The Great Electric Car Challenge is about to begin, as the New York Times reports that the Tesla-S model it test drove didn't live up to its advertising in cold weather. The conclusion drawn by car expert John Broder didn't sit well with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who claimed the newspaper's auto reviewer had "faked" the test. The looming question is whether electric cars will work in the cold northeast. Broner planned to drive from Washington to Boston, but claimed he had to stop at a Dunkin' Donuts to warm his hands and be towed to a charging station. Let's look at some of the facts of this budding public brouhaha:
* About.com reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is the wealthy, successful founder of PayPal.
* Justin Hyde of Motoramic reported that Musk sued BBC's "Top Gear" when it presented a negative review of a previous Tesla model "losing charge."
* Broder's test drive of the Tesla S, reported fully on the New York Times site, says that Broder had to turn the car's heater down and drive 54 mph to maximize battery life on the drive. Broder's New York Times review of the Tesla Model S included positive comments in describing the car as "a technological wonder, with luminous paint on aluminum bodywork, a spacious and ultrahip cabin, a 17-inch touch screen … Google-driven navigation … 416 horsepower motor … half-ton lithium-ion battery pack…" but maybe he should have left out the $101,000 price tag.
* Technology site CNET reports Musk's assertions that Broder did three things that taxed the Tesla Model S battery: He didn't fully charge the battery beforehand; he drove faster than the recommended speed; he took an unplanned detour through Manhattan.
* Prior to Broder's review, Tesla had installed rapid charge stations in Newark, Del., and Milford, Conn., to aid the test drive, according to Bloomberg News.
* The New York Times reports that the 480-volt Supercharger stations deliver enough power for 150 miles of travel in 30 minutes, and a full charge in about an hour for the 85 kilowatt-hour Model S.
* The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a fully charged Tesla Model S 85 kilowatt-hour has a 265-mile range, compared to the Tesla-estimated 300-mile range under ideal driving conditions.
* Bloomberg News also reports that Tesla plans to install a network of fast-charge stations enabling electric car drivers to drive coast-to-coast.
* Tesla share price dropped on the critical review of its Model S which appeared in the New York Times; meanwhile, a press release on Marketwire said the company would post its fourth-quarter and yearly financial results on Feb. 20.
* The Yahoo Finance message board under TSLA carries the remarks of presumed Tesla stockholders who mostly rebuff the criticisms of the Model S made in the New York Times article.
* Just up the road from Tesla's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, the San Jose Mercury News acknowledge the stock took a hit Monday but reported Tesla stock "had risen 17 percent for the year until the troubles last week."
* New Tesla auto technology creates new problems. Popular topics on the Tesla Motors owner's forum is how long the charging cord is, where the charging outlet could be most conveniently located, and other installation problems.
Anthony Ventre is a freelance writer and a Yahoo! contributor in news, commentary, and financial writing.
- Elon Musk