journal

    Jeremy Clarkson is the real-life Eric Cartman. Entertaining as hell to watch, you want to like him in a way, but he's still a gigantic asshole and terrible person.

  • Re:I'm a skeptic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Life2Short ( 593815 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:12PM (#42897939)
    Motor Trend named the Chevy Vega the car of the year in 1971. Car and Driver named the Renault Alliance as one of 1983's 10 best cars. In 1985 the Ford Merkur also made this list. You might enjoy this [caranddriver.com].
  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:25PM (#42898193) Homepage

    He doesn't like electric cars. He's written extensively on his dislike. No need for conspiracy. He just tanked the test.

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:4, Informative)

    by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:41PM (#42898535) Journal

    Well, Exxon is in the top ten here:

    http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?showYear=a&indexType=s [opensecrets.org]

    But can anyone explain why the US Chamber of Commerce is the top money giving lobbyist, by 3x?

  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:46PM (#42898615)

    A $100,000 car is "mass market"?

    They were originally targeting a $50k price tag with the S but rapidly gave up on that idea. Cool car though.


    And, after the tax break, the low end one is about $50k, only the early-adopter limited edition model is $100k.

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:47PM (#42898653)

    It's not about a "bad review" it's about lying.

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:3, Informative)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:49PM (#42898689)

    How is it a conspiracy when there are _facts_ that electric cars were not prioritized as being important??

    "Who Killed the Electric Car?"
    http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/who_killed_the_electric_car/ [filmsforaction.org]

    However, I agree with your analysis that Occam's Razor is probably closer to the truth. Sadly sensational "journalism" still sells eyeballs.

  • John Broder, Oil Man (Score:5, Informative)

    by naroom ( 1560139 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:51PM (#42898731)
    Look at other articles he has written [nytimes.com]. He is consistently pro-oil and anti-environmentalist.

    See: Dirty Hippies get arrested for obstructing the utopian big oil future [nytimes.com].

    This guy is an oil shill.
  • Broder response (Score:5, Informative)

    by angrytuna ( 599871 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:53PM (#42898767)
    Broder appears to have posted a response. [nytimes.com]
  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:59PM (#42898885)

    Top Gear admitted the whole thing was staged. Their excuse in the lawsuit was that this was a show for entertainment not information.

    I don't think pointing out facts is a personal attack. Nor has Elon had their pets killed, unlike the cult you are comparing him too.

  • by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:04PM (#42898969)

    The plots show a precipitous drop in charge level around the 400 mile mark that doesn't match the constant discharge slopes elsewhere. The only thing that happened at that time was the temperature increasing from 70F to 75F. It seems odd that at 35% charge the heaters would have that effect when nothing seemed to happen at other times with the temp above 74F.

    I own an electric car (a Mitsubishi Miev in fact), and the heater sucks down a tremendous amount of power. The dash power draw meter indicates the total draw on the batteries, and in very cold weather, the heater draws as much power as cruising at 30 mph. If you sit in a parking lot for two hours with the heater set to 74 degrees (in 20 degree weather), you will use the same amount of power as driving 60 miles. Takes quite a chunk out of my battery life. It also happens to be a cheap and easy trick for messing with the range estimator on an electric car.


  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:07PM (#42898997)

    I love logs like these, since they let you fact check both sides. They paint a pretty damning picture when you take them with Tesla's notes, but Tesla's notes are rather one sided and skip some obvious facts that they'd rather ignore but which are plain for all to see. Similarly, Broder's account was clearly sensationalized a bit in various parts, though not in all of the ways that Tesla claims. For instance:

    1) The cabin temperature logs Tesla provides have a note saying that Broder turned up the temperature at the 182 mile mark when he claimed he turned it down. If we read the original article, we see that Broder merely mentions having noticed a decreased reported range at the 182 mile mark (114 miles from start + 68 since charge), but he never said he decreased his speed or turned down the heater at that exact time. What we see in the logs is that he did turn up the heater slightly around that time, but very shortly thereafter he turned it down to its lowest setting, exactly as he claimed. If you're looking at the logs, it's easy to spot the deep valleys where he did what he said he did at about the time that he said he did it.

    2) Similarly, if you compare the graphs, you'll see that at about the time he dropped his heating down to its lowest setting, his speed also dropped down to around 54 miles per hour, again, as he claimed. That said, he seemed to imply in the article that he maintained that speed for quite some time. What the logs show is that he only maintained that speed for a short period of time, before resuming his typical driving habits that had him in the mid-60s for his speed. He conveniently neglected to mention how long he maintained that speed, leaving it to the reader to assume that he maintained it until his next stop, which was untrue.

    3) Tesla disputes the time that Broder claims he spent charging at Milford (the Times' picture claimed 58 minutes, Broder's article says "nearly an hour", but Tesla claims 47 minutes). It's possible this was a simple case of misunderstanding, where he was in the service station for 58 minutes (including the rather shady 5 minutes driving around the lot to seemingly try and kill the battery) but actually only spent 47 minutes charging. Either way, there's no dispute that his range read 185 miles when he stopped charging the car before it was done. Tesla suggests that it's his fault for not charging it to full, even though the reported range was 60 miles greater than what was necessary to reach his next stop.

    4) If you look at the logs showing the reported range, you'll see a sudden drop in range of about 50 miles at the 400 mile mark. Broder claimed that the reported range went from 79 miles to 25 miles overnight, which is exactly what the logs show. Tesla doesn't make a point of highlighting that blip in the logs, to say the least. We also see that Broder once again turned his thermostat to an extremely low setting, though the logs do not support his claim that he limped along at 45 miles per hour (though he did slow down quite a bit...maybe he made a typo when meaning to say 54 miles per hour?).

    5) Broder never mentions in the article what the estimated range was after his last stop, instead merely saying that "after an hour they [Tesla] cleared me to resume the trip". Since he says he woke up a Tesla official on the west coats to ask for instructions and this was not his scheduled stop, it's quite possible he got someone half-asleep or unfamiliar with the fact that he had stopped at a non-Supercharger station, meaning that they cleared him after the hour that the Supercharger would have taken, rather than the several hours necessary at the station he was at. Either way, he was definitively not charged enough (which he clearly knew), since both Musk's notes and the Times' own map indicate that he had around 32-35 miles of reported range after he had charged, which was nowhere close to the 51 necessary to reach his destination.

    Long story short, both sides are trying to spin the facts in their favor. As far as I can tell,

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Verunks ( 1000826 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:17PM (#42899189)

    I don't watch Top Gear. I don't understand the purpose of faked reviews. People do take it seriously.

    well that's the problem, you can't understand what top gear does if you don't watch it. It's a comic show where they destroy cars, make stupid challenges to decide what's the best car and give their very own opinion on the car they test on the track, and everyone that watches top gear knows that they absolutely hate electric cars

  • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:28PM (#42899449)

    In looking over the logs, I'm having trouble finding places where Broder outright lied, and I see several places where Tesla takes some liberty with the facts as well. I detailed my points in another post further down, but suffice to say, Broder implied extended duration of events in a few cases where they didn't last, and Tesla made a few obviously incorrect assumptions that were convenient for their efforts to make Broder look bad.

    For instance, in looking over Broder's account, he never provided an exact time for when he turned the heater down, merely saying that it occurred sometime after he noticed that the range had decreased faster than he expected. Tesla chose to assume that he turned the heater down at the exact time he reported seeing the range drop, so they painted him as a liar by showing how he turned up the heater around that time, while neglecting to point out that he clearly did turn the heater to its lowest setting a few minutes later. They conveniently ignored quite a few other facts like those that supported Broder's story or made them look bad (e.g. the overnight loss of 54 miles of range that Broder reported, which the logs support as having happened).

    That said, Broder also claims that he dropped to 54 miles per hour and put the car on cruise control around the same time he turned down the heater, suggesting strongly that he maintained that speed until his next stop. What the logs show is that he did drop to around that speed for awhile...before speeding back up to his typical speed in the mid-60s for that leg of the trip. Again, it doesn't contradict his account, since he never actually said he maintained that speed, but it does show that his account was at least a bit disingenuous. Not enough for libel, but certainly enough to be shady.

    Discrepancies like those abound in both accounts if you compare them against the actual logs. I went into a lot more detail in my other post [slashdot.org].

  • latest update (Score:5, Informative)

    by zachdms ( 265636 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:55PM (#42899891) Homepage

    There's been mention of the 2/12 response from Broder (previous to Musk's rebuttal), but the first post-rebuttal articles are now showing up:
    * http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/conflicting-assertions-over-an-electric-car-test-drive/?smid=tw-share [nytimes.com]
    Plus a general line by line analysis of Musk's comments:
    * http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2013/02/elon-musks-data-doesnt-back-his-claims-new-york-times-fakery/62149/ [theatlanticwire.com]

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by drkim ( 1559875 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:03PM (#42900027)

    Also, why would he try to tarnish this car? He doesn't appear to own an oil company.

    Broder has a negative bias about electrics, and the flap no doubt sells papers.

    In an article he wrote March of last year he said: "Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.”

    Here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/sunday-review/the-electric-car-unplugged.html?pagewanted=all&_r=4& [nytimes.com]

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:10PM (#42900145)

    Are you one of the people who thinks that US Chamber of Commerce is a government organisation because of the way its named?

    It's actually a massive central lobbying arm for corporate interests.

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by drkim ( 1559875 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:31PM (#42900495)

    No problem. The BBC will hire him in a heartbeat. They, too, seem to have tarted up electric car reviews as well.

    ...or NBC. On their "Dateline NBC" show they were trying to show how 'dangerous' Chevrolet pickup trucks were. So they rigged the truck with explosives to make it appear as if the gas tank had ruptured (which it had not.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dateline_NBC#General_Motors_vs._NBC [wikipedia.org]

    This is just another example of a journalist trying to fabricate a 'shocking' story.

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by SomePgmr ( 2021234 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:01PM (#42901965) Homepage

    TFA states that ever since the Top Gear thing, they've put data loggers in all the cars they send to the media

    Production vehicies will probably have similar data loggers, but with less data captured

    Yep, you got it. From Elon Musk (on Twitter):

    "Tesla data logging is only turned on with explicit written permission from customers, but after Top Gear BS, we always keep it on for media."

  • Re:Pathetic. (Score:4, Informative)

    by tao ( 10867 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:11PM (#42902099) Homepage

    But can anyone explain why the US Chamber of Commerce is the top money giving lobbyist, by 3x?

    Because it is, despite the misleading name, NOT a government agency. It's through and through a lobbyist organisation.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.