Friday, February 15, 2013
The New York Times vs Tesla: 21st century problems
The public dispute between Elon Musk and the New York Times is an important moment in the history of the electric car which warrants comment and discussion.
For reference, here are the three relevant articles for this discussion:
the review by John Broder: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/automobiles/stalled-on-the-ev-highway.html?ref=johnmbroder&_r=1&
the response from Elon Musk http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/most-peculiar-test-drive
and the rebuttal from John Broder http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/that-tesla-data-what-it-says-and-what-it-doesnt/
We live in an age of incredible, rapidly changing technology, comfort, and luxury. This safety net of comfort and technology frees us from the burdens of survival and allows us to dedicate our efforts towards productive goals and the further advancement of our civilization. In the United States, everything we want and need is on demand – sustenance, waste disposal, energy, information. This situation inevitably produces a class of severely incompetent humans- people who can’t pump their own gas, people who run out of gas, people who can’t change a tire, people who can’t jump-start a car, people who can’t navigate a city without GPS, people who can’t use public transportation, people who can’t cook an egg, people who can’t set up a wireless router, people who can’t wipe their own ass.
And now we come to John Broder’s review of the Tesla Model S in the New York Times. At best, John Broder is a fairly incompetent 21st century man: incapable of forming a plan and adapting to changing circumstances. At worst he is a disingenuous opponent of electric cars and the paradigm shift they represent. I would argue that the failure of John Broder to reach his destination was the result of human error/incompetence: his own and that of the Tesla customer support personnel (if we are to believe that they told him to travel the highways on an insufficient charge).
The thesis of the original article was that the Model S and the supercharger network were foiled by “plunging temperatures.” After reviewing the three articles relevant to the story, it is abundantly clear that the car would have been capable of completing the I-95 jaunt in the hands of a competent person even in cold weather if the car had been properly charged at the appropriate intervals.
If you can’t drive a Model S from DC to Boston, you might also be deficient in performing other relatively simple tasks. Completing this journey in an electric car is not as easy as it would be using internal combustion and the corresponding infrastructure (DUH!), but it is totally possible to complete this journey in a Model S without shitting the bed like John Broder.
It would have been fine for John Broder to conclude that the Tesla Model S and the supercharger network are not idiot proof, and that the American consumer demands an idiot proof product(the files are inside the computer). It is not fine or honest to claim that a competent person, as John Broder claims to be, can expect to be stranded on the side of the road if they attempt to test the theory of the Model S and the supercharger network in cold weather.