What to Make of Tesla’s Latest Media Feud?

By · February 15, 2013

Model S Snow Test

A recent New York Times article called into question the Model S's performance in cold climates. Tesla CEO Elon Musk wasted little time in firing back at its author.

Yesterday, Elon Musk and New York Times writer John Broder hashed out a dispute over Broder’s February 10 article titled “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway”. In the piece, Broder reported running out range and having to call for a tow at the end of a two-day drive that saw him attempting to travel from suburban Washington, D.C., to Groton, Conn., then back to New York using Tesla’s new East Coast Supercharger network.

Tesla claims that Broder is an established EV hater who set out to intentionally run out of range in an attempt to sensationalize what was supposed to be a piece about the Supercharger network’s use of solar power and storage to reduce emissions and energy costs from charging. Broder says that the Model S fell short of range expectations and that Tesla provided confusing and at times contradictory instructions that contributed to his eventual stranding during the home stretch of his trip.

You can read the squabble in its entirety over at Tesla’s blog and on NYTimes.com, but I’ve singled out here what I consider to be the three central claims of the original article:

1. The Model S’s range is severely hampered by cold weather

Tesla says: Broder never charged to capacity and engaged in range-depleting driving habits like setting climate control as high as 74 degrees.

Broder says: Tesla instructed him that his charges would be sufficient to make it to his destinations but the car failed to live up to its range calculations.

This point has never really been under dispute. Tesla has estimated in the past that the Model S loses 10-20 percent of its range in cold weather, an estimate which increases or decreases depending on temperature and other factors like heater use.

2. The Model S lost 65 miles of calculated range while parked unplugged overnight.

Tesla says: This wouldn’t have been an issue if Broder hadn’t aborted his most recent charge early.

Broder says: The range calculator gave him every reason to believe he’d be able to make a 61-mile drive the next morning with the 90 miles of estimated range he had the night before. By the morning, the range calculator displayed just 25 miles of remaining range.

On this point, Broder may have a legitimate complaint—not just about the Model S but about electrics in general. Leaving EVs unplugged overnight in below-freezing temperatures causes their battery heating systems to kick in, which steadily depletes power from the car as it sits. The night of Broder’s trip, temperatures in Groton, Conn., hit a low of 6 degrees (well below historical averages,) likely forcing the system to work harder than usual.

3. The Model S died before Broder could reach his final Supercharger stop, turning what should have been a 1-hour drive into a 5-hour ordeal.

Tesla says: Broder created the issue by only charging to 72 percent during his second Supercharger stop and then charging to just 28 percent the next day during a necessary (but unplanned) Level 2 charge.

Broder says: He dutifully followed Tesla’s over-the-phone charging instructions, charging for “about an hour” at the Level 2 station before attempting to make it 61 miles to the next Supercharger stop.

Broder may or may not have been cleared by Tesla to leave the Level 2 charging station in Norwich with just 32 miles of calculated range (Tesla says he wasn’t,) but regardless of what his instructions were, he made an error that no EV owner and very few competent adults would ever make. Regardless of whether this was a simple mistake or a planned subterfuge as Tesla claims, the Model S bares almost no blame for Broder requiring a tow.

What Does it All Mean for EVs?

Broder’s article highlights two valid criticisms of EVs: decreased energy efficiency and a loss of range from overnight parking in cold climates. However, neither of these observations are particularly new, nor are they likely to seriously impact the regular driving habits of a Model S owner. More importantly, had Broder practiced smart driving and charging habits during his trip he wouldn’t have run out of charge before reaching his destination.

The squabble between Musk and Broder has everything to do with the personalities and prejudices of its participants and relatively little to do with the Model S or electric vehicles themselves. In the long run, this dispute will likely be forgotten and have little impact on the success or failure of the car.


· · 5 years ago

What to make of big differences between Broder's claims and Tesla furnished Data ?One of them is lying. Who is lying and why ?

· · 5 years ago

Well, I’m constantly trying to find the truth in these stories. So far I haven’t seen anyone interested into what is to me a VERY BIG DEAL, but then I have an interest because I live in a cold climate. People from southern California couldn’t care less, but people from minnesota might want to lend an ear.

My conclusions:

A). Model S in very cold weather loses battery capacity at an 1840 watt drain rate. This compares with the Roadster’s estimated 450 watt drain rate in very cold weather.

B). Model S’s recharge rate using the model S supplied 120 volt cord will be 1440 watts ideally, possibly under 1300 in practical conditions. This means that the 120 volt cord CANNOT charge the cord in cold weather, and in very cold weather will actually lose miles even though constantly plugged in.

C). Why? I would guess its that 4 times the square inches are exposed to the elements in the model S as compared to the roadster, and that it just takes a huge amount of electricity to keep the battery sufficiently warm, other from the attached charger dock, or failing that, the battery itself.

D). What this means is that someone ina very cold climate with only a 120 volt outlet to charge from, CANNOT drive the car in cold weather without a substitute method to get more juice into the car, as it will continually require in cold weather.

One will note the recent CNN test drive did not lose 65 miles of range at a motel, simply because he didn’t stop, also it was much warmer outside. The Rochester, Minnesota woman who took 65 hours to make a 16 hour trip was not so lucky, and incidentally, proved my heat loss calculations correct if you happen to read her story carefully.

· · 5 years ago

Very interesting data Bill, do you know at what temperature the heating for battery kicks on?

· · 5 years ago

This is Tesla's log of the trip:


Per Tesla graphic #2, I had theorized its impossible to charge Model S with the 120 volt cord in cold weather, and would even lose range while plugged in during very cold weather.

Then a Lady in Minnesota Proved it all.


Broder was told by Tesla his 65 mile range loss was a "Software Glitch", and "Conditioning the battery by heating it will recover the range.".

This is clearly nonsense. Examining Tesla Graphic #2 will show the only thing that gives you more range is to charge it. Plus the car clearly died at 470 miles.

· · 5 years ago

I'm reluctant to post because Tesla is going to think I'm picking on them.. I did have a few problems with my J1772 adapter for the Roadster, but Tesla exchanged it under warranty.

The Minnesota Lady had problems several times with the J1772 adapter for the Model S. Apparently, THE THING SHRINKS IN COLD WEATHER AND WONT FIT !!!!!!

I always sound like a broken record regarding using Standardized Methods. All this could have been avoided if Tesla had simply put a high quality J1772 on the car, like almost all other EV makers.

· · 5 years ago

If your range gauge drops precipitously while parked overnight, this is not a car for the average consumer.

If you can't turn your heater to 74 degrees, this is not a car for the average consumer. In fact, I would say that disqualifies it as a luxury car. Maybe they should think about putting a gas or diesel heater in.

· · 5 years ago

Bill, I'm curious how, under your calculations, a Model S might respond differently in -5°F vs 5° or 10° weather. How warm would you guess it has to be to keep the car at a neutral state of charge plugged into a 120v?

The account from MN is much more of a wake up call on this issue for me than Broder's report, if for no other reason than that both sides seemed to be either confused about or misrepresenting something. I agree that the kind of overnight range loss Broder and Ms. Gasser experienced is troubling for the Model S, particularly if it means that you need Level 2 access to keep the car from losing range while parked. That isn't acceptable, particularly if it happens at temperatures that are experienced fairly regularly in the North East and Midwest.

· · 5 years ago


Maybe "S2.0" will have some fiberglass insulation around the battery to minimize the losses. Elon Musk was getting very cockey on his tweets (something some others have accused him of before), saying things like "CNN tried something really tricky, like Plugging it in!", which is obviously just a deflection.

His mannerism in the past has greatly helped SELL the car, since people are getting almost a Religious Devotion to him, a la Apple Computer and Steve Jobs. Now however, to admit the car is somewhat less than perfection might have a different outcome for the person who once said arrogantly, "Let me Run Detroit".

I'm not a fan of Apple, nor will I buy their products in that they have suicide nets around their factories in China, and have a slave labor pool even worse then we'd normally expect, so I don't want to tarnish Mr. Musk by this comparison, but the Religious Furvor aspect still applies.

I've hinted in posts several days ago , the most profitable thing for Tesla Corporate to do would be to just quietly accept the initial NY Times review, and then quietly insulate the battery for version 2.0. Calling the reviewer a FAKE and a LIAR cannot be good for Tesla's stock price, in view of all the increased scrutiny of the Model S Mr. Musk's namecalling has caused.

Agreed, the car as it stands is very nice for moderate to warm climates. Currently though, the car needs a bit of tweeking (how much you want to bet Tesla Model S owners glue some fiberglass to the battery 'baking pan' in an attempt to minimize loss) in cold weather climates.

· · 5 years ago

@Zachary McDonald.

Hi, I wouldn't even hazzard a guess since I'm doing all this from a distance. I'm just using Tesla's released information graphs to form the heat loss theory. In general I'd say its a linear relationship from the Cold Extreme SetPoint, but that point is probably Tesla Proprietary Information. People who own Model S's could certainly try it experimentally and get back to you.

We know a few things for sure right now: 10 degree weather will cause a 65 mile loss over 10 hours, with the car initially 'hot'. A larger drop would be expected from a car starting out cold (in other words, a car left in a parking lot that had already been unmoved or charged for a long time beforehand). We also know a field trip in a Minnesota 0 degree drive will end up with bundled hats and gloves in the 20 degree passenger compartment.

· · 5 years ago

That's what I have such a hard time understanding: 65 miles of loss from 10 degree weather? (Actually to be fair it was closer to 6-7 for a lot of that time.) Still, that's an awful lot of energy loss! It's hard to believe actually that Tesla would look at this issue in pre-production and say "Okay, well that's good enough, let's get this baby out to the East Coast!"

I'm very curious about what the linear curve you described might look like. Perhaps there's some sort of threshold temperature beyond which Tesla (like Nissan with its warm weather engineering) was willing to roll the dice?

· · 5 years ago

This is EXACTLY why EREV such as Volt makes sense until we have breakthrough technology in battery or infrastructure.

@ Zach McDonald,

Maybe Tesla made an assumption that the car will always be "plugged in" during extreme cold. It doesn't matter what you do in pre-production test, you can't prevent the battery temperature to drop in sub-zero (F) temperature without drawing additional power from the battery to keep it warm. That is overnight as well. If the wind is howling, then it will make it magnitude faster in temperature drop.

· · 5 years ago

Michael says . . .

"If your range gauge drops precipitously while parked overnight, this is not a car for the average consumer.

If you can't turn your heater to 74 degrees, this is not a car for the average consumer. In fact, I would say that disqualifies it as a luxury car. Maybe they should think about putting a gas or diesel heater in."

No, Michael, it simply shows how completely moronic so many consumers can be. If you can't follow directions, don't buy the product . . . and don't blame the product because some consumers can't/won't RTFM. Elsewhere on this blog today, you sardonically quip about NYC Mayor Bloomberg's outlawing of Big Gulp sodas. Yet you become the ultimate Nanny State advocate when it comes to EVs.

If manufacturers have to make their cars so idiot proof that even you can operate them in a thoughtless manner, then we wouldn't have any electric cars. But, of course, that fits right into you petroleum-powered neo-con agenda, doesn't it? Zach says it best when he states the Broder "made an error that no EV owner and very few competent adults would ever make."

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

I dont understand why you are insulting the customers. The minnesota lady did frankly more than I would have done. She was intelligent enough to have earned enough to pluck down $100k .

I would have made that error not knowing how the car behaves. I sure wouldn't do it now, seeing as this has been a great education on the car for me.

I happen to like and advocate for electric cars. I own two of them.

I would not live in NYC with Bloomberg as Mayor. He is trying to control as much of poeples' lives as he feels he can get away with. Outlawing Gulps is only what he has done so far. Since this isn't a political blog I'll leave it at that since the subject is too hot to handle in this forum.

@Zach McDonald

Its possible Broder would not have made the error either; he was advised by Tesla the indicator was a "Software Glitch" (in retrospect, it couldn't have been, and was quite accurate as the car died later 'on cue'), and then the other canard:

"The range will recover after driving and conditioning the battery", again not true if looking at Tesla Graph #2; the only time the range increased ever is with charging.

I myself would have continued had I not had experience with my own EV's to know what are 'generally accepted truths' regarding EV's, are sometimes not.

· · 5 years ago

That's the point of the story that I don't think we really know the facts about yet. Most likely we never will know exactly what was said between Broder and the multiple individuals he says he spoke to over the course of his drive. There was probably some confusion to say the least.

What makes me suspicious that it's Broder who is confusing or skewing these encounters is the fact that he seems to have been given so much bad advice over the course of his drive. I suppose it's possible.

My main point though is that this back and forth is unlikely to be fully sorted out because each side has their own explanation for the available data. What's important isn't Broder's customer service experience but those of Model S owners. To me, the account you provided from Minnesota is far more relevant to this issue than who is to blame for Broder getting stranded.

· · 5 years ago

@Zach McDonald

Those two items are the only things I'm aware of that he was told.

Unknown to me, but I'm not sure how much cold weather testing was done period.

Most of the 'bugs' still in my 2011 roadster (with an upgraded software pack, twice) are related to cold weather operation. At least one of them exists in common with the model S as regards regeneration and heater operation when its cold. This tends to indicate little, if any cold weather testing.

I think it just slips their minds and they don't test for them or else they've decided its not worth worrying about.

· · 5 years ago

@Bill Howland or anyone who can answer - Care to theorize about how a Volt's 120 charging cable would do in HOT weather - as on a Phoenix parking lot in the summer? We (in Tucson) are trying to get the airport to install 120 volt outlets when it begins covering some portion of its parking lot with PV. It would be downright embarrassing if we succeeded and then later discovered the outlets couldn't even keep a Volt's battery cool, let alone charge it.

· · 5 years ago

If Mr. Broder lied or distorted the facts, then how is that it has anything "to do with the personalities and prejudices"? He is a reporter (supposedly), and not an entertainer.

The New York Times needs to be very concerned with their reputation - their credibility is their most important (and only?) asset. They have requested the data that Tesla has, and we'll see what they do. If Mr. Broder has lied, then he needs to be fired. And the NYT needs to make a public apology and retract the article.

A CNN reporter drove considerably farther (DC to Boston) with lots of range to spare. http://money.cnn.com/2013/02/15/autos/tesla-model-s/

A group of Model S owners are going to retrace Mr. Broder's trip to also shine a light on the issue. Nobody is saying that batteries don't lose some capacity when they are cold, or that it doesn't take some energy to keep the battery warm. Mr. Broder ignored instructions to plug it in overnight to keep it warm. http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1082366_tesla-model-s-owners-crowdso...

In fact, we have a new verb: to "broder" an EV is to ignore all indications and run a battery down on purpose. http://www.teslamotors.com/forum/forums/new-ev-dictionary-broder-verb


· · 5 years ago


Well, make sure you set your EVSE or dashboard controls (if you have a 2011-2012, or 2013 , respectively) controls to either normal (4 led's) or 'regular' (12 amp) charging.

This should allow sufficient juice to make all trips to a hot airport successful. I assume we are talking about occasional 115 degrees fahrenheit operation. The sunshine baking the interior should be ok as long as the 2 front window are cracked open 1/2".

Unlike the current model S, the Volt battery is insulated. Its true the air conditioner's coefficent of performance will drop somewhat at 115 degrees, but I'm sure you Tucson'ers are well aware of air conditioning characteristics in general during July-August.

1300-1400 watts seems adequate to me to run the air conditioner, seeing as operation here doesn't seem to affect the range 1/4 as much as the 6000 watt volt electric heater, plus the unknown sized battery heater, unless they are one in the same (they may be, I'm still learning about the volt's anatomy myself).

In your hottest weather. you may not charge very fast, but hopefully if left overnight, the air conditioner will get a break and you will be able to get a full charge during nightime hours.

Please have the airport allocate at least 12 amps per EV parking space so that should u park your volts there, they can run at maximum 110 volt capacity. I don't think the default 8 amp 2013 setting would be enough for your difficult summers. Hope this helps.

· · 5 years ago

Another point: cold reduces the range of internal combustion cars, too. Quite a bit on shorter trips, in fact. At 6F and say a 4 year old battery or if he left the dome light on - what guarantee would Mr. Broder have that the engine would even start; let alone be able to go as far as it would have on the 1/4 tank of gas?


· · 5 years ago

My screed wasn't directed at you, Bill. I'm just a little tired of Michael - once more - implying that electric cars should be pulled from the market if they don't perform up to his esoteric standards. It's hypocrisy for him want to take EVs away from "average consumers" who are more than adequately served by them, but then get all hot and bothered about a politician wanting to regulate high fructose corn syrup soft drinks.

I'm also not implying that Tesla customers don't have a legitimate gripe if the product they paid good money for isn't working properly. But I don't think that's the case. Every electro-mechanical device has limits under extreme conditions. What would have happened if an $80K luxury ICE car got stranded in arctic-like weather? Would it have garnered coverage in an internationally distributed newspaper? Would any reasonable person suggest that we pull all gasoline powered cars off the road if, say, a radiator freezes and cracks on a single example, due to the owner not adding the proper fluids, when a weather forecast from the week before indicated that they should?

John Broder couldn't even bring himself to charge the car correctly and, all of a sudden, the Tesla S is a failure? Sorry, he either had an ulterior motive or he's just plain clueless. While I feel remorse for all the innocents who happen to share his surname, I think it's fitting that "broder" has now become a verb for someone who can't figure out - or refuses to learn how - to properly charge an EV.

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

Well Ben, the only reason I think you guys are giving me a pass on this is that I do have 2 ev's one of which is a Tesla. I don't know what other comments Michael has made in the past but the recent ones sound reasonable to me. Many engineers on here make comments that I cringe when I hear them repeat the same old Wife's Tales (such as conditioning the battery by driving will increase the range) which I know don't apply to the situation at hand but everyone believes them and its a Big Engineer saying it so I just bite my tongue.

I suppose Tesla's big mistake was releasing Graph #2. I notice they only released it once because it keeps everyone on both sides honest.

But I have to say any thing the customers did doesn't sound that bad, I'd do the same things or worse, thinking I could get away with it. Of course the only pure ev I've driven is my Roadster and I could be excused if I thought the Model S would behave as my Roadster did. But it doesn't, and I've explained at length my theory behind that and on other posts put a mathmatical proof to it, then have it be confirmed in actuality by the minnesota trip. But I probably would have been just as surprised and run out of juice myself had I never driven a Tesla EV before.

As far as Broder goes, some of that may be the New York Attitude (much different than where I am). 80 mph bursts to a NYCity'er is not speeding. Slowing down to 40, then going 55 is considered going 45. I fully expect Broder drives every test car the same way.

I think initially, Tesla WANTED him to drive the car as if he was driving any other car, then they had a HOLY CRAP moment (I think my theory regarding 120 volt operation is , surprisingly, truly a revelation to Tesla, who I think did not do adequate cold weather testing)when the car did not behave as even Tesla expected (hence the bad advice given to Broder). When Broder's article came out, Musk was as nervous as I've ever seen him. Now Broder is being attacked since he didn't pay special attention to the "Realities of Electricity", whatever that means. Its a circular argument Broder cannot win, Unfortunately, these eyes see Tesla digging a big hole for themselves, and this refusal to acknowledge a previously (by them ) unknown defect is frankly pathetic.

· · 5 years ago

As a constructive note, one could suggest to use the Panasonic U-Vacua vacuum insulation to drastically decrease the battery heating needs in extreme cold weather.
They actually use it to make ultra thin walled refrigerator units so this looks like a perfect fit for the Tesla Battery.
On another point of view I personally think the Tesla could house a micro cogen unit in the front hood as an option. This would make it even more resistant in extreme cold weather and give it a range extender practicality and flexibility on energy sources as well.
For the rest it is in fact fantastic that the Tesla just keeps operating in such extreme cold unlike a laptop.

· · 5 years ago

I'm wondering if the whole idea of "calculated range" gauges isn't a major marketing mistake for EV makers. ICE cars don't have them (nor do they have a numerical 'state-of-charge' gas gauge). The whole idea is to predict the future based upon the past. As soon as you hit the road - with any car - 'your range may vary', i.e. the future is less likely to resemble the past.

Even if drivers were required to tell the range guesstimator what that future will be, i.e. their destination, and geographic information system software were used to calculate the work the car would be doing along the way, you would still have the weather.

· · 5 years ago

I once had the task of analyzing data logged during an industrial explosion. The data does not lie but jumping to conclusions about what was going on in the minds of the operators is unwise.

· · 5 years ago

Benjamin Nead say,

"No, Michael, it simply shows how completely moronic so many consumers can be. If you can't follow directions, don't buy the product . . . and don't blame the product because some consumers can't/won't RTFM. Elsewhere on this blog today, you sardonically quip about NYC Mayor Bloomberg's outlawing of Big Gulp sodas. Yet you become the ultimate Nanny State advocate when it comes to EVs.

If manufacturers have to make their cars so idiot proof that even you can operate them in a thoughtless manner, then we wouldn't have any electric cars. But, of course, that fits right into you petroleum-powered neo-con agenda, doesn't it? Zach says it best when he states the Broder 'made an error that no EV owner and very few competent adults would ever make.'"

What's the matter with this guy? Did he forget to take his meds?

Nanny state is where the government tells it's citizens what they can and can't do. I never implied anything like that. I also said AVERAGE CONSUMER. Tesla doesn't give a proficiency test before someone can buy their cars. They are marketing the car to the public in NY. NY is cold in the winter, and hot and humid in the summer.

I agree with Bill Howland. They either didn't do proper cold weather testing, or they think every EV buyer is like Benjamin Nead, where their whole life revolves around their EV. I suggest Tesla hire some test engineers, and get this car up to standards prior to selling it in cold weather and extreme hot weather states.

· · 5 years ago


"I'm wondering if the whole idea of "calculated range" gauges isn't a major marketing mistake for EV makers. ICE cars don't have them "

Actually most modern cars do.

· · 5 years ago

Actually, Tesla has some pretty good manufacturing engineers in my opinion. After all, in moderate weather the car does get the most range of any pure EV to date.

I just read the NY times latest rebuttal, apparently someone at Tesla told Broder to deliberately accelerate and decelerate to get Regenerative Braking. THAT is total BS . Beyond Stupidity. I'm not even sure the regen was active in that weather, it would be shut down under those conditions in my Roadster.

Note to the Tesla Rep who said that: Its better to use 10 kilowatt hours running at a constant speed then to use 15 kwh and regenerate 2, for a net usage of 13.


I got all the information I needed out of Tesla Graphic #2. From simply that chart, and knowing roughly where the car was in the trip, I theorized the 120 volt cord is ineffective in cold weather, and the car will lose mileage even though plugged in constantly in very cold weather.

The minnesota Lady later on Proved my theorem. I have not had to modify any statement I've made in the slightest.


The range indicators were of great assistance, and as Tesla indicators have been known for, are very accurate. Its not the fault of the indicator that some Tesla Personel are clueless when it comes to understanding the ramifications.

Many people also don't understand the simple concept of "ideal range" and 'estimated range'. But again, its not the indicator's fault that they are producing accurate numbers horribly interpretted by "The Big Experts".

· · 5 years ago


I have charged my Volt during 100 degree weather and you can clearly hear the A/C pump on for almost the entire time that it was charging. The charge rate slowed down by about 20%. (took 12 hours to fully charge the car). It was on 12A mode. I don't think it is an issue.

But one issue was "concerning" was the fact that the J1772 handle on the Volt got awefully hot during that whole time "baking" under the sun. I think it was stupid for GM/Leer to design that handle to be black color. Combined with the current draw, the handle got hot enough for my hand to hold it very uncomfortably...

· · 5 years ago

@ Bill,

I have a "general" electrical question for you. Why is everyone using the term "110V" when it is actually more a 120V? The RMS value is actually 121V measured at my house. During a hot summer day, the voltage at my work place sometimes drop to 117V RMS when the load gets really bad...

· · 5 years ago

Tesla's in trouble if their CEO, Elon Musk, doesn't think their cars should be driven from 65 to 81 miles per hour, or turn the temperature up to 74 degrees, as he complains about in his blog. That's the way normal people drive.

EVs are going to have to be idiot proof. No one should have to call the manufacturer of the car to drive an EV, or make mathematical calculations. We are not trying to land someone on the moon. The driver should put in the destination in the car's navigation system or PC (which will send the data wirelessly to the car), and the system should state where and how much to charge based on road conditions, traffic conditions, planned stops, and weather conditions. If someone unplugs too soon, the dash display should warn them, "Insufficient charge to destination. Plug charger back in." Even my smart phone tells me everyday how long it will take me to drive home. This is doable with current technology.

If you have some journalist who hates EVs, and calls the manufacturer on charging, the representative should just point the person back to their car display. No mistakes. No misunderstandings.

· · 5 years ago

@bill how land

My comment was not directed at you. It was directed at die hard Telsa fans who want to believe John Broder intentionally sabotaged his road trip. Personally, I'm a big supporter of Tesla but I know how rookie EV drivers are not going do everything perfectly. Got my Leaf about a month ago. Extensive reading about EV ownership didn't save me from making some rookie mistakes.

· · 5 years ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

110 volts is an anachronism dating back to the turn of the 20th century ( 112 years ago )

Its a measure of electrical pressure, as amperes is a measure of electron flow (couloumbs/ second), or ohms is a measure of electrical resistance.

1 volt pressure encountering 1 ohm resistance will allow for a flow of 1 ampere.

In the past I put a blog explaining why 'system usage' graduatly increaed from 110 to 115.


(its the 9th post down in a response to benjamin nead).

110 volts is pretty accurate for car charging since there is usually a 10 volt pressure drop in the cords and cabling between the usually distant electric service entrance ( my utility only has to maintain between 114 and 122 volts at the 'point of demarcation' (the edge of the roof for overhead, and the backyard pole for underground, or service manhole if totally underground), but my utility on the hottest day in August can only maintain 108 volts at the pole. As I say, I've back-engineered the distribution job in my neighborhood and there are plenty of incompetant no-nos which I won't bore you with here.

· · 5 years ago

@Zach McDonald

This is WAY out of Left Field, but Graph #3, does show interior temperature was a constant 62 degrees.

In the back of my mind I'm wondering if Broder LEFT THE CABIN HEATER ON FOR 10 HOURS STRAIGHT!!!!!

You would think Tesla would be all over him for that since they'd see the Ignition was on all night....

If that's true (as I say, .000001% chance of that, but its always a posibility), then the Model S can be excused. I thought this was all battery heat. Cabin heat is another ball of wax all together......I'd say its more likely there is a start and stop of the graph during the time he was sleeping, also there seems to be a pen overstrike at the time in question (400 miles).

The thing that pretty much eliminates the last paragrah condition is the Minnesota Lady having the same kind of problems, and this time with 20 degrees in the Cabin.

· · 5 years ago

Regarding claim #2, the Model S losing 61 miles of estimated charge overnight-- I do not believe this is an issue for all EVs in general as stated in the piece. My Focus has consistently maintained the same percentage charge and estimated range when parked for 9 hours unplugged (no workplace charging for me, boo hoo) even at temps in the low teens Fahrenheit. And I've left it unplugged in my garage overnight (12+ hours), with temps in the single digits, and still no drop in percentage charge. If it is not plugged in, it does not attempt to keep the batteries warm. Of course, once I drive the range starts to drop as the battery does double duty powering the car while warming up.
I guess it helps having an EV designed and built in Michigan where they know a little bit about cold weather.

· · 5 years ago

I noticed that. I figured I was reading the graph wrong or Tesla would have been all over it. Can we say for sure that the cabin temperature reading (displayed as a function of miles driven) doesn't stop when the car isn't moving?

· · 5 years ago

Bill, where are you seeing the graph of the interior temperature? I only see a graph of the set point.

· · 5 years ago

Based on dmen's comments (thanks dmen!), I think I see what's going on. I don't think it is a Tesla software glitch. I think Tesla chose to predict battery range based on the battery temperature and the battery capacity needed to heat them back up at the time the car is started after sitting in the cold. That would explain why the state of charge doesn't move at 400 miles, but the range drops instantly.

From what dmen is saying, Ford took a different approach. They hold the range fixed after sitting and restarting, and then adjust the range down as charge depletion is accelerated while heating the batteries.

Which is better for the consumer? I'm not sure. Both are a compromise. The best scenario would be a smarter navigation system that really is more of a trip planner with energy management, which includes battery reheating if the vehicle sits, and interior climate control energy estimates in its calculations.

By the way dmen, I'd love to hear how the Focus is working out for you.

· · 5 years ago

OH yeah I didn't mean to broadbrush all ev's. My Roadster loses a bit during very cold weather, but the loss is perfectly tolerable. Plugging into a 120 volt cord when available (not necessary all the time, the car can survive a few days outside in the cold without being plugged in), will reheat, then eventually, start charging the car back up, even at just 12 amps. ( The heater is always 8 amps no matter whether 120, 200, or 240 volts - I have no idea why). The car wont charge while heating, but thats ok since its a max 6 hours of heating that will be needed.

My Volt is even better in the cold, but then its protected and insulated.

· · 5 years ago


Oh ok my mistake. If its the setpoint then everything makes sense.

· · 5 years ago

Michael says . . . "EVs are going to have to be idiot proof."

It would be far too easy for me to add, Michael, that this is precisely the reason why you shouldn't buy one. I find it curious that you magically appear on this blog every few months as some sort of self-appointed consumer advocate, whenever there is a reported glitch in an OEM's EV. One only has to head back to last summer's postings regarding the Leaf's battery problems to witness you practically foaming at the mouth with indignation.

Fact is, automobiles in general are not idiot proofed and probably never will be. But a century of consumers have been conditioned to do things like hand-crank engines without breaking their wrists before electric starters became commonplace and jiggle dashboard choke knobs while pumping the accelerator pedal judiciously just to get started in cold weather in the days before reliable electronic fuel injection. Somehow, we all survived.

Today, we still have to remember to put gasoline in the tank, air in the tires and remember to check (or pay someone to assist) in making sure any number of fluids and filters are topped off and/or clean. Cars may have advance technologically, but they are still far from being idiot proofed.

Electric cars are going to be finicky as well, especially since the technology, in the form of a commercially produced product, is still rather new. Who knew two or three years ago that thermal battery management would be such a contentious issue? It took tens of thousands of production EVs to be placed on the streets in all sorts of different climates, though, to witness how important this sort of thing was going to be.

If these vehicles were still prototypes, produced in the single digits and only in the hands of testing engineers - as you are implying should be the case - we would never be aware of what could go wrong with them in the real world.

· · 5 years ago

@NeilBlanchard You say "If Mr. Broder lied or distorted the facts, then how is that it has anything "to do with the personalities and prejudices"? He is a reporter (supposedly), and not an entertainer."

It may be true that Mr. Broder is usually a reporter, although his column is billed as a blog, but in this story, he is not. If he were writing about the woman from Minnesota who had range issues in cold weather, that would be reporting. If he wanted to throw in some investigative journalism, he might call the company for comment, see if others had the same issue, endeavor to find out whether user error or some erroneous one-off malfunction was an issue. But in this case, he is reviewing a car and a charging network, possibly more the latter and he has inserted himself into the story. So, his own personality and biases are part of the story. This story is, in fact partly an entertainment piece, as much as any Michael Moore documentary.

@Bill Howland I'm not sure what New York attitude has to do with anything, especially when driving is concerned since most New Yorkers don't do much of that, but you say you "fully expect Broder drives every test car the same way." So, I went to see what his other stories are like and it turns out he isn't a car reporter at all. From what I can tell, he is a reporter and his beat is climate and energy policy. He may insert his politics or opinions into the pieces but this sort of first person journalism isn't really his stock and trade. So, whatever his legitimate beefs are, it may in fact have been a bit reckless for the Times, as Broder is neither a car critic or reporter nor does he regularly practice this style of journalism.

I am not aiming this at those whom I have quoted but rather attempting to clear up (I think) some possible misconceptions about John Broder.

· · 5 years ago

I left out a comma in the last sentence of the first full paragraph. Also, I meant to say "it may have been a bit reckless for the Times to assign this story to Broder, as he is neither a car...etc."

I couldn't find an edit function so I'm just doing this.

· · 5 years ago

If he's a paid environmental reporter and makes his money doing "climate change" stories, then defacto I will disagree with everything he says on that subject.

He's just a typical guy who drove a "green" car. I'm interested in the car, not the reporter.

· · 5 years ago

There are a lot of fascinating angles to this story -- which is why it hasn't died yet.

To me, one of the most fascinating of these is the issue of what motivates most people to adopt a new technology. While there are various factors that move people to adopt a new technology, superior convenience and versatility are the most important factors for most people [early EV adopters are not most people, sorry @Benjamin Nead, and most people are not going to want to have to turn the heat down to get more range, etc.]

Pure EVs fall short vs. gas cars on precisely these totally crucial new technology adoption criteria -- convenience and versatility. As long as they continue to do so, they'll continue to be a niche product (though PHEVs won't be, because they don't fall short on convenience and versatility). Also, it's also crucial to note gas cars will ALWAYS be the point of comparison for EVs for most people, no matter how much EV advocates say, "BUT, don't look it at that way, look at it this way, and this way, and this way ..."

Elon Musk gets this, which is why he's chosen to take gas cars head on, and why he's building the Supercharger network so that at least some pure EVs can, in fact, do the long-distance road trip, albeit, in this case, with quite a bit less convenience (less convenient in the sense you really have to plan, know what you're doing, slow down, etc. -- all things that Broder clearly fell short on) than gas cars.

If you just can't get enough of "Model S-Gate", I elaborate further on the significance of "convenience" and "versatility" to widespread pure EV adoption (or lack thereof) and why we need someone like Musk taking the "good fight" directly to gas cars on their strength/home turf -- even if they might not be quite ready to win the battle on that field here --> Tesla's frontal attack on gas cars right way to go.

Curious to hear others' responses to my thoughts on convenience, versatility and "Model S Gate" -- if you've got the time ;-)


· · 5 years ago

Well I was going to reserve a Model S, but then Tesla's lack of flexibility this time around (I own a Roadster and Tesla at the time was sufficiently flexible 2 years ago ) had caused me to change my mind since it impacted on "convenience, and Versatility" of a Model S.

I was going to purchase an EV (glorified golf cart) out of high school, but the dealer i walked past every day on the way to school went bankrupt.

I much prefer talking about the car than the personalities involved, but I find Musk's responses childish. He does nothing to educate me further regarding the characteristics of the Model S.

· · 5 years ago

ModernMarvelFan · 2 days ago

@ ModernMarvelFan

Maybe Tesla made an assumption that the car will always be "plugged in" during extreme cold. It doesn't matter what you do in pre-production test, you can't prevent the battery temperature to drop in sub-zero (F) temperature without drawing additional power from the battery to keep it warm. That is overnight as well. If the wind is howling, then it will make it magnitude faster in temperature drop.

I love this story in general but I have seen others talk about wind howling.
Just an FYI
Wind Chill does not exist for cars or other inaminate objects.
It does exist for humans
Ask me I was snowboarding in Nemo last week and got tiny bit of frostbite. Wind chill is the additive effect of cooling on the skin
Ambient temperature is what batteries care about
Only humans care about wind


· · 5 years ago


If what you said was true then there would never be a need to put a fan on a heat sink.

· · 5 years ago


Are you sure air flow doesn't matter? It sure helps with convection. One of the three ways that heat transfers... Radiation, convection and conduction...

· · 5 years ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

You forgot the 4th way, Evaporation, and if the device is oriented correctly, a 5th way: Melting.

· · 5 years ago

The one thing that bothers me the most about the data is something that I have not seen mentioned in any articles that I have read. The mileage data seams to be about 10% too high. I googlemapped each leg of the trip as well as the whole trip and the mapquest (I don’t want to endorse one map over the other) always came out about 10% less distance than the data that Tesla provided in their charts. For example, the entire trip (from Washington to Norwich back to NYC) clocks in at just under 500 miles yet the data shows about 540 miles (it is hard to say the exact mileage since the 500 miles does not include the miles the car was towed (-15 miles) and the miles that Broder drove around Manhattan (+?? miles). Broder did mention that he had 19” wheels on the car instead of the 21” but the difference in revolutions/mile on these 2 tires is less than 0.7% (755 vs 700) and would not account for the discrepancy in the logged data vs. the actual miles.
If my observations are correct, this fact bothers me because the car will constantly be over estimating the mileage that it can go which can drive and may contribute to this trip debacle. It also points to a possible mismatch between the speedometer reading and what the car’s computer thinks it is going (note that part of the drive, Broder said he was going 45 but the data was showing around 50). Unless I am missing something, I don’t understand why nobody has pointed this out.

· · 5 years ago


Your point about mapped mileage and odometer mileage being different is well taken. I'm not sure what's going on there. However, I think Broder's comments about tires is completely bogus. If the car thought it was going a certain speed or covering a certain distance, it would tell him that value and log the same value. So, mis-calibrated tire size cannot explain away the difference between what he reported and what Tesla reported from the logs.

· · 5 years ago

The wrong tyre size doesn't account for this discrepancy. There is only 0.6% difference in the tire radius between the 19 and the 21” that Tesla uses (the 19” is a 45 and the 21” is a 35 aspect ratio which puts the revolutions/mile close to the same at 750 and 755 respectively). This doesn’t account for the 10% difference in logged vs. observed mileage or speed. Most likely it is a difference in either the calibrations of the 2 control modules that calculate the speeds, one being the motor controller which uses the motor output speed and has to factor in the tire radius and final drive ratio and the other being the instrument cluster controller which typically gets its info from the brake systems wheel speed sensors. How each controller accounts for slip is also critical but that should only account for 1-2% depending on the driving scenario. There is federal regulation on how accurate the speedometer and odometer have to be.

· · 5 years ago

Bill wrote: "You forgot the 4th way, Evaporation, and if the device is oriented correctly, a 5th way: Melting."

Actually, The fundamental ways are only 3: conduction, convection and radiation. The two that you described requires a "Phase Change". It is NOT considered as the fundamental part of "heat transfer". The fact that evaporation helps cooling is b/c heat has transferred from surface to the liquid through radiation, conduction and convection. Transfer of a heated mass is also a type of heat transfer but it is NOT a fundamental heat transfer.

Heat transfer is about "boundry" energy tranfer between the medium. Melting and Evaporation are "physical state changes" that are result of "heat tranfer". In order for the liquid/air/solid to heat or cool the system through "evaporation/melting/condensing"...etc the liquid/air/solid itself has to have energy transfer through radiation, convection and conduction...

But they all help remove energy from the larger system.

· · 5 years ago

"Michael says . . . 'EVs are going to have to be idiot proof.' "

"It would be far too easy for me to add, Michael, that this is precisely the reason why you shouldn't buy one."

Benjamin Nead, resident Plug In Cars EV BULLY

Usually when someone is this verbally abusive, it is indicative of some other underlying issue, often substance abuse.

· · 5 years ago

@Modern Marvel Fan

This was a bit tongue in cheek. Evaporation and Melting are strictly speaking what happens AFTER the other 3, but it does cause heat to leave the system, so I included it.

To not include it is to sharpen the pencil point a bit too fine. Your paragraph is all well and good but including what I did makes it easy to understand "Where did all my Heat Go?"

· · 5 years ago

Bill H
Modern marvel

Points taken.
Thanks for the brush up on heat transfer!
Sounds like you boys have some engineering backgrounds?!

Certainly servers and computers use fans to cool them off and not overheat

The wind will make the battery pack lose heat more quickly especially true if as Bill I think pointed out tesla battery pack for Model S has flat thin shape with large surface area ( see Eskimos as short thick to minimize heat loss while tall thin Africans help radiate heat out to cool off) as opposed to thicker denser pack that would retain heat more easily.

However once it reached ambient temperature 6degrees in this case the wind would not make it colder
That was the tidbit I remembered that once at ambient temperature objects would not "experience" extra cold no matter how hard the wind blows.


· · 5 years ago

Oh, now it's Michael, the Armchair Psychoanalyst. Or is it Michael, the Wannabe Red Baiter? Please! Tell it to Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn!

No, Michael, I'm not the resident bully. But you had a pretty good run of being exactly that, just before election day last fall, when you and your buddy, Objective, were running roughshod over this place. It was an amazingly callous display and anyone who wants to relive it (if they can bring themselves to stomach it) has to only search through this blog's archives.

At one point back then, you personally singled me out as "part of the problem," implying that my influence was such that I was somehow responsible for disingenuously promoting EVs to the point of talking large numbers of unaware consumers into buying these cars, knowing that they would be disillusioned with short range and unreliable batteries. It's complete bullshit, of course. How, exactly, was I going to profit from such a fantastic scheme? But that was your byline.

My issue with you, Michael, is actually far more fundamental . . . and certainly not fueled by alcohol, any other controlled substance or neurosis. It's clearly outlined in your above posts on this blog page, although you attempt to couch it in consumer advocacy from time to time: you have a visceral contempt for EVs in general.

I see no attempt coming from you to find solutions to today's EV problems - and, yes, I'm fully aware that the technology is far from being perfected . . . only a perverse desire to make EVs unavailable to a great many people who would like to buy them and could easily adapt to - and fully understand - the implications of range and charging time issues, all while taking just that many polluting ICE cars off the road in the process. That, in my book, makes you "part of the problem."

· · 5 years ago

Benjamin Nead, there is no way you are sober. I am not even reading your abusive diatribe, so don't bother.

I hope you pull your life together.

· · 5 years ago

Michael, go away. You are not reasonable or appreciated here.

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