We’re guessing you’ve read about the internet battle raging between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and The New York Times reporter John M. Broder. If not, a quick, hyperlinked recap: Broder writes a story on his largely unsuccessful attempt to drive a Tesla Model S from Washington, D.C. to Boston using Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations. Elon Musk tweets, “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.” Broder defends. Musk attacks. Broder defends. News outlets covering everything from business to technology have picked up the story.
We feel for Broder. He is being called a liar. His defenses of his article are strong, as is Musk’s attack. Will any concrete truth come out of this he-said, he-said battle? Unlikely. But there are some further details that we would like to know.
For starters, it isn’t clear what tires were on the car. Broder says the Model S was on all-seasons, yet summer rubber was the defined spec for his test car. If the all-season tires had a larger overall diameter than the specified summer tires, the speedometer in the dash would have indicated lower speeds than the car was actually traveling, thus cutting into the range and the range modeling. (Most car speedos are off by a few mph, however.)
Which brings us to our second question: What “speed” is Musk quoting? Vehicle ECUs log individual wheel speeds and driveshaft speed (the one that dictates speedometer readings), and we wouldn’t doubt it if cars log GPS-based speeds, too. Is Musk’s speed the same speed displayed in the dash during Broder’s drive?
If Musk is using GPS speed in his argument and the tire size is off, then Musk’s claims of Broder saying he was driving slower than he actually was are bogus. Or, if the tire size is significantly off, and the car was indeed going faster than indicated, Broder isn’t to blame.
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We would love to see other data charts, such as state-of-charge versus time. The raw data would be even better, as we could zoom in on specific sections of Broder’s trip and analyze how all the parameters interact with one another.
We’re intrigued, although there’s little point in speculating on every last aspect of both parties’ claims. We’ve reached out to Broder and Tesla for comment and they have yet to respond. We’ll keep you posted as details unfold.
By K.C. Colwell