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New York Times Article - And My response

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/automobiles/stalled-on-the-ev-highway....

John - I assume you did the research, or perhaps someone at Tesla told you, that when you go for an extended trip you you do a max charge - that would have given you 265+ miles of rated range. When you go on a road trip in your gas car do you put 12 gallons in a 14 gallon tank?

If I go somewhere in my gas car, spend $8 to get 2 gallons and 60 miles of range, but needed 3 gallons to go 90 miles and get there, and run out of gas, shame on me. Plug in overnight, always. It's EASY.

Here's the equivalent - you get gas when you need to. You plug in every night when you get to your destination. There are more outlets in America than gas pumps - probably at least 1 million times more. Every outlet in America is a refilling station. Come on!

Why didn't you point out the basics that you failed on? If you ran out of gas would you blame Ford for not telling you the car's MPG, or Exxon for not having a station when you needed it?

Driving an electric car is NOT less convenient, it just asks you to think differently. Takes effort, just like a gas car requires effort. If you start simple-mindedly with the gas paradigm as the baseline, you have made a basic mistake. Would get on a bike and write a negative article because you couldn't make it go 65 MPH? Please make the effort next time and acknowledge when you don't.

www.teslamodels.wordpress.com

Nice!

@Cattledog: +1!

there are a couple of times I ran out of gas... because I forgot to use my brain.

+1

Say it, brother!

This was kind of painful read for me. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later with someone who does know the specifics of the Tesla Model S. The Tesla people he spoke to before he started the road trip should have warned him adequately of the degradation in range during winter conditions. At the very least, he should have been told (since he is new to the car) to at least do a range charge on the car both times and used cruise control as much as possible. While I agree that people have to start thinking differently amount electric cars, Tesla has to be proactive in making its customeers aware of "vampire load loss" and improve its range estimate in all types of driving conditions, taking into account elevation and weather if possible.

I feel for the reporter.

I made a round trip from Chicago to Milwaukee and back, a distance of 211 miles.
Despite range charging and heating the car while still plugged in before leaving, and charging on 110 volts for 6 hours while I was there, I barely made it back. I drove normally on the way there, but on the way back I kept cutting the speed as I was monitoring my miles. Last half was with cruise control at 53 mph. Arrived home with 7 miles left. There may have been a headwind on the way back, because even with the heat mostly off, and cruise control at 53 I couldn't get my watts per mile down to the rated watts per mile of 307.

Beginning range 269 miles, with 12 miles added by charging equals 281 miles. Therefore 274 miles used to go 211 miles. If I hadn't pre heated the car before leaving and gone slow on the return trip it would have been more like 300 miles rated range to go 211 miles. Therefore in my case, the actual miles were about 70% of rated miles.

The reporter was an innocent babe in regards to the range estimation game. I think we shouldn't be too critical. Of course we hate bad publicity for the Model S, but others reading the article may learn from his mistakes and avoid getting stranded themselves. In that case it could be long term positive.

However, the advice he got from corporate was probably from someone sitting in a warm office in California, who probably doesn't own a Model S, let alone have experience with the range issues of cold weather and a possible headwind. Better advice could have avoided all this. For example, in cold weather better allow for a 30 to 40% range reduction and allow a sizable safety margin if the car is parked outside in the cold between segments of the trip.

Voice of experience speaking.

I have driven a Leaf for the past 18 months and recently got the wife the Model S. In my Leaf, I have learned/noticed that when I drive somewhere, I drive as cautious as possible to conserve as much battery as possible. When I start for home and I've got "range" left, I drive like a normal nut on the So Cal roadways.

I also equate driving an EV like riding a horse. You really need to understand and learn them before you simply hop on and pretend you're John Wayne.

I just read that in 2009 70% of disabled vehicles on CA highways were because they ran out of gas. Do you really think people are not going to run out of charge?

I have mentioned before that a 500 mile battery would be a much better road trip car. Couple more years and things will be much better.

sayidreddy - I assume you mean my response, not the reporter's article. The problem with the article is he directed all the blame to Tesla. I guess we shouldn't expect more from someone in the 21st century, we have all almost perfected the art of transferring blame. He could have paired things up to write a balanced article, like, "I wish Tesla would have..., but I should have...".

Or was it an Op-ed piece and he's allowed to just present hi opnion?

If he expects more from Tesla, I guess I expect more from a reporter from the New York Times (actually...)

GoTeslaChicago - Point taken, you looked ahead, acted responsibly. Is that too much to ask of a reporter DOING A TEST DRIVE ON A TOTALLY NEW TYPE OF CAR? Tesla can definitely do better - he pointed that out. He could have done better - still looking for those points in the article...

sayid;
you mean "someone who does NOT know..." ?

Kleist;
Would that be your brain forgetting to use itself? ;)

Heaven forbid he reads the "Owners Manual" to better understand what he was driving. Why would he think he should be able to call Tesla to ask them if he can make it XX miles? I wonder if he calls Ford, GM, or Chrysler, or (insert ICE Manufacturer here) to ask them if he has enough gas to make it to Boston from NY City or ?? to ??.

Unfortunately this is probably only the tip of the iceberg where negative spin is concerned.

That IDIOT writer needs to GET REAL! Driving ANY type of vehicle requires engagement of ones brain.

I have also learned the hard way that estimated ranges are wildly optimistic, and will always leave a 30% cushion in trip planning. Unfortunately that means that some of the regular weekly travel that we expected this car to handle are well beyond its real world practical range, and we will have to drive the F-150. Makes me very sad as the biggest element of expected fuel cost savings is now out the window. The car is in charge of us instead of the other way around...

This article is also VERY bad publicity for TM, will almost certainly affect sales. The reporter's behavior was perfectly reasonable. He made lots of compromises for the car that we never have to make with ICE vehicles. It is good that buyers be forewarned.

Dave,

You sound overly pessimistic. Warm weather driving should give us much better range, unless your experience is already from somewhere warm like California or Florida.

"some of the regular weekly travel that we expected this car to handle are well beyond its real world practical range"

Superchargers to the Rescue!!

This article was inevitable. The ICE manufacturers have had decades of perfecting complicated mechanism to minimize the neurons required to operate the vehicle. Most of us interested in EVs understand that the paradigm shift requires a mental shift as well. Because of the MS publicity and performance it is starting to attract drivers who don't appreciate this aspect; they will ultimately be disappointed. My impression is that Tesla believes that everyone can naturally adapt to the new mind set, I am not sure everyone will want too. This doesn't mean that I think the EV should require more thinking to drive but the technology needs some time to mature before it is for everyone. BTW a simple app similar to something we have in aircraft may have helped. When low on electrons, all available charging stations in range pop up on the map.

Chicago,

There will never be a Supercharger within 150 miles of where I live. Google map Pungoteague. And since when should weather enter significantly into how far a car can go? I get the science, but nowhere did the glowing 300 mile or 265 mile range predictions say "except take off 10% from rated range for real world factors, and anther 30% if it is real cold or real hot." I am not being pessimistic. I am being realistic about what a real car sitting in a garage under my feet can do for my family. The practical advisable trip range limit with a max range charge for an 85kw Model S, with a reasonable 30% cushion is 175 miles when new, less as the battery ages. That makes it a lot less practical today and rules out about 100 trips per year to the city that I had expected to make.

Maybe I am guilty of buying a car for driving objectives that are at the far end of its theoretical capability, with theory not meeting reality, but I do need a car that can go 200-220 miles one way twice per week with no compromises. TM reps said this would be no problem, and the media hype machine supported the thesis. Turns out reality is much less, with more compromises than expected. Still a lot of fun to drive for local trips, just can't make it where I need to go without cutting it too close or comfort.

Using ICE drivers' experience to compare with that of those Tesla MS drivers is like to compare Apple with Orange. ICE cars have been improved over 100 years and gas stations across the country have been established long before anyone can remember. Even though, that ICE drivers today run out of gas on the road is not rare. That being said, if we the Tesla MS owners have patience and have the confidence in Tesla Motors, with Tesla gradually improved technology and SuperChargers across the country in a not very distance future, we will be the ones who have the last laugh.

There will likely never be a supercharger in my whole state "Arizona"
and no level II public chargers for nearly 150 miles in any direction from my house. The only thing we have going for us is that it usually does not get too cold so range numbers should not see the drop offs associated with colder regions. Will it work?

Any other rural Arizonans out there who are facing a similar issue that already has their S?

bradslee,

It is very relevant to compare these cars with ICE vehicles. We buy them for the same reasons - convenient transportation - to be servants to our needs, not for us to serve or worry about them. Elon's objective was not just to make a good EV, but to make a great car that can compete with any vehicle. ICE vehicles are the benchmark against which TM is competing, no compromises, level playing field, without mulligans, do-overs, or excuses. The best car, period, for a very high price. We aren't there yet, or even in the ballpark. The 80-year ICE head start excuse is just that, an excuse. We did not sign up for the modern EV equivalent of the Model T's hand crank starting. I can accept a lot of early adopter teething, but do need 220 miles of real world single-trip range every week, no matter how cold or hot. The Model S cannot reasonably meet that test yet (at least where I live) with enough cushion to avoid driver concerns about a long wait for a roll-back lift to a power outlet, and a further wait for the charging process. The NYT article is correct in pointing out that ICE drivers have no such worries.

@Superliner | FEBRUARY 8, 2013: Any other rural Arizonans out there who are facing a similar issue that already has their S?

Not really rural AZ, since I'm in Tucson. But I was planning on taking the car to our "cabin" in Pinetop. It's a 200mi door-to-door trip with about 4000ft elevation gain. Pinetop weather is more like NY. I can charge at an RV park half way in Globe, so it should be doable.

Superliner,

I'm still in the buying stage, so I have no real world experience with the S. My location in metro Phoenix will not present range challenges for day to day use that are certainly a possibility in the rural areas of this state. One of my acquaintances apparently has made the run up hill to Flagstaff then charged at his house there prior to returning to the valley with little difficulty. Given the elevation changes and extreme temperatures in the summer, even the 85kwh battery may not work easily of some areas of AZ.

RM

It's Motor Trend's 2013 CAR of the Year, NOT electric car of the year.

It's a car and functions better than other cars!

I agree with Sudre that we need to have a longer range capacity battery and faster superchargers(Did I hear that 300 miles / 30 minutes of charge is a next version?)

I was driving on an icy road one time many years ago, lost traction, and ended up in a ditch. I clearly remembered that the expensive high-quality winter peformance tires I had put on my car for that winter, said it clearly in the advertisments that these tires would keep a good grip in sleet, snow, and ICE!

I was once driving a VERY expensive Austin Martin DB9, and came upon a steep driveway. Being I asumed that an Austin Martin DB9 should be one of the BEST exotic autos ever built, and that the engineers would have thought of steep driveways as part of any typical driving experence. However, guess that aluded them, as when I went up the driveway, I scraped and nearly destroyed the front scoop/spoiler!

I guess the lesson I learned is; not everything is perfect for all situations, regardless of the advertisments. Sometimes, you have to take a bit of responsibility to further educate yourself of the limitations of some things, when it comes to abnormal situations, even when you are told "it's the best".

For the first 6 superchargers in sunny California:

Barstow-Hawthorne=121 miles

Hawthorne-Tejon Ranch=92 miles

Tejon Ranch-Harris Ranch=116 miles

Harris Ranch-Gilory=111 miles

Gilroy-Folsom=164 miles.

For the next 2 locations in wintry East Coast:

Newark, DE-Milford, CT=206 miles.

Come on! Give the reporter a break! No brainer! It's a set up for failure from the start! Why didn't somebody fly him to test drive in sunny California with the furthest distance of 164 miles in between stations where it never experiences snow blizzards between these stations!

The Model S navigation could assist by checking the range quality based on the destination, weather and road conditions. Why leave it to chance when the vehicle display could show the recommended speed and if charging was needed in advance of the trip. I agree that more SuperChargers are needed. However, estimates of range based on destination entered by navigation could give the driver the assurance needed even when a SuperCharger is not available.

Consider this analogy - about how small differences result in a binary outcome:

Let's say you are in a howling snowstorm, chilled to the bone by arctic-blast wind. Now imagine you come upon a cozy fire-lit cabin, that has 2% more oxygen flowing into it than needed to sustain your lungs ... and the fire. This would be so welcome and hospitable a place, you could really grow to love it.

But if it had 2% less? Disaster. As in Dead.

The difference is just 4%, and yet, when it is at the margin, that is everything.

That reporter would have totally gushed over this car if there was just one supercharger at the right waypoint. Cruising silently, gas-less and free, while staying toasty warm inside. But alas, this road trip was just shy of the possible for the network this month.

And for Pungo_Dave, who would argue? His lifestyle requirements are just at the edge of what technology can do today. He has tasted the benefits, and very understandably feels the sting when they are denied to him. Whenever he goes on a long trip, he's gets yanked back to the bad old days, and has to burn money on gas. There is no denying the frustration. Regressing when you have seen the future ... sucks.

But for any dramatic advance of technology, there will always be those cases that are just beyond its current limits.

The lesson for EV buyers is to think wisely about how you will use it. If you live in the worst case scenario - bitter cold weather, frequent long drives, and few charge options ... cut the ideal range in half and be very realistic. If your life demands more than it can do right now, wait.

But if you are on the favorable side of that margin, you are in. As in very much in. All the zeroes flip to ones, and fortune smiles upon you. Gasoline no longer has a chokehold on you, and this machine will change your world. Forget the range anxiety thing, it doesn't apply to you.

For that fortunate (majority) of today's drivers -

This car is a bona fide miracle.

Mark;
Yes; at the margins, it's possible to "fail". So knowing the limitations at any given time is critical. Those margins and limitations should ease, as more infrastructure gets built out, etc. But there will always be limitations and margins, if you look for them.

Good summary and assessment, best so far. Thanks.

Agree with @Tam. Given the extreme weather typical for the Northeast, SuperChargers there should be a maximum of 150 mi apart. I don't really know what Tesla was thinking unless they too are caught by surprise by the amount of battery range degradation resulting from the cold. The fact that the additional demands placed on the battery by the cabin heaters is going to always coincide with and compound the external effects doesn't help.
I would expect this won't be the last negative review we hear from the NE this winter.
If it were me, I would scramble to install more Superchargers in these areas IMMEDIATELY!

It is a different type of car and therefore you have to think differently. Even people in North America who drive diesel cars have to plan differently in many parts... not to mention when we went from horses to cars... it's time for thinking to change and more charging stations will enable that.

My Harley is also meant for long distance cruising, but it's range is only about 200-220 miles when loaded up. Part of what I love about driving any vehicle is the challenge and involvement. I used to have a boring company car and can't tell you how many times I drive to work not remembering anything between my driveway and the company parking lot.

Interested readers should refer to http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=FCAT

Good thing the world didn't adopt that technology.


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