Friday, February 15, 2013

Tesla Motors Vs. New York Times

It's great to see somebody stand up to the media. Most are too afraid of future bad publicity. Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, is taking the fight to what he says is bad journalism. The following paragraph details some of Musk's feelings about some bad experiences with the media:
    After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story. In the case of Top Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being “tested”). Our car never even had a chance.
Musk's practice of data-logging after a bad media experience reminds me of what some corporate CEOs do when being interviewed -- some of them agree to a recorded interview only on the condition of having their own cameras present so that no selective or biased editing can occur. They've been burned by unscrupulous journalists, and they learned their lesson.

Of course, the NYT writer isn't taking anything lying down:
    Let’s answer these assertions in turn. My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it.
Anybody who uses batteries is well aware of something: most data involving batteries, such as percent charged, percent charge remaining, ability to hold a consistent charge, etc., are all inaccurate. The current state of the art doesn't allow for battery perfection. This doesn't really validate Tesla's or the NYT writer's claims.

The fact is, if 10 people drove the exact same route under the exact same conditions the writer did, there would be 10 different outcomes. Hopefully most of them would be close, but I wouldn't bet on it. I sometimes get 7 hours out of my little netbook battery, and sometimes I get 5. If I'm watching a movie, I usually get 2.5 hours, but I sometimes get 1 hour. It changes all the time, and the same is going to be true for anything that uses batteries. I have a much larger laptop which lasts 20 minutes regardless of how I'm using it. It's a plug-in now.

Because of these battery irregularities, I don't think it's smart to make specific claims about electric cars. A range, without a guarantee, would be wiser. These cars are not as good or reliable as gasoline-powered cars, yet. Are they good enough? That's an opinion. I believe they are good enough. Once in a while something might happen to cause the batteries to drain quickly or the gauges to be inaccurate, and you'll get stranded. People who own laptops know that each battery changes over time, and the more you work with it, the better you become at managing it. I have no doubt the same is true for a battery-powered car.

Then again, people run out of gas with gasoline-powered cars, or fuel pumps die. Most of us have found out just how far we can go after the Low Fuel light comes on. Chevy tried to address these problems with the Volt, which is both plug-in-electric and gasoline powered.

We're getting there, one way or another, and the spat between Tesla and the NYT guy is just one of the pains of new technology -- and change. It's also entertaining as hell.

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