Nail-biting trip shorts out Tesla stock

Share prices plummet after a New York Times reporter's Model S loses heat and power on Interstate 95 and gets towed to a charging station.

By Jason Notte Feb 11, 2013 2:51PM
Interstate 95 in the nation's Northeast Corridor is a choked, pitted, dizzying urban labyrinth as unforgiving as it is ugly. Its winters are as cold and hardened as the hearts of the drivers who brave it and are ill suited to fragile, temperate souls from sunnier states.


Tesla (TSLA) discovered this the hard way.

Shares of the electric car maker dropped nearly 4% after New York Times writer John Broder tried to drive its $101,000 Model S from the Washington, D.C., suburbs to a supercharger station in Milford, Conn., and around New England to test its proclaimed 265-mile range.


Broder made the nail-biting trip to Milford, but after recharging, he lost energy in temperatures flirting with 10 degrees, lost heat when the car tried to conserve its remaining energy and, eventually, had his powerless Tesla towed back to Milford after a quick tour of Connecticut.Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Caption: The Tesla Model S Signature is shown during a media preview day at the 2012 North American International Auto Show


The consequences have been far more dire than just a frozen and put-upon reporter. Tesla received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy in 2010 to build its vehicles and support infrastructure and reduce American dependence on foreign oil. Tesla already has plans to produce 20,000 Model S vehicles by the end of the year.


That's just fine if you're driving along Interstate 5 from British Columbia to California, where The Oregonian says regional governments are putting the finishing touches on a series of quick charging stations. When completed, the so-called West Coast Electric Highway will allow electric vehicle owners to juice up every 25 to 60 miles whether they're driving a Tesla, a Nissan (NSANY) Leaf, a Chevy (GM) Volt or a Ford (F) or Toyota (TM) plug-in hybrid.


By comparison, the stretch of I-95 from D.C. to Boston has exactly two such stations in Milford and Newark, Del. Both of those stations just opened in December and, judging by the Times article, seemed insufficient to handle the demands of a Northeast winter far colder than anything faced regularly by drivers in California and the Pacific Northwest. That cold puts a hurt on battery capacity and diminishes range, making it much harder to limp from Delaware to Connecticut. Factor in the hour it takes drivers to reach a full charge at each stop, and drivers are tacking on an additional two hours to their trip under even the best conditions.


Analysts see it differently. According to StreetInsider.com, the folks at Jefferies & Co. blame Broder for his Tesla's woes and say "improper charging protocol" led to the Model S' problems. Just ahead of Tesla's fourth-quarter earnings release, Jefferies says the vast majority of Model S buyers are “very impressed.”


It didn't note where those drivers live, however, and didn't reveal whether those drivers regularly take the Garden State or Merritt parkways to avoid I-95. Also, how is “improper charging protocol” not a problem? When you're asking a driving public conditioned on 10-minute pump-and-go stops to completely change their way of thinking and driving to accommodate your vehicle, a little margin for error doesn't seem like a big request.


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74Comments
Feb 11, 2013 3:30PM
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So a New York Times journalist ended up stranded after attempting a road.
trip in a Tesla Model S on a 30 degree day. Lets study this classic case of user error and ignorance.

He was attempting a trip from New York City to Boston using ONLY the new Superchargers in Milford, CT and Newark, DE.
He didn't follow the proper procedures of preheating the car and battery while it was charging which reduced his range.
He didn't charge in range-mode.
He didn't drive the speed limit which reduced his range even further.
He didn't call Tesla Motors until after the situation was dire.
He dramatically drove the car until no more electrons were available and it stopped, instead of exiting the interstate, charging somewhere, and continuing.
He didn't charge the car enough during his "short break in Manhattan". He gave it a 79 miles of charge and the distance to Milford was 73 miles.

That's cutting it really close. I'd have charge the car to at least 100 miles of range in Manhattan before setting out. He must have conveniently forgot the fact that electric cars lose capacity in the cold.

The Superchargers are free, so if he could have enjoyed a nice relaxing drive from New York to Boston, but I don't think he wanted that. Nice drives don't sell papers.

A fan-made commercial for the Tesla Model S tells the the other side of the story. It's called "Gallons of Light".
Feb 11, 2013 4:44PM
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You couldn't get me to live there if you gave me 10 Teslas.
Feb 11, 2013 5:49PM
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So it takes hours for this thing to recharge, cold weather drains battery which cuts that so-called 265 mile range down even further?  I knew these things were just a high priced joke. $101,000 to be stranded on the side of the road or waiting hours for this thing to recharge after driving in bad weather or traffic.

 

For $101,000, I can buy a   2013 Corvette for $50,000, a 6 cylinder  gas sipper for under $20,000, and still have about $30,000 left in the bank.    lol

Feb 11, 2013 6:07PM
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" Tesla received a $465 million loan from the in 2010".  Why is the government investing in private business.  The federal government rewards incompetency.  Ford has to compete against a company whose owner can print money.  This is insane.  The federal government in incompetent in almost everything it does.
Feb 11, 2013 4:19PM
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We are many years from reliable affordable alternative energy.  But our government continues to waste billions on crap so their friends can thrive on our money.  Free interprise it ain't.  The economy has to stand on it's own feet so our creativity can thrive!  That's what made America great.  Not some obama intervention.
Feb 11, 2013 3:52PM
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...and of course we all know that absolutely no internal combustion engine powered vehicles were stranded in the winter weather or failed to start or had to be towed...

oh, right.

What a load of nonsense, trying to drive a car in harsh conditions to test the vehicle's limits is a good idea but it is  in absolutely no way an indication of the practicality of said vehicle in everyday driving conditions.  But for folks that are looking for any excuse to condemn new technology that threatens their world view I guess grasping at this straw is about all they have.

Feb 11, 2013 4:46PM
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Battery cars are  for young children and fools to play with,period. You can make all the excuses you'd like,but in the end everyone KNOWS even a 12 year old,200k. mile gas powered Ford Focus could have made that trip with EASE! (and deliver 35+ mpg doing it)
   Making excuses for a $100k car is whimsical,and as foolish as trying to spend yourself out of debt.  The government should NOT be subsidizing electric vehicles just to appear green,while the rest of the world enjoys their 50+mpg DIESEL powered cars. Abolish the EPA and their certification for money ideals, and allow the people to decide what is right and wrong for themselves,with their own money! The battery car has been a failure for over 100 years and counting.
Feb 11, 2013 4:52PM
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I pulled up behind one of these on the way to work today....  It was sitting on 19 x 4 pizza cutters. 

Weird, thinkin "hey, not a bad looki...  WTF?"
Feb 11, 2013 7:31PM
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I am ordring my Tesla with a coal-fired battery warmer to keep the juice flowing...
Feb 11, 2013 5:21PM
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I've owned diesel vehicles- don't start well below about 10 F - nearly impossible below 0.  Good mileage, generally, but fuel not as available as many may think - good for interstate travel because of truck stops.  With the upside down world of fuel surcharge, diesel is now a premium priced fuel. 
The electric car associated "carbon footprint" mantra I find amusing in that we generate most of our electricity by burning coal - good fuel for the future by the way.  I agree with the post with the list of driver ignorance items, as buyers are given full disclosure on charging and range when getting the car.  Most people would be embarrassed to admit to the errors by this driver.  Charging can be performed at your residence with a 120-volt outlet, although 240 works more quickly. 
Super charging stations are for driving convenience much as are government subsidized (it is NOT all gas tax) rest areas and parks.  States put these in to attract tourist in the hopes of getting a return on investment through tourist (motels, restaurants, trinkets and admission fees) dollars.  Not sold on self righteous comments on free enterprise when discussion turns to subsidized petroleum production and tax credit financing for dollars inherent with internal combustion engines - personally I use an ethanol blend on most occasions and have one of those "200 thousand mile" Ford products, however, the writer Re: 200 thousand, might want to check with an experience mechanic regarding various issues with Ford engines beyond 150,000 miles.
Feb 11, 2013 11:55PM
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The average commute to work is 35 miles per day...so this clearly is a no risk proposition. 
Feb 11, 2013 5:52PM
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What would have happened if he had been on the Long Island Expressway this weekend?  No heat, in a frozen car, he probably would have died from exposure. The Fisker and Tesla, are better suited for the Hollywood crowd. They will never be mainstream on the East coast.
Feb 11, 2013 11:06PM
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What ever Floats your Boat...Or gets you down the Road...?

 

As far as Government "investing" in Private Business.....??

 

What do you think State and Federal Grants are ??  Or all your Legislature's "Pork Projects?"

And all "tax incentives"  or defrayals.

Feb 11, 2013 7:53PM
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As I've stated on the GasBuddy website all along; The EV is just a curiosity at present and anyone buying them is deluding themselves into thinking the EV is ready for mass consumption when it will really take years before they are commonplace.  These buyers are akin to guinea pigs living on the bleeding edge rather than sophisticated, intelligent wannabees living on the green movement cutting edge technological movement.  I actually feel sorry for them.  It's obvious they have been fooled by the professional auto industry commercialized hype-machine.
Feb 11, 2013 6:55PM
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Been years since I saw a coal powered car.....   Probably brought to you by the same government sponsored fools that took corn off the dinner table and now want to use hydrogen in the midst of a world wide water shortage.  Thank god for foolish idealists, otherwise we wouldn't have anyone to laugh at and say "I told you so!"  Only problem is we prop up these fools and even save them when they are wrong.  Electric cars are failing everywhere, not just the US.  Generating, transfering and storing electricity is a complicated and wasteful thing.  Looks like natural gas, which I see less and less of each year, was the answer after all. 
Feb 11, 2013 5:30PM
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We are seeing the "baby steps" of the electric car becoming more like a long distance car we are used to.  Like cell phones, this will advance and situations like this will be a bad memory. 

 

Lets not forget the fact there are less moving parts to break down and we get to tell big oil to take a hike.  More power to ya Tesla!!!

Feb 11, 2013 5:32PM
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A huge load of nonsense.  If the article was about "We take a car and purposely get stranded", I would find it valid.  This guy did many things designed to run him out of energy.  You can do the same thing in a gas car, by ignoring all the stations.

 

Regarding the NYT article, it's not likley that stock fell because of that.  The run up over the last few weeks has been because of the quarterly financial announcement coming up, and the accelerated deliverys as Tesla ramps up to excede first full year production goals.  We're just seeing profit taking today, and stock was recovering by the bell.  The New York Times writer was frankly not that important to cause a 2% drop any more than he caused the entire market downturn this morning. 

 

Double dumb a** on MSNBC for this article reporting about some other a**.

 

(I'm a VERY happy, VERY VERY VERY happy Tesla owner (and stock holder) by the way)

Feb 12, 2013 1:32PM
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I would rather have Tesla receive help to develop the electric long range car versus giving more money to the pentagon .We have enough killing machines.
Feb 12, 2013 12:23PM
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I just have a few questions....what happens when these batteries start wearing out and have to be replaced?   How much will that cost the car owner?  How are the batteries manufactured?  What kind of disposal problems will there be?  It is bound to happen...have plans been put into action for when it does?  Or has the cart been put before the horse again?  Just thinking of the "pig-tail" light bulbs that can contaminate land fills if not disposed of properly.  Good idea, just not thought out completely. 

And, in the area I live in, it would be absolutely foolhardy (possibly deadly)  to trust in something like this.  I need strong, sturdy, dependable transportation here where towns are at least 100 miles or more apart with NOTHING between them.

Feb 12, 2013 4:48PM
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Ok, four hours ago I posed some important (IMO) questions....no answers!  Come on, you self-appointed experts...what gives?  Figuring it will get solved when it happens?  Typical......
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