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Tesla Gets Testy ... Again. Why not?

Some thoughts on electric cars (EV), Extended Range Electric Vehicles, Hybrids, etc. Rather than pretend coherence I’ll bullet some general observations. Order doesn’t count. Nor relevance.

But first a recurring theme noted. Elon Musk, head honcho of Tesla is clearly a jerk. He complains, sues, threatens, whines (and whines) unless everything — particularly “tests” of his cars – goes exactly as the script in his head goes. Car tests, above all on a TV show (note the word “show” — indicating entertainment, not a scientific investigation), and in a newspaper are not to be looked upon as “tests.” Newspapers are not set up with fifth wheel contraptions or ways of monitoring repeatable processes.

These are not tests so much as “impressions.” Different writers approach the task differently.  John M. Broder, who drew the assignment from the New York Times to drive the Tesla S from Washington DC to Boston to check out the bragged-on range of a Tesla S and, in conjunction with supposedly appropriate spots on route where the all-electric vehicle could get re-juiced.

These spots were stupidly called “superchargers” thus lending evidence to my assertion that Elon Musk is a jerk. “Supercharger” is a word with a definite meaning in the car world having nothing to do with stationary filling-stations for an EV. The word is taken, Jerk. Find another for your lovely looking Tesla S that cannot do what many cars can do with ease, which is get from Washington to Boston on a sub-freezing day without being driven preternaturally slowly, or without adequate heat, or without the need to have the stops to feed one’s face dictated by what is being driven. (The car should enhance the trip, not dictate its circumstances.)

I rather think that John Broder was more interested in practicing his ability to write amusing, snide and clever copy about his experiences (one could legitimately hope for misadventure because that’s funnier) than in listening to the instructions from Tesla spokespersons, which if reported correctly were misleading and inadequate — not an unexpected quality of performance to anyone having to explain to a sentient human being in the 21st century how to drive a car from Washington to Boston.

Why all this is demonstrative of the jerk-ness of Elon Musk is that the entire operation is a mistimed, misplaced and WTF scenario. A few thoughts relevant to the matter: batteries lose a great deal of their usefulness as batteries when the weather is cold. Cold is a not an unusual characteristic of a winter day in the mid-Atlantic states.

A car is a deceptively common object to someone who has had a driver’s license since their teen years (and have not been a teen for considerably longer than they were a teen.) Deceptive in that the car in question seems largely familiar what with the proper assortment of wheels and headlights. However It is not familiar if it has no place to add the liquid fuel dispensed at many corners and some straightaways of thoroughfares veining the countryside.

Also when it is dark and cold and you, Mr. Goodwriter Broder did not listen carefully enough where the supercharger was located and should you or should you not use the cruise control. (What? You are doing 54 miles an hour in any car on any highway? You are a menace and a fool and we would have never allowed you on the New York Herald Tribune, which I submit was a better paper than the New York Times at that moment.You are a good enough writer, just not a good enough driver.)

But back to Elon Musk, Champeen Jerk. He rushes in to Twit — or whatever that is they do — claiming a shortened Tesla range in the cold was a “fake”. Purposely committed by the Times writer. And that the Times writer took a “long detour.” (Aha, Mr Sneaky Pants jerk — did you tell Mr Goodwriter that he was being telemet-tricked? One-up at all costs, hey Musk? Not only a jerk but an unpleasant one.

About that detour — Your Sneakiness — consider this: a real car is for taking detours. Hey, where does that road go? Detours — short or long. In the heat of a languid afternoon neath the magnolias, or in the razor-blade cold of a Vermont February. Whim determines the route of a real car. Whim or a strong personal intention. Not the dubious location of time-stealing, wired gadgetry. Why build a car to be the demanding one? Why must your Tesla S be catered to with prompt plugging in, carefully-timed minutes of snuggling up to pig-mama to suckle on current? Whose trip is this, anyway?

But my point here, Jerk, is that you are the one that “lost” all those millions (of something. You say dollars.) You rushed in and whined foul. And like most whining four-year-olds in a supermarket you got lots of attention.

Attention to what? That electric cars have a range problem. That you proved beyond a doubt — whether it’s because some “faking” journalist missed his charging point or cut the charging time short or whether your car couldn’t make the check points in the cold. Whatever. What you pointed out to everyone is that your car has a range problem!

And you are the one that made sure it was as widely known as possible.

But. Here’s a thought: Are you simply asking too much of the technology that you are doing better with than anyone else?

If your Tesla S — as good as it is in many areas — offers perhaps the best range of any comparable all-electric car and it is still has a troublesome, limited range — which appears to be the case — why do you keep promoting that range? If your kid can’t carry a tune do you yell at him to sing louder?

A Tesla S — or any electric car — used within its limits is not bothered by limits. My favorite attributes in a car are torque and range. The electrics have lovely torque. But it takes, say, a diesel-powered Audi A8 to have that fine torque and go 800 miles between fuel stops. Detours included.

Accept your car, Mr. Musk, and more other drivers will too.

And quit your damned whining.

And Mr. Goodwriter Broder: when you’ve got one job to do, do it.
Here are those promised bullet notes:

  • For a one-car household an electric vehicle is not a good choice at this time.
  • Elon Musk is a jerk.
  • Most people like to do what they are used to doing. And they want what’s new to do what the old did no matter what else it does. If they forget to plug it in they still want it to work. The old one did. That’s people for ya.
  • Some other people really like to like what very few like. They prefer it if a little suffering is thrown in with what they like. Particularly when they can afford anything.
  • Electric cars are The Answer only if you frame the question in a weird way.
  • Elon Musk is innovative, daring, bloody smart and right about a lot of things.  He is still a jerk.
  • The Nissan guy at the intro of the Leaf touted his no-tail-pipe vehicle as clean, clean, clean. I told him it was only as clean as the power plant that produced the electricity it used which meant where I lived the Leaf ran on remote-coal.
  • Nothing, so far, comes without downsides.
  • One thing sure about his no tail-pipe Leaf: it makes impromptu home suicides more difficult.
  • No car — whatever powers it, however it is designed — will do everything you would like a car to do. So why do electric-car people think their car has to do everything? Like go a long distance? Take the Other Car on those trips. Enjoy the EV for what it does well Now. And be patient.
  • I like the Fisker. I don’t care whether it’s electric or not. (Some 25-miles-worth electric. That’s saucy.)
  • Did I say Elon Musk was a jerk?
  • The Fisker has style and a nice chassis.
  • Henrik Fisker is not a jerk.
  • Electric power in cars has its place — somewhat limited now. So what? Use it right and it’s well-used.
  • So I like diesel. It’s here now with a handy infrastructure. I’m here now. And all my structures — infra and otherwise — are not what they once were.
  • So gimme clean diesel.
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Right on DM ! When two jerks collide then the rest of us must duck….and wince!

Posted by Ronaldo on March 11, 2013

The Tesla S is not meant to be transportation. It is a status symbol for those who can afford it and who want to be seen in something above your common Prius. Think Hollywood, of course. A Bluetec Mercedes makes more sense, but it looks just like another Mercedes.
I read the NYT piece and thought it hilarious. A beam of sunshine in a smoke filled room.
That Elon Musk is a jerk has been well documented in the past. He must be a charming jerk, however, to be able to get the backing he has.
I get the feeling there is more to this than meets the eye - is there a back story? C’mon, what did he say to you?

Posted by robert clauss on March 14, 2013

Coming back from the SCCA convention in Vegas in my Honda Odyssey eastbound, somewhere in the Arizona desert in late afternoon I passed a Tesla/Fisker doing maybe 50mph on I-40.  I was doing 80.  I can’t tell a Tesla from a Fisker unless I see them both at once; sorry!  Hope he got to a plug if that was why he was creeping along.

Posted by toly arutunoff on March 14, 2013






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