Turns out nothing ignites the Internet quite like a rapid-fire online spat between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and The New York Times, the Grey Lady of establishment journalism.
Like many such controversies, common ground turns out to be easier to find than you might think: It's a fact that electric-car range falls in colder temperatures.
The details, however, show claims in the Times article are contradicted by the data logs of the Tesla Model S in question--raising disturbing questions about the accuracy of a widely-read article in one of the nation's premier newspapers.
Winter trip falls short
It all started with a piece in last Sunday's Times with the ominous title Stalled Out on Tesla's Electric Highway. It was written by John Broder, who reports on energy and the environment for the paper.
He described his attempt to drive a Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sport sedan from Washington, D.C., to Boston, using the new SuperCharger network of DC fast-charging stations now being rolled out by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].
Spoiler alert: He didn't make it.
He didn't much enjoy the drive either.
Read the article for details, and don't miss the snazzy map graphic that accompanies it.
Ironically, the article was proposed to the Times by Musk himself because he'd liked its earlier long-distance Model S drive report, Charging Ahead on an Electric Highway, which covered a 531-mile journey from Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles last September.
Musk tweets back (of course)
Musk wasn't nearly so fond of Broder's article.
Musk promised a blog post from Tesla Motors, with further details from the car's data log, would be "coming soon." Data logging, he noted, has to be approved by customers, but it's always turned on for journalists.
Tesla also plans, Musk said on Monday, to invite other journalists to replicate the trip.
Media piled on
Later Monday, Musk tweeted a more conciliatory message, saying he was "not against [The New York Times] in general" and that the paper was "usually fair," linking to its September piece on the California drive.
Even The Atlantic--that bastion of the liberal East Coast chattering-class media elite--criticized Musk's critiques of the article, saying they weren't helping Tesla.
Then, Tuesday afternoon, Broder published a lengthy post on the Times Wheels blog in which he responded to Musk's tweeted claims.
He noted that the car's dash display had said "Charging Complete" at a pack capacity of 90 percent, and that he wasn't told he should also switch to "Max Range" setting and wait another half-hour or so to add the last 10 percent of capacity--which shortens battery life.
Broder claims the "long detour" was a brief stop in Manhattan that added just 2 miles to total distance.