Tesla Controversy Misses the Big Picture

By · February 26, 2013

EV Charging, Simplified

The past few weeks have seen a Wimbledon-worthy back and forth between EV advocates and detractors as they discussed the fairness of a disastrous road trip in a battery-powered Tesla Model S that was written about in the New York Times. The dispute centers on the writer's account, his charging behavior during the truncated journey, and the protestations of Tesla and angry EV enthusiasts that he should have taken more care in reaching his destination without depleting the batteries. The Times' public editor followed with a rather lame examination of the contretemps that did little to settle the basic dispute. This whole debate, though, ignores a much larger point about Tesla's product strategy.

As Chelsea Sexton astutely pointed out on Wired.com, the idea of a road trip up and down the East Coast in the dead of winter that solely relies on two fast Tesla Supercharger stations unnecessarily stretches the vehicle's capabilities. Most EV owners would know better than to even attempt the journey. But the larger question is: why would Tesla want to limit drivers of its luxury vehicle to only a few charging spots when hundreds of easily accessible public charging stations are available?

Please Compromise

The Model S includes a proprietary cable for connecting with the Supercharger network. Tesla's stations have faster charge rates (90 kW) than the industry standard rate of 50 kW for fast DC charging, which, as the company points out, provides an exclusive benefit to Tesla drivers.

However, all along the eastern seaboard are hundreds of charging stations that feature the industry standard SAE J1772 plug. Tesla includes a J1772 adapter to take advantage of this EV infrastructure, and additional adapters are available for $95. There was no mention of the Times reviewer having this adapter in his test car, which can provide approximately 20 miles of range in an hour of charging.

The route taken along I-95 during the road trip also includes two fast DC charging stations using the CHAdeMO connector, used by the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i (many of the more than 130 CHAdeMO chargers now in the United States were paid for by taxpayers as part of the DOE's EV Project). While these fast chargers are slower than Tesla's Supercharger, they can provide about 150 miles of range in an hour, which is fast enough for most any EV road trip. Tesla has committed to installing 100 of its Superchargers across the United States during the next few years, many of which will be thousands of miles from the majority of Model S owners.

Tesla announced recently that it will soon offer a CHAdeMO adapter for customers in Japan, and will eventually bring it to the United States, but when I recently spoke with the company, they would not commit to a date. By the end of this year we'll also likely see dozens of fast DC chargers scattered across the United States that use the SAE's combo connector, which combines the slower J1772 technology with fast DC charging capability – but Tesla Model S owners won't be able to power up at these locations, either.

Tesla Motors' slogan is "Zero Compromises," but the company's strategy of exclusivity for charging betrays that ethos. Model S owners would be better served by greater charging flexibility than by the company's spat with the New York Times.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

Truth.

· · 1 year ago

On the Tesla page on charging at http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric#roadtrips they claim that the Model S comes with a J1772 adapter:

Use Your J1772 Adapter
Most public charging stations charge at the rate of 22 miles per hour of charge though some are equipped to charge faster. Model S comes with an adapter enabling you to use these stations.

· · 1 year ago

Yeah, Mr. Gartner writes these "authoritatively styled" pieces, but I'm rapidly losing respect for him... His info that the J1772 adapter is a $95 option is just plain wrong, it being included in the price of the car, but that's a minor point. If the $95 is anything, I would guess its the replacement cost. You have to get a Universal Mobile Connector with the Model S, but should you lose it, the replacement is $500. Tesla will not give a $500 credit should you not want it, which is a silly policy on their part. They could easily perform the credit for those few buyers who don't want a UMC, since if you refuse it, the next person will most definitely want it, and its not part of the car anyway.

The Very Big Issue he's missing is that now, the Tesla S is proven to lose significant range in cold weather. Others of his compaitriots, namely Zach McDonald, have clearly stated they realize this.

At the start of this I put forth a Theorem stating the 120 volt cord could not be used to effectively charge the car in very cold weather, only to have this PROVEN by the Minnesota Tesla Owner's own Road Trip.

Another Big Conclusion which is perfectly obvious, but all the Great Brains missed it, is that the ONLY mass production EV which can go far between charges (that is, take small road trips), AND can function acceptably in Cold Weather, is the now Out of Manufacture Tesla Roadster.

· · 1 year ago

My car came with the J1772. I did not pay extra.

· · 1 year ago

"There was no mention of the Times reviewer having this adapter in his test car..." Mr. Gartner must not have read the Times piece very carefully. Mr. Broder must have used the adapter when he was directed to the Norwich Public Utilities, a station that uses a J1772 plug.

@Bill Howland
I think it's silly to try to refuse the Tesla Mobile Connector. I would personally prefer to use the Mobile Connector every day with a NEMA 14-50 socket than install a J1772 EVSE or the High Power Wall Connector.

· · 1 year ago

@mike i

Please don't think there is one solution for everyone and that anyone that doesn't make the choices you do is therefore silly.. It helps to have an open mind in this business.

I'm a big fan of standardization. Even poor standards. Many of the road trip problems could have been eliminated had Tesla chosen standardized connectors.

I refused Tesla's solutions for the Roadster, not purchasing it until they had a j1772 adapter. I have had absolutely no trouble at all with the concept, and have only had to exchange my adapter under warranty. So I'm far from being silly. However, Unlike you , I realize some people may want other solutions. Bully for them. That's called being open minded.

· · 1 year ago

@Bill,

You haven't explained your logic for refusing the Mobile Connector sufficiently. It sounds like you now have the Mobile Connector for your Roadster so you can use it with J1772 stations. Why would you not want the same for a Model S?

· · 1 year ago

@Bill,

I just realized my mistake. The Roadster J1772 Mobile Connector and the Model S J1772 Adapter go direct from the J-plug to the car. It does not involve the Universal Mobile Connector on the Roadster or the Mobile Connector on the Model S. It makes sense that you may not need the Roadster Universal Mobile Connector. The car came with the Spare Connector (5-15P), right? That's really your emergency connection.

Anyway, I was thinking about the Mobile Connector as an emergency backup that you should always keep in the car. If you have to detour someplace that doesn't have a charging station, at least you can get energy into the car.

· · 1 year ago

Actually, Tesla Motors' slogan is, "Uncompromised electric vehicles."

Including the mobile connector and J1172 adapter as standard equipment seems to me to be the only responsible thing to do. Why would you want an electric car if it didn't come ready to "plug and play." It's tantamount to selling an ICE car where the fuel filler spout is optional. Along those same lines, no manufacturer offers a rebate or refund if you don't want something that's included as standard equipment. I'm consistently surprised by peoples' eagerness to throw standard industry practices out the window as soon Tesla does something they find inconvenient.

· · 1 year ago

@Mike I and IcanhasEV

Actually, Sales told me that to get j1772 compatibility I had to order the UMC. I then cancelled the order when I found the two worked independently. IcanhasEv, you may be too young to remember when the BIG 3 (Chrysler, GM, Ford) had delete options for people who didn't want
AM radios. So please be careful making blanket statements that are A). Untrue, and B). Not historically accurate.

IF you think I'm against "Standard Industry Practices", then you simply haven't been paying attention.

I paid $120,000.00 CASH (including tax and delivery), so I'm therefore quite allowed to get the car the way I wanted it.

Sorry, I'm the final arbiter as to whether I will purchase a vehicle for the sums of money we're talking about here. If I don't like it, or can't come to an agreement, I will shake the dust off my shoes and purchase something else.

· · 1 year ago

@Mike I

Right. The 120 volt "spare connector", included with the Roadster, uses a "Standardized Nema 5-15 Attachment Plug". I'm never against Standardized Solutions.

The combo of the standard 120 volt cord, and the J1772 adapter makes my Tesla Roadster just like any other mainstream EV.

(There is a Design Defect (which Tesla does not deny) in the Roadster which causes an incompatibility with EVSE's of several brands. I've mentioned this at length in several previous posts, so I won't repeat it here). Who's at Fault? Tesla or the EVSE manufacturers or the SAE J1772 standard? Ans: All Three.

· · 1 year ago

I should Congratulate Mr. Gartner for at least encouraging standardized solutions. This article actually was quite good. I'm less enamored of some of his other posts, and it colored my judgement, but then again, plenty of people don't like my posts either, so touche.

· · 1 year ago

@Mike I

In my case I still would not need a UMC even for emergencies since I would simply take my portable 120 volt evse along with me, along with the j1772 adapter.

· · 1 year ago

Maybe an example will illustrate my point:

A self - employed husband has a successful business along with a live in adult child, and working wife, all three of whom work at said business. He happens to have 3 or 4 locations and, being the forward thinking businessman he is, has decided to hire his favorite electrician to wire his house and 3 of the business branches with identical EVSE's (say 5 in total).

Let's further say he has 2 volts at home for his other kids, plus he's decided to purchase 3 Model S's, one for him, his wife, and the eldest son who works in the business. The other kids drive volts so he has a 5 car garage (not unheard of for an upper middle class type, the kind who most often is buying 100K cars in the first place).

He has only one kind of EVSE, even though he has 5 of them... When he trades in the volts, or the model s, etc, he doesn't want to have to constantly call his electrician to do something else. He is future proof, and for him, this is the most cost effective solution.

Other people may want to do other things. Or be in other situations. Bully for them.

· · 1 year ago

There is one major advantage Tesla superchargers have over chademo. Tesla supercharger locations are spread out over long distances. I live in St. Louis. There are zero chademo chargers within the range of my Nissan Leaf. The closest chademo charger is in Chicago where there are about a dozen chademo chargers all within a few miles of each other. The chademo chargers are useless if they are all bunched together instead of being strategically spread out.

· · 1 year ago

There is one major advantage Tesla superchargers have over chademo. Tesla supercharger locations are spread out over long distances. I live in St. Louis. There are zero chademo chargers within the range of my Nissan Leaf. The closest chademo charger is in Chicago where there are about a dozen chademo chargers all within a few miles of each other. The chademo chargers are useless if they are all bunched together instead of being strategically spread out.

· · 1 year ago

@SmithJim1961

Since we don't have ANY level 3 things here in upstate ny, (there may be a tesla supercharger 300 miles east in Albany planned for the future, but that's it), Jim could you tell me whether they are free or how do you actually charge your Leaf ( I assume you have the upscale Leaf model with the ChaDemo extra jack). How much do you have to pay and how many kw is the charging dock? Thanks for the info.

· · 1 year ago

> "Most EV owners would know better than to even attempt the journey"

That's what [the article] wants to believe you, isn't it?

Several owners have repeated the same trip, and CNN and CNBC have repeated the main Supercharger leg of the trip. None of them had difficulties. While temperatures where a bit higher (about 7F in most cases), they had more than enough remaining range to cover the trip at lower temps. Even on apparently one of the coldest days in the year, as in the NYT article, one could drive at the speed limit in comfortable cabin temperatures. In more usual temperatures, even more so, of course.

It's an easy journey, all you need to do is get a 100% "max range" charge at the Supercharger.

Nevertheless, Tesla does not "limit" drivers. The Times reviewer also used a Level 2 charger, most likely a J1772, yet not long enough. Tesla offers more adapters than anyone else, including a NEMA 14-50 adapter which can be used at many RV parks / camping grounds (when open for the season).

BTW, Tesla's website has an online range calculator, showing the effect of speed, outside temperature, and cabin heating, on range. (It's in the "Go Electric" section, which has a lot of tutorial information.)

· · 1 year ago

The Tesla chargers are free and much higher speed than conventional J1772 chargers. That is why they use them.

I just don't want Tesla to give EVs a black-eye and they've done a good job pushing back. But I worry about them pushing pure EVs for long distance driving. It is fine occasionally but even if you have super-chargers everywhere, driving long distance with an EV creates this weird drive 2 1/2 hours, charge 1 hour, drive 2 1/2 hours, charge 1 hour, etc. duty-cycle.

If you need to drive a really long distance just rent a gas car. But 98% of driving is not trips over 200 miles.

· · 1 year ago

One charge saves about $40 in gasoline cost...

· · 1 year ago

@Norbert_1

The big mistake Broder made as far as I can tell, is he checked in at a Motel for the night. They tell us to do that if we're drowsy. But if he would have skipped the motel he would have made it.

I've talked informally to Tesla personel and again, informally, they realize they have a problem. Expect it to be corrected in Model S 2.0. But I don't think officially they will ever even hint that the car is anything less than perfection.

· · 1 year ago

Bill Howland,

I have a Leaf SV which has no chademo capability.

· · 1 year ago

@ Bill Howland

He could also have stayed at the hotel, without problem, if he had taken a full charge at the Supercharge before. That is something he should have done in the first place, in any case. Instead he tried to cut the waiting time short, against his previous learning experience.

Also afterwards, in the morning, there have been several simply possibilities to make up for that mistake.

The *apparent* issue with losing charge overnight was mostly in the displayed, calculated estimate. (The "software glitch", which was actually mentioned in the article, based on information he received from Tesla). This is surely what you are referring to. It wasn't his real problem, since if anything, it should have caused him to charge more, in the morning, instead of leaving with an insufficient charge. (Which in turn he blames on bad advice, whereas Tesla says he was acting against the advice given to him.)

Again, at least after getting experience with driving in the cold, on the previous leg of his trip, he should have known better and taken a full charge at the Supercharger.

As other Model S owners have demonstrated by repeating the same trip, the overnight stay would then not have been a problem, not even without plugging in at the hotel (which however is recommended). In fact, they all had plenty of range remaining, coming back to the Supercharger.

· · 1 year ago

The NYT guy obviously had an agenda, not the first! I think the bigger issue (and what John is trying to say) is the multitude of charging connectors hurts the whole industry, and I agree wholeheartedly. Why didn't SAE just adopt CHADEMO? Why must Tesla have their own connector? (I agree that it's better but not worth messing up standardization) at least they include adaptors. Now inductive charging is coming back! Like John said please compromise. Also J-1772 is capable of much faster charging if the circuit and car are up to it, close to 20kw if I remember correctly.

· · 1 year ago

@Norbert_1

This is a rehash of a former posting.

I'm using Tesla's own chart #2 . The Range chart. Per the chart, the only thing that increases range is to charge it.

Tesla told Broder 3 things. Each was inaccurate.

1). The 25 mile rating is a "software glitch". UNTRUE, the car failed 'on cue' later on in the day.

2). Running the heater will "condition the battery and increase range". UNTRUE as per chart #2.

3). "Turn off the Cruise Control and Accelerate and Decelerate to get Free Regeneration". That is total BS (Beyond Stupidity).. Its better to drive at a constant speed and use 10kwh than use 15 kwh and regenerate 2, for a new usage of 13 kwh.

But no matter. You'll undoubtedly see changes in Tesla version "S 2.0", as I say I've informally talked to them and they realize they have a problem, but I doubt you'll ever get anyone to say that "On the Record". On the Record the car is perfection. But the next version will be more Perfect, hehe.

· · 1 year ago

@ Bill Howland

Regarding 1): (25 miles rating)

If you look at Tesla's state-of-charge (SOC) chart, and hold a ruler next to the diagonal line starting in Milford at about the 320 miles mark, and continue on that slope as if he had continued driving until the 470 miles mark, where he stopped, you will see that he would have arrived, if he had continued driving the night before, with a charge not much larger than he actually did.

This means that he didn't lose much more charge overnight than he gained by charging at the Level 2 charger (at the L2 charger he obtained about 6 kWh). Perhaps about 3% more than that, so 10%, about 25 miles. So much less than the displayed loss, and it would not have been a problem had he left a reasonable safety margin, and considered the cold. And a (smaller) part of that is even due to sitting in a heated car, in the morning, for half an hour, without being plugged in, trying to heat the battery.

Regarding 2) (battery conditioning)

It is "untrue"… if not plugged in! The mistake was to do this without being plugged in, of course. I do not think that he was given the advice he claims he was given, but in any case, that was a mistake. But again, it shouldn't have been a problem had he charged with a reasonable margin.

Regarding 3) Turning off cruise control (vs climate control)

I do not believe that he received that advice, perhaps he was told that turning off (or down) *climate* control would save energy. Or that, when having to turn off cruise control (for example in Manhattan), that he should use regenerative braking, something he made reference to later on in his responses, where it is somewhat obvious he didn't really understand what he was talking about. (Making me think he might have used the brake pedal a lot, instead of using regen with the accelerator.)
In any case, that would be a communication/advice problem, not a problem with the car.

· · 1 year ago

@Norbert_1

Points 1 and 2, no offense, are armchair quarterbacking. Coulda woulda shoulda.
Acknowledged.

You disbelieve what he said for point 3? Thats nice. He stated thats what he was told to do, namely accelerate and decelerate.. Then he is picked on later for having bursts of speed. Seems to me he did exactly what he was told to do. Its nice that you disbelieve him, but the speed chart seems to favor Broder in this particular aspect. As I've stated about 20 posts ago, Tesla's stock price would have been higher if Musk had maintained a low-profile, quietly accepted the review, and moved on toward releasing model S version 2.0. Others here have said as much.

· · 1 year ago

@ Bill Howland

"Seems to me he did exactly what he was told to do."

In some countries, government employees are not allowed to go on strike. So what they do instead (though rarely), is that they do exactly what the rules say. Which usually leads to disaster.

I certainly disbelieve that he would have been told to "accelerate and decelerate", because that's just nonsensical.

You might call the above technical background examinations (which Tesla is surely doing internally, in some way) "armchair quarterbacking", however the fact remains that with a sufficient time at the charger(s), the Model S, as is, can do such trips nicely. The NYT article is one big distraction from this established fact.

Nevertheless, yes, the Model S (and long term, battery technology) will certainly continue to be improved, and Tesla has already talked about various things they plan to do, for example adding more Superchargers, further increasing charging speed, and software for more detailed trip and range planning.

· · 1 year ago

@Norbert_1

"....I certainly disbelieve that he would have been told to "accelerate and decelerate", because that's just nonsensical.....".

People believe nonsensical things all the time. Sorry, but I can't worry excessively about what you chose to believe or disbelieve.

"Battery technology will continue to be improved". , I can't argue with that Bromide.

The main battery technology improvement that the model S needs for version 2 is extremely low-tech. They just never thought of it.

· · 1 year ago

@ Bill

The quote of me, about battery technology, is wrong. I pointed out that is a *long term* thing. Both range and charging speed are currently mostly determined by battery technology, with Tesla doing its best to provide an optimum in those regards. If it wasn't for those (current) limitations, we wouldn't be concerned about those other questions. WIth that, 'til next time, thanks for discussing,.

· · 1 year ago

We won't need many super charging stations when in the years ahead batteries capable of 750+ miles are common. And they will be. The technologies are already here and being readied for mass production. So in 3 to 5 years EV owners are going to be shocked. No pun intended.

· · 1 year ago

@More2bits

Please estimate the weight reduction and cost reduction of batteries 5 years hence. If Ev's in general are going to have batteries 1/10 the weight and 1/10 the cost, then I want to replace my older Roadster battery with a 2440 mile (244 * 10) one for $12,000. I could even run the heater during the wintertime all the way to IOWA and back during a field trip.

The Tesla Roadster (out of manufacture) is incidentally, currently the ONLY
PURE EV than can go on short road trips during very cold weather, without plugging in.

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