In about 13 hours, journalists from CNNMoney did what a New York Times reporter couldn't (or didn't, depending on your perspective): they made the drive from D.C. to Boston in a Tesla Model S. And perhaps more importantly, they say Tesla's network of Supercharger stations along the East Coast passed the test.
CNNMoney journalists Abigail Bassett and Peter Valdes-Dapena arrived in Boston around 12:20 a.m. this morning, succeeding at the drive that Times energy reporter John Broder ended on a flatbed truck. Check out their account of the drive here.
As you probably well know by now, Broder's failed two-day trip and subsequent story led to an explosive controversy over the viability of electric cars, and a war of words between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the newspaper.
Musk should be happy that CNNMoney's drive went off without a hitch. After all, Tesla was the one who proposed the original story, route and timing to the Times, and they certainly didn't get the result they wanted out of that story.
Valdes-Dapena makes it seem like the trip was actually a breeze. The two even said on Twitter that they finished with 96 miles of range to spare.
The final stretch, about 150 miles from Tesla's Milford, Conn. Supercharger station located on Interstate 95, was a piece of cake. The most taxing part of the trip: Before reaching Milford, my last chance to fill the Tesla's roughly 270-mile battery pack had been in Newark, Del., about 200 miles back. That mere 70 miles of buffer made me a little nervous, especially after I missed an exit and added a few miles to the trip. I followed Tesla's recommendations and kept the cruise control pegged to between 60 and 65 much of the way and kept the climate control at 72 degrees. And I minimized stops.
That last part, emphasis mine, is important to note, as Broder said last night that he too followed Tesla's instructions during the drive — but he claims they gave him bad advice that negatively impacted the car's range.
Valdes-Dapena's account of their drive isn't quite as detailed as Broder's story, but he does say that the car was fast, easy to drive, and without too much range anxiety as long as certain accomodations are made. And he praises the Supercharger network, though he said it would have been easier if there had been a station along the New Jersey Turnpike. Bear in mind also that a drive from Boston, in most cars and if traffic is good, will take about seven or eight hours. The Model S did it in 13 thanks to charging periods that are longer than filling up a gas tank.
So does this settle things once and for all? Does this mean Musk is right, and Broder is a liar? I don't really see it that way. These two trips were far from identical, especially in terms of weather. As I noted yesterday, and as Valdes-Dapena notes too, temperatures were in the 40s and 50s along CNNMoney's drive. Broder did it during a cold snap where temperatures dipped into single digits at some point, and that had a hugely negative effect on the car's range.
(Hey Tesla, I'll say this one more time: I'm in D.C. I've never been to Boston but I really want to go. I'm game for this drive the next time we get a blizzard.)
It may not have been an apples-to-apples test, but it's a PR win for Elon Musk, which is probably what he wanted all along.
Update: Here is the video from CNNMoney's drive. Valdes-Dapena didn't mention this in the story, but he notes in the video that they stopped twice to recharge: in Newark, Delaware and then Milford, Connecticut.