Missing the Point

Missing the Point

It seems to me that a point is being missed with the New York Times article.

The important range characteristic of a car, whether gas or electric, is for it to give you adequate warning that you need to recharge or refuel. It is not that it have a particular range or that it meets EPA mileage, which rarely happens.

In this sense, Musk buried the important bit, which is that the Model S never gave Mr. Broder false information. He does mention this, but the main thrust of his response focuses on the discrepancies of Mr. Broder's account, some quite minor. It also includes an interpretation of Mr. Broder's intent, which even though I agree with Musk, is hazardous territory to get into.

The problem with this approach is that it plays into the hands of those who want to claim that the car needs to be driven inflexibly or with "special training". Some Tesla advocates are even saying roughly the same thing. IMHO, this is not a good approach..

How about a simpler message? The car has excellent range, convenient charging at home, and a growing infrastructure on the road. It will tell you with plenty of mileage that you need to charge when you do. Anybody who can read a single number is qualified to drive this car. Anybody who understands the words "CHARGE NOW" is qualified to drive the car.

Just my opinion, but I think the best tack is to keep it simple. The details are great for the nerds, but not so much with the general public, and can be spun by the spinners.

kback | 14 February, 2013

Broder lied. See this article:

Elon was right to call this what it was - a completely false article by someone with an anti-EV agenda. The data log proves it.

jat | 14 February, 2013

If the car tells you it has 31 miles range, and you leave on a trip that is 61 miles, how is that not adequate warning? The car can't know where you are going or how you intend to drive, it can only tell you its state and let you decide if that is sufficient.

danielccc | 14 February, 2013

Jat, that's exactly the point. The car worked correctly, full stop.

hillcountryfun | 14 February, 2013

danielccc - I agree, your point would have been an excellent addition to Elon's blog. Perhaps another journalist will pick up on that perspective and contribute to the discussion.

DouglasR | 14 February, 2013

Of course the car does not tell you it has 31 miles of range. It tells you it has 31 miles of "rated" range, which is something quite different. That ambiguity, I believe, leads to a lot of confusion. I think we would be better off if the car simply told you it has x kWh remaining in the battery.

jk2014 | 14 February, 2013

The average person fears running out of gas. They look down and see the needle on E, they start looking for a the closest gas station on their phone (and road signs). No one just lets their car run out of gas and say gas isn't ready for people. Lets get real here, people. There were literally dozens and dozens of charging stations along his route. The average person doesn't want to run out of charge and would have taken an exit. Period. Free of charge too. To comment on wait time intolerance, the average American will wait a long time for free energy. This is the reason geniii becomes more attractive every day because it will fall into the traditional acceptable price range and still have most of the numerous long term savings of the MS. It's the major milestone Tesla is heading for, and the reason the stock keeps going up despite the numbers.

sergiyz | 14 February, 2013

There's still one point I don't get.
The range was 90 miles at night.
He parks it overnight and it has a range of 25 miles in the morning.
He charges it and it shows 32 miles, and then he's driving it for 51 before running out of juice.
So the good news is the car is not lying to you.
The bad news, it still lost 65 miles of range overnight.

sergiyz | 14 February, 2013

It would also be nice if it displayed charging stations on the map once you're below a certain level, similar to what ICE cars with navigation are doing.

NOPetrol | 14 February, 2013
Mark K | 14 February, 2013

The very low temp made it understate the true charge, so it really lost about 29 miles overnight.

When the car warmed up, the actual capacity became more discernable, and it updated its SOC calculation.

Under those same circumstances, all things considered, I too would prefer the algorithm err on the side of caution.

Why he'd blow off charging when knew he had half the range needed pretty much demonstrates his intent.

nickjhowe | 14 February, 2013

@sergiyz - it didn't 'lose' 65 miles. The battery got cold and the capacity available went down. The electrons are still in there. As the battery heated up, the capacity came back. Hence the reason he was able to do 51 miles on "32 miles" of charge. My guess is that he maybe lost 10-20 miles over night.

jk2014 | 14 February, 2013

The car gives you the appropriate range based on your driving habits. The car sat over night not charged. He came out the next mornings to find a different estimate because of his prior use. It calculated all the variables including temp and such and gave him a number that reflected how he might drive it from that moment. The MS was telling him you need to fill up if you want to continue driving the way you have in the past. I feel if he would have driven in a more conservative way it would have been a higher range that morning after. More aggressive vice versa.

Wish tesla would take this time to educate the public on these aspects. They have people's attention, should use it to show how incredible the MS is. Most people tuning in have no clue, they're just hearing the headline of a conflict between nyt and billionaire.

sergiyz | 14 February, 2013


I don't think that's correct.
I think he tried conditioning the battery in the morning per Tesla's advice that left him with 19 miles of range (down from 25 miles).
He then had to stop and charge the car (public charging station), but didn't charge to full like Tesla wanted him too.
He charged it to 32 miles and pulled the plug.
That's the weird part since he knew he had 61 miles to drive.
Either he didn't believe his actual range was 32 miles like the car was displaying, or he did that intentionally.
He could have just being stupid too, but I could probably understand how one could not believe the range went down that far overnight.
The lesson for owners - trust the car whatever it says.
In warm CA weather the charge goes down by about 8 miles a night.
If I charge my car on standard charge to 241 rated miles, in the morning I have about 232 miles rated.
It does take a lot of energy to keep the battery warm in cold weather.

jk2014 | 14 February, 2013

Here's Elon in 2009 talking about why he chose a battery pack over plug in hybrid in reference to range and longevity...

danielccc | 14 February, 2013

@kbackman, If you look at the gawker piece, and others around the Internet and in major media, you can see how the kind of data-driven response tried by Musk is not really working. Instead he's given Broder's story longer legs.

Musk does manage to reassure the converted. I can see clearly that the car is not really problematic. But few people will look at his blog post compared to the ones who will see articles by the press.

Dealing with FUD is very tricky even if you respond perfectly, and Musk hasn't. It's not fair, but this is hardball.

shop | 14 February, 2013

nickniketown, please stop bashing the car in random threads. We get it, you don't like the car. Why are you sticking around? The car works perfectly fine for thousands of people (and the Roadster too for many years now).

Brian H | 14 February, 2013

The Extremetech article says, "heads will roll". Not likely in the MSM, though Broder may find himself acquainted rather more closely with the underside of the NYT bus than he wishes.

jtm | 14 February, 2013

Folks, I have lived half my life in my native Finland where the cold records of Europe have been measured near the northen village of Sodankyla. I had a Ford Escort (ICE) when 19 and it froze at parking place in an awkward place (and did not start for 2 weeks) when I could not plug it into a block heater outlet for some hours when temp was only at minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

Bottom line: all car technologies have some level of issues in the frozen north but that does not make the S any more inferior, on the contrary at some instances perhaps better as it starts engine cold. I will receive my Model S this Saturday.

jtm | 14 February, 2013

Claiming EVs are not ready for prime time as the battery loses some of its charge in the very cold is dishonest when comparing it to ICEs. Several sloppy drivers are known to have gotten stuck in the far north in Finland forgetting to fuel their diesel truck or bus with the right kind of northern diesel. Regular or biodiesel gets stiff when it gets below minus 30 Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) and the vehicle will not start or stops.

EVs do not have the above problem. Talking about extreme conditions, the first car on the moon 1972 was an EV.

negarholger | 14 February, 2013

jtm - you don't have to go to Finland or cold weather. On Bay Area highways alone an avg of 30 ICEs run out of gas every single day.

Superliner | 14 February, 2013

nickniketown@gm... | FEBRUARY 14, 2013 NEW

To Shop

Were in the world I say I don't like the car. I love the car. It has a great drive but fall short which Tesla doesn't want you to know. Read my other posts with facts.

Are you sure you know how read.

"Oh Brother" yet another conspiracy theory TESLA DOES NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW!! Really??

They "Tesla" have probably been at least as transparent as the more established ICE manufacturers have been and are. No news there IMHO

jjaeger | 14 February, 2013

'Read my other posts' - they all say you're 12 - at best. A grandstanding pre-teen is an interesting forum monger, rational fairly easy to discern...

petero | 15 February, 2013

Nickniketown. Did you seriously post “don’t you have anything…get a life!!!” ? Please confirm.