Testing Tesla's Long Distance Ability

A Girls Guide To Cars | Testing Tesla'S Long Distance Ability - Times Tesla Story

Times Tesla StorySometimes it’s hard not to laugh at men. It starts when they’re really little.

Why did you take that apart?
I dunno. Because I could?

Sound familiar? The Sunday New York Times carried a story by car reviewer John Broder who decided to drive an all eclectric Tesla from DC to Boston simply because the math said he could do it: The car’s battery range and Tesla’s newly installed supercharging stations should make the trip possible. So he tried.  

The Tesla Model S Broder drove didn’t quite make it all the way; he complained of a gut-wrenching case of range anxiety–that horrible feeling you get when you fear you won’t make it to your destination before you run out of fuel. After stopping several times to charge the car, he finally had it towed, believing the car’s battery was completely empty.

Following the original Times story, seen here, Tesla pulled the car’s performance records. What they revealed were inconsistencies between the review and actual performance records; charges that were not allowed to complete and a contention that even though Broder felt he had to have the car towed, the Tesla still had enough charge to make it to a charging station.

A nasty back and forth ensued between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the New York Times, with Musk detailing every error, misrepresentation and detail of the test drive, with charts and all, which you can see here; the Times public editor’s reveiw of the episode and admission that mistakes were made, which you can see here, and Musk’s thanks to the Times for reviewing the  process (and thanking several other media outlets for repeating the test drive and having success) and setting the record straight; his letter is here.

It was all an entertianing event, and perhaps an important one, but really, electric cars aren’t meant for long range driving. Yet. Electric cars are for puttering around town, commuting to work, making trips to the mall, going out to dinner. You want to be able to end every other short trip at home so you can plug the car in and let it recharge. Then, as you putter around town, you can wave and smile as you pass all those gas stations. 

Even though Tesla has very graciously installed supercharging stations (and they’re free!) at key points along a number of roads, it still takes an hour to charge the car, lengthening the ride (and subjecting passengers to whatever roadside food and entertainment is available). 

Perhaps someday we’ll be able to reliably drive electric cars long distances. But for now it’s akin to sailing around the globe in a tin can, or floating into space in a balloon: Possible on paper, but harder in practice. 

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss