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Towing Company: The NYT Tesla Model S Was Dead When It Was On The Flatbed (Update)

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Among Elon Musk's many rebuttals to the New York Times' failed drive of the Tesla Model S is that the car never fully ran out of battery power, even when it was being towed away on a flatbed truck. Not true, says the towing company.

You'll remember that reporter John Broder was attempting to drive from Washington, D.C. to Boston when he ran out of power in Connecticut and had to call a towing company. As he drove from Norwich to Milford, the car "limped along at about 45 miles per hour I saw increasingly dire dashboard warnings to recharge immediately," he wrote.


The car coasted down an exit ramp in Branford before shutting down. A towing service from Milford was dispatched to help. 

In his response to the story, Musk says this: 

As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when (Times reporter John) Broder called the flatbed truck.


However, I just spoke with Donna Rogers at Rogers Automotive & Towing in Milford, Conn., the company that was called out to tow the Model S when it ran out of juice. 

She says that their records indicate the car's battery pack was completely drained. Additionally, she says her tow truck driver was on the phone with a Tesla employee in California, and they were trying to figure out how to get the car onto the flatbed without moving it because it was so dead. The whole ordeal was apparently quite a challenge. (Broder's own report said that the car couldn't be moved because its electric parking brake was stuck in place.)

In addition, once they towed the car to the charging station, they had to leave it up there for some time while it was plugged in, Rogers says. 

"[The tow truck driver] was talking to the guy out in California about how to get it out of gear, it was so dead," she says.


I'm still waiting to talk to the tow truck driver to get his account, but this seems to contradict Musk's account, as well as the driving logs he published last night. 

UPDATE: A source who has seen the data logs explains how it's possible how Broder and Musk could both be truthful but sort of wrong. The high-voltage battery in the pack, allegedly, had enough power to move the car a much greater distance than needed to move the car onto a flatbed, maybe as far as five miles, but the 12V battery that powers the accessories and gets its juice from the high voltage battery shut down when Broder pulled into the service station.


When Broder decided to turn the car off, which was a mistake, the parking brake (operated by the 12V battery) was rendered unusable. If Broder was told not to turn the car off, it's his mistake. If Tesla told him to do it, or didn't inform him he shouldn't do it, then it's their mistake.

Photo credit John M. Broder/New York Times. Used with permission.