• Feb 14, 2013

Regardless of outcome, anti-electric biases revealed

Adam Morath
News flash: Electric cars have a limited range. Driving style and conditions can affect mileage. And if you don't heed your gauges, you may run out of power...and out of luck.

The same can be said of any gas-powered car.

So why is it that we have never seen a report of someone running out of fuel during a test drive of a gas car? Why aren't news crews rushing to the scene of some pour soul, spotted walking down the side of the highway with gas can in hand?

And why, conversely, is so much fuss being made over an apparent stalled Tesla Model S, as reported by The New York Times?

New York Times reporter John M. Broder claims that his Tesla Model S media vehicle shut down due to a low battery charge during his test of the electric automaker's East Coast Super Charger network. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has very publicly refuted this claim, taking to Twitter and Tesla's corporate blog to post his retorts.

Behind the back-and-forth between Musk and Broder lies the deeper issue of bias against electric cars. Mr. Broder feels that Tesla's electric sports car underperformed its mileage projections, rendering the car unable to complete the Super Charger circuit as advertised. Mr. Musk argues that Broder didn't charge to full, lied about the speed at which he traveled, and took detours and drove in circles in an attempt to deplete the battery. Tesla backs up their bark with data, apparently collected during the test drive--a practice the automaker put in place following a similar incident with the BBC's popular Top Gear television program. Update: Broder's detailed rebuttal to Musk's allegations.



Could it be that Mr. Broder fudged the test with an aim to takedown the electric car? Perhaps, but he also could've been driving in circles as part of an earnest method to test the technology, as Forbes suggests. Could it be that Tesla fudged its data in an effort to protect their own best interests? Sure, it's possible. But no matter who is the honest party, the very fact that we're having this debate is an indication of anti-EV bias.

True, EVs don't enjoy the same ubiquitous infrastructure and quick refueling times of their gas-powered counterparts, although that's changing. Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that when a gas vehicle underperforms its stated miles per gallon estimates (an all-too common occurrence), we don't see newspapers running photos of a stalled car being raised on to a flat bed. We don't see headlines questioning gasoline as a viable fuel source. That's because it's accepted that, if you drive a gas car on "empty" for too long, you'll run out of fuel. Why isn't this same common sense logic applied to electric vehicles?

Nobody is debating that a Tesla Model S can run out of juice and leave you stranded. How it happened in the case of Tesla v. Times is beside the point as well. The real story here is that a car stalling out due to running on empty shouldn't be a story at all, whether gas or electric. Moreover, we shouldn't let stalling cars stall the progress of promising technologies.

TRANSLOGIC Editor Adam Morath appeared on HuffPost Live to discuss the article:


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 44 Comments
      chuckhalper
      • 2 Days Ago
      BEVs are not a promising technology, IMO...except for limited route applications. Its a matter of physics. Simply, energy density is a measure of how much energy can be packed in to a volume of space. Uranium for example, has a very high energy density. Even litium ion, now used in BEVs and plug ins has only about 4% of the energy density of the same volume of gasoline. Lead acid batteries are even worse. Need a lot of battery to equal a gallon of gas. And so the EV prorponents argue, oh well, there will be better batteries in the future.Maybe there will be. And, maybe there will not be. The answer to that argument will be found by some future scientist, not by writers making sweeping statements (with no known scientific proof )...because it lines up with their POV.
        Weapon
        • 2 Days Ago
        @chuckhalper
        Except your dealing with different scenarios. In a gas based car you have an entire engine in the car. So batteries do not have to store as much power to equal gas cars. Batteries are also more efficient with less energy wasted. So effectively batteries only need to store enough power in a density of 1/4th of the density of the gasoline+engine. Then you have other benefits such as regenerative breaking and etc. As far as better batteries, even without a new source of batteries lithium ion is improving at such a rate that even without a new technology lithium ion will get us there.(This is scientific proven)
          HAT1701D
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Weapon
          Well, if they can develop the slow discharge capacitor as I read about last year, that would help tremendously. I guess they have had some limited success so far but not enough yet at this point. The biggest plus to it would be instant charge ( like any capacitor ). It's trying to regulate the discharge though over an extended period since capacitors normally discharge instantly as well.
        pnut166
        • 2 Days Ago
        @chuckhalper
        you point out the energy density of batteries vs. gasoline...but you fail to point out the inherent inefficiency of gasoline engines.
      arenadood
      • 2 Days Ago
      The Tesla car, in concept, is a decent car. Now that I have said that let me say it is not yet ready for the general public to operate on a regular basis for every day normal driving. It can do what they say in a controlled environment. But when the speed limit is 70 or 75 and they test it going 55, it just cant be used in normal driving situations. Some day it might, but it is not ready now.
        pnut166
        • 2 Days Ago
        @arenadood
        "cant be used in normal driving situations" ???? Even at 75 mph, it`ll still get 150 mi on a charge. Who drives over 150 miles nonstop on a "normal" day ???
          ufgrat
          • 2 Days Ago
          @pnut166
          Well, I drove 145 miles yesterday, stopped at a residence for 90 minutes, drove 35 miles to a business (was there for 2.5 hours), drove 35 miles back to the residence, stopped for an hour, then drove 145 miles back to my house. Total miles in one day, 360. Total electric chargers seen: Zero. Granted, had there been a charger at the business, it would have worked well (but close, as I still would have needed nearly 200 miles range, with the majority at 70+ mph), but even so, I'd have been hogging the charger. I'm not sure I had time in my schedule to charge the car for an hour. I did spend about 10 minutes total at gas stations, filling up before I left, and filling up before starting back. This is why I wouldn't buy an electric-only car until they can overcome the energy density and transfer rate limits on EV's right now. I'd consider a range-extended, but the Volt doesn't really move me.
        Weapon
        • 2 Days Ago
        @arenadood
        Actually if you look at the test he was generally going 60-70 just fine. He didn't really run out of power speeding, though speeding obviously effects range like in all cars. The reason why he ran out of power was because he decided not to charge to full.
          ga7smi
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Weapon
          Tesla is a very high performance brand - only real quality electric available
      • 2 Days Ago
      Judging from many responses here and the media bru-ha-ha over this, I'd have to say you're right. However, I'm not concerned. Motor Trend magazine named the Tesla S their Car of the Year and their staff and auto testing has to be much more sophisticated than anything a newspaper writer could bring to the table. As for the electric car naysayers... everything has to start somewhere. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day.
      Linda
      • 2 Days Ago
      In another Tesla S test a driver drove from Las Angeles to Phoenix, AZ and back on one charge. It also beat out a couple of high preformance cars on a 1 mile track. But why arent we hearing much about that? Tesla Motors and Mr Musk have cars on order through this year. My son says they are fast and efficient and very comfortable. He should know...he works for Tesla.
      Rodney
      • 2 Days Ago
      Tesla is a superb motor car company. The Tesla Roadster, S, and X are ground breaking vehicles. There will always be those who trash it for the reason that they themselves cannot afford it. Best Regards to Elon and his bunch. Master Rod
      wkmtca
      • 2 Days Ago
      well if wehad more electric cars what would happen to exxon??? i mean we have to protect the 'poor' burdened oil companies don't we?? they are 'too big to fail' aren't they.. no, wait..that was banks or wall street or someother 1% company..
      • 2 Days Ago
      How come no one is talking about the wheels flying off?
      svhtwo
      • 2 Days Ago
      Again the New York Times is full of hot air and bias reporting. Usually their bias reports are about conservatives.
      • 2 Days Ago
      The big news in the out-of-fuel incident was simple. When I run out of gasoline, my road service brings 5 liters and I am on my way, not on the back of a flat bed truck. News flash for the professional journalist: the proper word in your second sentence is "affect."
        Linda
        • 2 Days Ago
        Tesla does the same. In fact because of the computer systems in the Tesla S the factory knows before you call for help that there is a problem AND how to fix it.
        ga7smi
        • 2 Days Ago
        In MN you get a ticket
      krillroye
      • 2 Days Ago
      The real issue, not discussed at all, is whether EVs make any sense at all at this time. Half of our countries electricity is still generated by coal---although cheap (fracked) natural gas is changing this factor. But our electric grid is so far behind that frequent brown-outs and outright failures are common. Adding the demand of countless EVs to come will bring about total collapse unless our entire grid is redone, yet half of our population refuses to acknowledge this fact, and none want to fund the upgrade. It will be decades before our infrastructure can support large numbers of EVs, even if they become more practicable----by then it will make more sense to power the vehicle directly by hydrogen, produced in centralized plants utilizing regionally abundant electricity to crack sea water, or by fuel cells converting hydrogen, CNG or methane directly to electricity.
        mastercommentor
        • 2 Days Ago
        @krillroye
        use a solar panel to charge it! solar even works within cloudy days!
        Weapon
        • 2 Days Ago
        @krillroye
        It is a matter of supply and demand. As more EVs come into production you will have more and more build out of infrastructure. With or without EVs our electric infrastructure needs upgrading and unless there is a demand nobody invests into it. Its a simple supply and demand economics. We are not going to go all EV over night. It is going to be a transition period over 20 or so years. During this time the entire infrastructure would be upgraded. Picking another solution such as CNG or fuel cells as a short term solution makes not much sense. Fuel cells are not fully ready yet and by the time they are it will be too late. CNG will cost 1 million dollars per gas station to upgrade. And will increase maintenance costs on cars. By the time we convert to CNG, everyone would already be driving an EV.
      purrpullberra
      • 2 Days Ago
      Why are you so sure that's really the point? Tesla has A LOT to lose if they fake data for this where as Broder knew his editor would blindly defend the biased story. Tesla is not faking data. But we now know Broder didn't put all the right numbers in the article nor reference cabin temp at 72 and A LOT of driving at high speed, not what he related in the story. Why aren't the lies given a closer look? Why don't we demand pictures and notes from this story? When does this mans previous biases make him the story? Right now. Someone needs to tear down this story and see if anything was done honorably. This site doesn't do much why don't you tackle it?!? ;)
      • 2 Days Ago
      The average driver puts on 35 or 40 miles a day and most people who buy a Tesla have a gas powered car for long distance trips. The Tesla or other EV's are more than adequate for everyday driving. Whether it goes 265 or 200 is largely irrelevant. Electric technology needs to be encouraged, by government and consumers alike!
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