Published on February 14th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Tesla Slams NYTimes Reporter For Lies, Ignorance, & Doing Completely Illogical Things To Run The Model S Battery To 0

February 14th, 2013 by  

Man, stories like this (the NYTimes one, not the Tesla one) are simply sad, shameful, and a disgrace to humanity. If you haven’t heard, an extremist NYTimes reporter with a clear anti-EV agenda was awarded the chance to perform a test drive of the Model S. Unfortunately, the “test results” were already completely planned. Mr John Broder, the “reporter,” had decided to run the Model S battery to 0, even if that meant driving in circles in a parking lot, not charging the EV as much as he could, and even driving past public charging stations when the car is telling him to charge up! Insane, isn’t it? This guy writes for the NYTimes, but decided to fake “accidentally” running out of electricity before finishing the planned trip.

I imagine Tesla wouldn’t publicly call Mr Broder a “liar,” a “cheat,” or a “crook,” but I certainly would.

But you don’t need to believe one person’s word over another. As Tesla points out in this article below, the company carefully tracks what goes on in the cars that reporters drive, to be able to provide an informed response when people with an agenda simply make things up. (Tesla — a hero of good yet again.)

Here’s Tesla’s full response to the article by Mr Broder:

A Most Peculiar Test Drive

By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO

You may have heard recently about an article written by John Broder from The New York Times that makes numerous claims about the performance of the Model S. We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates. Indeed, our highest per capita sales are in Norway, where customers drive our cars during Arctic winters in permanent midnight, and in Switzerland, high among the snowy Alps. About half of all Tesla Roadster and Model S customers drive in temperatures well below freezing in winter. While no car is perfect, after extremely thorough testing, the Model S was declared to be the best new car in the world by the most discerning authorities in the automotive industry.

To date, hundreds of journalists have test driven the Model S in every scenario you can imagine. The car has been driven through Death Valley (the hottest place on Earth) in the middle of summer and on a track of pure ice in a Minnesota winter. It has traveled over 600 miles in a day from the snowcapped peaks of Tahoe to Los Angeles, which made the very first use of the Supercharger network, and moreover by no lesser person than another reporter from The New York Times. Yet, somehow John Broder “discovered” a problem and was unavoidably left stranded on the road. Or was he?

After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story. In the case ofTop Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being “tested”). Our car never even had a chance.

The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Here is a summary of the key facts:

  • As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.
  • The final leg of his trip was 61 miles and yet he disconnected the charge cable when the range display stated 32 miles. He did so expressly against the advice of Tesla personnel and in obvious violation of common sense.
  • In his article, Broder claims that “the car fell short of its projected range on the final leg.” Then he bizarrely states that the screen showed “Est. remaining range: 32 miles” and the car traveled “51 miles,” contradicting his own statement (see images below). The car actually did an admirable job exceeding its projected range. Had he not insisted on doing a nonstop 61-mile trip while staring at a screen that estimated half that range, all would have been well. He constructed a no-win scenario for any vehicle, electric or gasoline.
  • On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.
  • Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.
  • At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.
  • The charge time on his second stop was 47 mins, going from -5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of EPA Rated Range, not 58 mins as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.
  • For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?
  • The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broder’s trip. When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

When Tesla first approached The New York Times about doing this story, it was supposed to be focused on future advancements in our Supercharger technology. There was no need to write a story about existing Superchargers on the East Coast, as that had already been done by Consumer Reports with no problems! We assumed that the reporter would be fair and impartial, as has been our experience with The New York Times, an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity. As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

When I first heard about what could at best be described as irregularities in Broder’s behavior during the test drive, I called to apologize for any inconvenience that he may have suffered and sought to put my concerns to rest, hoping that he had simply made honest mistakes. That was not the case.

In his own words in an article published last year, this is how Broder felt about electric cars before even seeing the Model S:

“Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.”

When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts. Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: please investigate this article and determine the truth. You are a news organization where that principle is of paramount importance and what is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.

Vehicle Logs for Media Drive by John Broder on January 23 and 24

Detail showing car driving around in circles in front of the Milford Supercharger trying to get Model S to stop with zero range indicated:


Two inaccuracies in the graphic attached to Broder’s article:


Google Map with Tesla comments showing actual performance of Model S and Broder’s intentions:

Map provided by PlugShare of charging stations along Broder’s entire route:

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Peeker

    Have you seen the latest on the “tesla Flyers”: The facts backing up the charges on the Tesla Flyers are posted all over the internet, Here is a link to one detailed breakdown of the evidence:

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  • For Mr EVDriver :

    I’ve updated the cost comparison spreadsheet (link below). A few notes:

    1- Maintenance costs were never calculated in the initial spreadsheet. There was a placeholder for them, but perhaps I decided to leave them out of the calculation due to uncertainty with the EV costs. (So, initial benefit to the gasmobiles there.)

    A study on the difference in costs was recently published on this matter, so the maintenance costs are now based on that, and included in the calculation.

    2- Projected battery replacement costs are now included, based on projections by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. (They don’t really change much. The EV savings at 9 years go from $20,746 to $17,896. Not insignificant, but insignifiant when it comes to which car wins based on price alone.)

    3- I’ve put a call-out for more input on the assumptions used, and I’ll soon do comparisons with more competitive EVs (the Ford Focus Electric isn’t exactly the most competitive EV on the market. ;D) Thanks for pushing me to do better calculations… which I imagine are simply going to put EVs in better light. But we’ll see….

    Link to the spreadsheet:

    • milomonkey

      you know , i just come to this old article and i saw your posts defending the tesla as if you worked there.. now i dont especially like or trust NYT but you sounded like a tesla astroturfer paid to post good stuff about the company , or another musk fanboy who think he is the next steve jobs and cannot do no wrong..

      tone down the defensive stance , post less but more informative , after all you got the Tesla PR release on your desk dont you ? use it for your guide in astroturfing

  • Bob_Wallace

    No. The issue is not about how Broder drove the S. The issue is that Broder lied about how he drove the S.

    Broder reported that he drove the route and a manner which should have gotten him to his destination. He, in fact, drove extra miles, drove at higher speeds, failed to fully charge when required, and cranked the heater up to “hot”.

    The he lied about what he did.

    • EVDriver

      I don’t see that Broder “lied” about anything. Any discrepancies between his account and Tesla’s data logs (which, curiously, they denied having at all until they suddenly did have) were immaterial. A two-mile detour in New York City? Six-tenths of a mile at a service plaza? Please, be serious.

      He didn’t fail to full charge when required. He charged to 90% partly because he was warned that charging to 100% would damage the battery. Oooh, and he actually wanted to use the heater! What a sin. Hey, Tesla, my EV has a heater. Doesn’t yours?

      I think Tesla’s response is just pathetic. They are soooooo typical computer company here. The customer as beta tester, and all problems are “user error.” If there was ever a reason to buy an EV from a real car company instead of a Silicon Valley vaporware merchant, this incident certainly provides it!

      • Bob_Wallace

        How about we look at what Broder wrote?

        “I began following Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic. I turned the climate control to low — the temperature was still in the 30s — and planted myself in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 54 miles per hour (the speed limit is 65). Buicks and 18-wheelers flew past, their drivers staring at the nail-polish-red wondercar with California dealer plates.

        Nearing New York, I made the first of several calls to Tesla officials about my creeping range anxiety. The woman who had delivered the car told me to turn off the cruise control; company executives later told me that advice was wrong. All the while, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white.

        The driving distance from Washington, D.C. to New York City (midtown) is approximately 225 miles.

        Now you look at the data logs posted above. Do you see him driving 54 miles per hour? Do you see the cabin temperature dropping to a foot-freezing temp?

        • EVDriver

          For one thing, I’m not convinced that Tesla’s data is accurate. They might have faked it. After all, they told the reporter they didn’t have any data, and then produced data. Who’s to say that someone at Tesla didn’t take a look at Broder’s article and then fabricate a record that would make the reporter appear dishonest? Even now, Tesla refuses to release the raw files.

          But if, for purposes of argument, we accept the authenticity of what Tesla claims to be the record of the reporter’s drive, any discrepancies are immaterial. The story was about the difference bwteen the driving range claimed by Tesla and what actually happens in the real world — not just in the car itself, but with respect to the company’s tech support and its network of so-called superchargers.

          The fact is that Tesla’s Model S delivers no more than two-thirds of the promised range on a cold day, and that you’re in real trouble if you leave it outside on a cold night. The “superchargers” on the East Coast are spaced too far apart, and Tesla’s customer service people are borderline morons. The CEO is a cranky billionaire who thinks he’s God’s gift to the world, and he’s supported by a cult-like group of followers who could double as Scientologists.

          Whether the reporter drove 45 or 54 miles an hour doesn’t matter, and neither does Tesla’s claim about how warm or how cold the cabin was.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tesla apparently told Broder how he needed to drive in order to make that distance in the conditions he was facing.

            Apparently Broder drove differently, went further, went faster.

            Broder did not report that he went further, went faster.

  • Brad

    NYT’s response makes Musk look a little foolish. Clean tech advocates should be more concerned with the actual truth rather than cherry picking news that reinforces a worldview of corporate conspiracy. Sure, a career reporter decides to fabricate an entire review, jeopardize his career, name, family, and income, for what? To make a point?

    Most people don’t consider making a point that important.

    • Brian English

    • Bob_Wallace

      Tell us what, in your opinion, the NYT said that makes Musk look a little foolish.

    • Q: Who only puts a little bit of fuel in their car during a pit-stop on a road trip?

      A: Someone who wants to meet a tow-truck driver.

      Q: Who fills their car all the way up during a pit-stop on a road trip?

      A: Everybody but Broader.

  • Tom G.

    I really have a LOL fun time reading about this driver vs car company battle. The first flaw in this story is that we are talking about an automobile. It is a steel box on four wheels driven by a human that induces hundreds of variables into the mix as well as hundreds of variables from trying to avoid other drivers and even the impact of hundreds of more variables thrown in by mother nature. All of this of course while trying to move our behinds from point “A” to point “B” in a 4 passenger vehicle carrying 1 passenger. And we consider ourselves an intelligent society in American.

    Every one of these variables has an effect on ANY VEHICLES range and I don’t care if its powered by gasoline, diesel, natural gas, horse poop or electricity. It’s like the EPA saying my car should get 40 MPG but it is only getting 36 MPG therefor this thing is a piece of junk. As the owner of that 36 MPG piece of junk should I demand that it be written up in the N.Y,Times. Of course not – no one would even read the story. When you give a vehicle to someone to test they will test it until it fails. That is what people do – not everyone is going to TRY to achieve the stated mileage. Its like a tire manufacturer – they advertise their tire can achieve 40,000 miles before wearing out. Does that mean that will ALWAYS be the case – of course not.

    You know what, I bet this guy drives his gasoline powered vehicle right pass 5 gas stations when the gas gauge tells him its time to refuel. He must because he ignored repeated warnings of a low battery. And really, you didn’t know that cold temperatures effects gasoline or electricity use. If you are that dumb, please let me know when you drive so we don’t share the same road.

    I don’t know about most of the people who blog on this site but I don’t want this kind of guy driving my new car. He doesn’t strike me as the sharpest cheddar in the deli case since he willfully ignored numerous instructions and vehicle warnings. And please don’t tell me this guy is typical – you know the type – they ignore dashboard warning lights and low tire pressure monitor system warnings too. It is unfortunate but I think we have just found another flaw in our society – we give people like this drivers licenses, LOL.

    I hope everyone can see the humor in this. People in American love this kind of stuff – I mean the 15 minutes of fame stuff. We even have TV shows built around watching people failing and laugh at them. In my opinion there has been WAY TOO much written about this event. But of course the N.Y. Times loves it – it sells papers. The author loves it – they are getting their 15 minutes of fame and Tesla of course appreciates all the free press.

    So if you buy a new car and EXPECT it to ACHIEVE the advertised EPA rating – I have some wonderful swamp land for sale I would like to discuss with you, LOL.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Perhaps, as you suggest, Broder isn’t the sharpest cheddar.

      But as a reporter for a very major media outlet he shouldn’t be allowed to lie.

      Now it’s time to see if the NYT cuts the cheese….

      • EVDriver

        Broder didn’t lie. He told the same truth that Consumer Reports told: Tesla’s Model S suffers a critical range shortfall in cold weather. The reporter’s so-called “lies” were immaterial discrepancies with a data log produced by Tesla a short time after the company denied having the data. We don’t even know if the data is real, because Tesla has refused to release the raw feed.

        But if Tesla’s data is true, the differences with Broder’s account are slight and have no bearing on the basic truth highlighted by the article, which is that a driver won’t get the range promised by Tesla in cold weather; that it’s so-called “supercharger” network is spread too thin; and that Tesla’s tech “support” borders on brain dead.

        Elon Musk’s subsequent behavior sends a devastating message: Argue with the company, and they’ll blame all problems on the user and send their Scientology-like zombie cult out to destroy your reputation. Could you imagine being an ordinary customer trying to deal with Tesla? God help you!

        • Because it’s so hard to plug the car in overnight? Or stop at one of the non-Superchargers on a cold day? Come on.

    • For the record, I hate these stories — the last thing I want to spend my time on is correcting myths that I know have confused a ton of people… would really rather focus on the fun stuff. Unfortunately, I see it as something I have to do when such stories come up… But believe me, if there are 2 stories I’d like to erase from history, they’d probably be this whole NYTimes one and Solyndra.

  • Oh PLULEEZ….”the reporter had some valid sounding rebuttles. Every fricken time someone is caught red handed nowadays….there are imbeciles who, even with solid proof, come up with this crap. Records are records….fact are facts…it is YOU people who are respondsible for the mess we’re in today….sickening disgusting agendas from perverted minds….you have no place in the world, and our system needs to create new laws against thwarting progress and advancement of the world’s safety and health related issues….just like there had to be new laws made against cyber crime.
    The fact is, is that the Tesla car does at least 90% of what Musk claims….in hundreds of tests….and the media, contorts reality whenever it wants, whether from bribery, agenda, or simply just because they can.
    I think the auto industry, at least the companies who mfg electrics, should form a class action slander suit against the Times.

    • 1- where are you getting this quote: “the reporter had some valid sounding rebuttles.”

      2- i completely agree with you. facts are facts. and this kind of dishonesty deserves legal action.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Come on Stan. Broder broke the rules he agreed to. Broder lied.

      It’s just that simple.

      Broder tried to generate a story by lying. The facts are posted at the top of this page. The guy should get fired and never work in the news business again. If the NYT does not fire him soon and publish a very large apology to Tesla then they should be hit with a massive damage suit.

      • I think that’s what Stan was saying, but the sentences could definitely be clearer and a little tightened up. 😀

  • Altair IV

    I’m not going to immediately side with either party on this one. I haven’t had a chance to read the original article yet, but Broder has posted a rebuttal to Musk’s claims, and a lot of his counter-explanations do seem rather reasonable.

    In the end though, you shouldn’t depend on a single test-drive like this to evaluate the true performance of the car. While “hit pieces” aren’t uncommon, it’s also well known that technology promoters tend to exaggerate the performance of their products. We need to look at the overall pattern of good vs. bad reviews to get a better idea of the average experience.

    I do agree with Ross Chandler’s post above though that the current result does demonstrate that the can can handle quite a bit of adversity.

    • Mark Phillips

      I wouldn’t say that the counter-reasons are reasonable. It’s not reasonable to claim in one breath he’s testing the supercharger infrastructure exclusively and then to say he’s testing how it drives ‘for the ordinary driver’. Having said that, he’s nailed himself down as being someone rather ‘less’ than the average driver given his ridiculous intention to drive 61 miles on 32 miles of charge because somebody from Tesla said ‘an hour on the charge should do it’, while not knowing that he hadn’t actually kept it plugged in during the night.

    • Of course Broder is going to deny it — he’s a lying *&*^.

  • tibi stibi

    this proves there should be a penalty on publishing lies when a reade expects the truth.

    when an article is not supposed to tell facts it should state that like we in holland have ‘advertisement’ above adds. it should state ‘non facts’ or something to warn readers that the article is an opinion or fun story and not a factual story.

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  • mds

    “Another blind right-wing bangs his head on the reality he couldn’t see.”
    I like that better.

  • Ross Chandler

    Makes me want an electric car more. The plucky car did its best despite the best efforts of the journalist to set-up failures.

    • mds


    • yes, agreed. for me, made EVs (or at least Tesla’s) look even better. just hope the rebuttal will reach close to as many people as the original piece.

  • mds

    Too funny. Another blind right-winger pokes himself in the eye.
    First Faux News bashing the GM Volt till their own conservative membership got on their case, then Faux News said Germany has more solar than the USA because the country is sunnier (wtf), and now the New York Times bashing the Tesla and getting caught doing it fraudulently.
    These seem to me like the desparate graspings of a drowning cause, the fossil fuels is better cause. Plug-ins (EREVs), EVs, and solar just keep getting better and more cost effective at a faster and faster rate. They are winning. Suck it up fossil fuel pea brains, you’re wrong!

    • “These seem to me like the desparate graspings of a drowning cause” — ditto.

    • Madizum

      The stupid Volt was bash because its garbage. Since your are so smart how did it win car of the year when they sold ZERO cars?? please enlighten me genius. And your lies about Fox news NY times is Liberal dumb dumb.. shows your ignorance

  • snkm

    And they wonder why their readership is dwindling…

  • This is just a damned shame and the NY Times should be embarrassed. I would love to one day own a Tesla and hopefully this sort of reporting does nothing to hurt the sales and future development of a promising line up of cars that Tesla has created.

    • NYTimes should do what it can to save face by dropping this guy.

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