Green ideas sleep furiously

I’m kind of fascinated by this Tesla versus the New York Times thing. Summary: Times reporter John M. Broder took one for a test drive and says the battery ran down much more quickly than it should have, resulting in his having to be towed. Tesla CEO Elon Musk (link fixed) claims Broder lied about the whole thing (how far he drove, how long he charged the battery) and produces computer logs that he claims show Broder is lying.

Musk also points to negative articles Broder has written in the past about electric cars. I didn’t find Musk very convincing here, Broder was not that negative about electric cars, but…why did the Times have an environment reporter test drive the car rather than an automotive reporter?

Electric cars have become amazingly politicized. Conservatives from Glenn Beck to Charles Lane (who has written something like 15 anti-electric car screeds over the past couple years) hate them with a passion…I think because electric cars are an evil green idea dreamt up by soshulist eco-fascists. Broder, as an environmental reporter, is involved with the politics of this in a way an automotive reporter would not be.

As much as I generally side with reporters who are being bullied by companies, I’d have to dig a bit more deeply into the logs versus Broder’s claims and into what Broder’s political inclinations are before deciding what I think of this.

Have you all been following it at all?

193 replies
  1. 1
    Yutsano says:

    Who killed the EV-1? The oil industry with the complicity of the media. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  2. 2
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    The data that Tesla presented was pretty convincing.

    To me, it looks like the reporter was not aware that Tesla could easily compile the data needed to determine whether the vehicle had been driven as claimed. It reminded me of folks who visit naughty websites on work pc’s unaware that IT has all internet traffic data available for review.

  3. 3
    taylormattd says:

    Doug, is the second link supposed to go to an article with the Tesla CEO’s allegation that the logs show Broder was lying?

    Right now it is the same as the first link – just to Broder’s article.

  4. 4
    TomG says:

    I only just recently started following the story. Here’s an article in the CS Monitor from a Leaf owner that appears to be sympathetic to Tesla’s point of view.

  5. 5
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    I’m gonna go all Broder here (dead one, not this one) and engage in a bit of “bothsidesdoit-ism”. I don’t trust Musk to do anything but spin this so as to make the Times look bad since what Tesla says about how far the cars can go will always slant toward the ideal rather than the real. But, I don’t trust the Times either given who they put on this, clearly they also had some kind of agenda and it wasn’t one to objectively report on this car.

    The reason the wingnuts hate electric cars has everything to do with the uber-cozy relationship the right wing has had with oil companies. It’s not in their best interest to see electrons powering cars rather than gasoline molecules.

  6. 6
    ChicagoTom says:

    It’s not even close. Broder is a liar with an agenda. Tesla’s evidence leaves no doubt that Broder was dishonest.

    And it isnt the first time. Top Gear did a similar thing, and they even admitted to their deceptions with a weasely “We didnt lie, we just implied that it could have stranded us andwe showed video of us pushing a perfectly working car”

  7. 7
    Cervantes says:

    I haven’t made a deep study of this matter, but assuming the log is for real, which seems a reasonable degree of trust to extend to Musk, Broder blatantly lied about several specific matters, e.g. how fast he drove and the cabin temperature settings. On some issues, his defense is that he followed instructions from Tesla employees over the phone, but even so, all that he proves by that is that it’s possible to deplete the battery if you fail to charge it when you have the chance.

    So yeah, pretty weird.

  8. 8
    ribber says:

    One possibility: they’re both right. Musk shows a bunch of logs that communicate the power levels in the battery recorded by the logger. Broder says the car’s controls shut down things on him. Anyone with a laptop or cellphone can relate a story of it shutting itself off while showing a 10% charge remaining. Broder is reporting what the console of the car is telling him and what it is doing. Musk is reporting what the logger recorded. These may not be the same exact data.

  9. 9
    Doug Galt says:


    Thanks! I fixed it.

  10. 10
    beltane says:

    The oil industry invests huge amounts of money in propaganda and the NYT has often revealed itself to be easily corrupted. Maybe Broder isn’t a corrupt hack, but being a corrupt hack would be the most logical explanation for this.

  11. 11
    Doug Galt says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    I completely distrust both sides on this one too.

  12. 12
    PeakVT says:

    …why did the Times have an environment reporter…

    I believe Broder is more of an oil industry reporter, rather than an environmental issues reporter, and that he is suffering (possibly willingly) from the journalistic equivalent of regulatory capture.

  13. 13
    taylormattd says:

    Thx Rusty.

    That article is fairly damning. To be honest, I am fairly convinced Broder is full of shit just from the relatively positive Consumer Reports write up.

  14. 14
    Sloegin says:

    Didn’t NBC reporters put incendiary devices on some cars about a decade back? Ain’t a new thing.

  15. 15
    taylormattd says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage: I suppose it’s accurate to say the Tesla CEO has an agenda. I mean, of course he does; he wants to sell his cars.

    But I think it’s a little ridiculous to pull out the both-sides-do-it card here.

    I mean, to the extent the CEO generally speaking engages in puffery about his cars, well, so what. It seems fairly clear Broder is fabricating data and inventing a story out of whole cloth. He appears to be the Stephen Glass of electric car reporting.

    Those two things are not equivalent.

  16. 16
    Stan Gable says:


    One possibility: they’re both right.

    I don’t think that’s accurate. The kindest interpretation for Broder is that he’s misremembering things but it seems far more likely that he intended for the test to fail. That’s really bad for the NY Times. Obviously, they’ve had some fraud issues in the past but to be called out in real-time is pretty amazing.

  17. 17
    Just Some Fuckhead says:


  18. 18
    👽 Martin says:

    Gotta side with Musk on this one. The telemetry from electric cars is fantastically detailed. You don’t release it if it doesn’t say what you claim. And Musk has a lot more to lose if he’s wrong here. Otherwise it’s just a single bad review – and his cars have gotten bad reviews before, but the consensus is always positive so it doesn’t really matter. But if he’s busted lying about the data – that’ll really do harm to their reputation.

    And yeah, the media doesn’t have a great record about this kind of stuff. They have too often been busted cheating on the test in order to have a story to report.

  19. 19
    Hill Dweller says:


    To be honest, I am fairly convinced Broder is full of shit just from the relatively positive Consumer Reports write up.

    I don’t know much about Broder, but everything I’ve read(from tech sites like CNET to auto sites like Motor Trend) on the Tesla S has been positive.

    Moreover, Lusk surrounded himself with a lot of smart people for the Tesla project, and took his time bringing it to market. There isn’t much evidence of him trying to fool people.

  20. 20
    jl says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:
    Thanks for the link (maybe that is the one DougJ’s nym today meant to link too.)

    Seems to me that the NYT will have to discredit those logs, or their reporter looks like a damn liar.

    I am of the school that think automotive ‘reporting’ is often suspect product placement BS. Kind of like the old time business ‘reporting’ that is coming back into vogue on cable channels, or gun ‘reviews’ in NRA mags.

    I find many automtive reviews I hear on the radio laughable BS. Not all, but many.

    I would be interested in learning more about the business side of automotive reporting. What perks do automotive ‘reporters’ stand to lose if they don’t say the right things about the right cars? Yeah, I am cynical about it.

    Edit: and yes, I agree that the ‘both sides do it’ angle is unjustified here. Of course the CEO has an agenda. But he has the data too, and is making it public. that is the key here. Is his data valid, that is the question.

  21. 21
    Chris T. says:

    I have a plug-in hybrid myself (with gasoline range extender), and it’s true that in cold weather—we had high temperatures of 20˚F for most of January—you get a lot less out of the battery than in “normal” weather. But those car logs are pretty damning: they’re the equivalent of the reporter saying “I filled the tank with gas” when he put in 3/4 of a tank, and “then I drove at a sedate 50 mph” when he was going 70. (I have a gas-only car too, and its mileage drops by nearly a third if you go 70 vs 50.)

    You can run your gasoline car out of fuel on purpose to make it look bad; and it sure looks like he ran his electric car out of fuel on purpose.

  22. 22
    jibeaux says:

    If the logs are accurate, I don’t see a leg for Broder to stand on there.

  23. 23
    Heliopause says:

    This was a colorless post.

  24. 24

    Did anyone tell Broder “YMMV”?

  25. 25
    Stan Gable says:

    @Doug Galt:

    I completely distrust both sides on this one too.

    I don’t think there’s any reason to extend Broder and the NY Times any benefit of the doubt right now, especially with the Top Gear thing in the background.

    It’s possible that Tesla set this thing up as a trap.

  26. 26
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @ribber: No, they can’t both be right. The logs contradict Broder on very different things than whether the car was going to shut down: speed; distance; time charging; places gone; etc. At least one of these two people is flagrantly lying. There isn’t another explanation.

  27. 27
    drew42 says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage: Since Musk goes so far as to provide specific evidence that Broder was doing donuts in a parking lot, I think it’s safe to say he’s confident with his facts. When a CEO is spinning, he would normally stay fuzzy, so he could weasel his way out later.

    There’s no way to weasel out of “Motherf**ker was doing donuts in a parking lot.” And there’s no way for Broder to weasel out if he did do said donuts.

  28. 28
    PeakVT says:

    @ribber: That might explain some of it, but it doesn’t explain issues like the discrepancies between Broder’s stated speed and the logged speed. Unless Tesla forged the data, I would have to say that it proves Broder is a bald-faced liar.

  29. 29
    jibeaux says:

    But anyway, the car should’ve been reviewed by an automotive reviewer. The niche Tesla is trying to fill is eco-friendly car that car guys are going to like, not just a variation on a Prius.

  30. 30
    smintheus says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): Yes. The logs show in big things and small things that Broder was lying and actively trying to run down the charge. If those logs are accurate, Broder is a faker.

  31. 31
    TheF79 says:

    Clearly we need some “regulatory capture” of auto journalists by the coal and natural gas industry, to balance this whole electric car-reporting-thing out…

  32. 32
    Linnaeus says:

    Conservatives from Glenn Beck to Charles Lane (who has written something like 15 anti-electric car screeds over the past couple years) hate them with a passion…I think because electric cars are an evil green idea dreamt up by soshulist eco-fascists.

    On the other hand, you’d think they’d be all for a company like Tesla, because it’s non-union and these guys despise organized labor, too.

  33. 33
    geg6 says:

    No, not following this and don’t plan to.

    But the guy’s name is Broder for fuck’s sake. If anyone is full of shit from the get go, it has to be a guy named Broder.

  34. 34
    Punchy says:

    Whats Sullivan’s take on musk and electric things on which he can ride?

  35. 35
    chrismealy says:

    Cars are environmental disasters whether they’re gas or electric. If you want to be green, ride a bike.

  36. 36
    MCA1 says:

    I guarantee, without looking any further into this, that the reason newfangled uberprepper Glenn Beck hates electric cars, is because in the coming apocalypse (tyrant-led coup, complete breakdown of gov’t due to economic crisis, uprising of Others, zombies, whatever the cause) the electrical grid will be shut down. And where would I be then with my electric car, huh? Is it any coincidence that a liberal government is conspiring to force me to buy a car that can’t run on gasoline? Don’t forget to buy my book.

  37. 37
    TK-421 says:

    I find it interesting that several blogs (e.g. Eschaton, AutoBlogGreen, here) are prefacing their opinions with “if the logs are accurate…”

    I feel the same way. I think it’s because if the logs are accurate, then the lies John Broder told in his original article are so egregious as to almost defy belief. Almost. The NYT shouldn’t possibly allow such behavior, and so maybe, just maybe the logs are inaccurate? Maybe?

    My own assumption is that the logs are accurate, Broder did lie this egregiously, and the NYT should be this ashamed. But I am having trouble getting comfortable with that as a conclusion, which is why I too keep reminding myself “hang on, let’s see if the NYT disputes the accuracy of the logs.”

    I’m fascinated with this too. I think this reporter just got caught lying, egregiously so, and I wonder how the NYT will deal with this.

  38. 38
    geg6 says:


    A little tough to do when I have a meeting at 10am at our main campus, which is 183 miles away.

  39. 39
    liberal says:

    That’s what I was thinking: where does the electricity that goes into the car come from?

  40. 40
    Mark C says:

    An independent 3rd party should replicate what Broder claimed he did and see how the car performs. The Times public Editor needs to step in here and get an appraisal of the car’s logs. In addition to CR’s positive take others have tested the vehicle without these issues so I’m leaning towards Tesla at this point. I’ll keep an open mind until more tests are done (I understand Tesla is seeking a dis-interested 3rd party to do this).

  41. 41
    David in NY says:

    @PeakVT: If you are right, that is very interesting.

  42. 42

    I just read the latest from Elon Musk about this here on the Tesla blog.

    I have observed, and maybe since I’m a Nissan Leaf driver I’m being biased or oversensitive, that the media seems really vested in havng EVs fail. I’ve written about it here. I don’t know if there’s something hinky going on with the major car manufacturers or if it’s just your typical hippie-punching (“go back and sit in your old growth tree Mr. and Ms. Pot-Smoking Hippie Tree Hugger with your new-fangled technowhizzbangery”). I suspect the latter.

    Also I suspect an element of your typical “oooh here’s a story we can sensationalize” incompetence. They were so eager to jump on that completely false right-wing meme about the Chevy Volt being a fail, which was started over at the NRO and other right-wing quarters who just wanted Obama to fail.

    Just, y’know, let’s have this big new technology fail fail FAIL.

    Feh. Fucking assholes. I love my Leaf. Wouldn’t change it for an ICE for the world.

  43. 43
    beltane says:

    @TK-421: John Broder can always join Judith Miller over at Fox.

  44. 44


    John Broder can always join Judith Miller over at Fox.

    You mean Newsmax, right? Isn’t that where Miller ended up? Or is it WingNut Daily? I know it was a step below Fox, if that’s even possible.

  45. 45
    jl says:


    ” I’m fascinated with this too. I think this reporter just got caught lying, egregiously so, and I wonder how the NYT will deal with this. ”

    I predict with pompous gasbaggery, because how many ads will Tesla buy compared to other care companies? But as noted above, I think automotive reporting is often just product placement BS.

    Good thoughts. What good will electric cars be in the coming Mexican Drug Lord/Zombie Apolcalypse that any fool can see is coming any day now?

    Your comment gives me a great idea: backyard do-it yourself petroleum mini refineries. The preppers will eat them up. I’m patenting the general idea, and cutting a demo ad for the Beck internet show today!

    And the tie in to personal tactical mobile armored vehicle and weapons packages to guard your personal crude oil pipline is totally obvs. Imma gonna patent that notion too.

    My ship is coming in, all thanks to you!

    Edit: note to self, add ‘tactical’ to the mini-refinery package. that will push up sales 10, 20 percent!

  46. 46
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out as more parties, those who actually know this stuff (unlike Broder, dead one and this one) and don’t have some stake in it, analyze the log data.

    An old friend of mine actually does electric car conversions. He’s told me in the past that Tesla’s obviously pushing the boundaries of this and sometimes, they’ve “overstated” some capabilities concerning a vehicle’s range because, in his opinion, they sometimes don’t seem to have tested for every variable eventually found in the real world, hence the apparent discrepancy between what they state will be and what actually is. Nothing criminal but just enough that he always parses Tesla’s data and statements pretty carefully.

    That being said, I’m shocked, shocked I say, to see a reporter for a major traditional media outfit do a crappy job. And these outfits wonder why they’re seen as irrelevant.

  47. 47


    I thought The Times was killing its environmental news desk?

  48. 48
    Pincher says:

    The conservative campaign to discredit electric car technology is really astonishing. Their negative coverage of the Chevy Volt, which sells better than the Camaro, is an even more egregious example. Just as they deny climate change, they are just going to deny any merits of electric cars, right up until the moment when those cars are everywhere.

  49. 49
    waratah says:

    @Doug Galt: Are you saying both sides
    do it?

  50. 50
    Andrew says:

    @Liberal @chrismealy

    The electricity comes from the power grid. Depending on where you are, it could be very green, or from coal fired power plants. Where I live almost all the power is from hydroelectirc or wind. However, just getting the cars on the power grid is hugely important. It’s much easier to implement emissions control or some future form of carbon sequestration on thousands of power plants than it is on millions of cars. Plus, any efficiencies that get rolled out in power generation instantly go into every electric car on the road versus waiting for the entire fleet to roll over.

  51. 51
    beltane says:

    @Southern Beale: You are right. It looks like no one’s bothered to update her Wikipedia entry. But surely Newmax could use an environmental reporter.

  52. 52
    Napoleon says:

    @Southern Beale:

    I thought The Times was killing its environmental news desk?

    You are correct.

  53. 53
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @liberal: Coal. This car would look different to folks if it were sold accurately as a coal-powered car.

  54. 54

    Yes, I thought this was it:

    The New York Times will close its environment desk in the next few weeks and assign its seven reporters and two editors to other departments. The positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated. No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, which is edited from the environment desk.

    What a surprise.

  55. 55
    schrodinger's cat says:

    I can has Tesla? I love the name of the car. Plus the idea of an electric car. Also, I am suspicious of any one who calls himself Broder.
    Superficial analysis, over. Now I can has MoU’s gig at NYT? BTW did any one read the jargon filled BS he wrote yesterday? Ideas to make India unpoor (his word not mine) or something like that.

  56. 56
    Tractarian says:


    Do you think bicycle parts grow on trees?

    They do not. They are fabricated in factories. Factories that run on electricity. Electricity which is produced by burning fossil fuels.

  57. 57
    Seanly says:

    I haven’t been following this story at all.

    Does anyone else remember when Ford (I think) ran some commercials for an electric vehicle? This was several years ago (maybe 10?). The car in question was driven by an attractive woman with a vaguely European accent. She’d take it to some urban gas station and a bunch of manly mechanics would be standing around trying to figure out where to put the gas.

    It was readily apparent that the idea wasn’t to promote the vehicle, but to piss off Americans. “Stupid blue collar regular Americans can’t understnad my superior European electirc car!” I figured that Ford (or whoever) could say they promoted an electric vehicle but Americans hated it.

    I apologize for not having all the facts at my fingertip…

  58. 58

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Actually, no. Tesla’s EV charging stations are solar-powered.

    My Leaf runs on solar as well. There’s no reason EV’s have to run on coal, save massive spending by the coal lobby and fantasies about “clean coal.” EVs can just as easily run on hydro, nuclear and wind. It depends on where you live and if you’ve set up an alternative like we have at our house.

  59. 59
    Chris T. says:

    @Andrew: And, if you’re me, you put some solar panels on your roof and generate kilowatt-hours from sunshine. They recover the energy needed to make the panels (and the microinverters) in about the first two years, and after that they produce more energy for another 30 to 50 years.

  60. 60
    jl says:


    Coal powered bicycles?

    Edit: in more ways that manufacturing. How much energy does it take to transport the food we eat. Oh, OK unless I can become an urban homesteader, I guess it is all a fraud, right?

    So yeah, an electric car is a marginal improvement compared to encouraging residential development that reduces commute distances and encourage walking and biking, and introducing more mass transit. But it is an improvement.

    By the ‘coal powered car’ standard, an electric zero emission bus or passenger train is coal powered too.

    So, because it is a marginal improvement that may be needed during the time it takes to change residential/work patterns, you shouldn’t take it?

    Edit: the /snark is not addressed to Tractarian

  61. 61


    Perhaps what you’re referring to was addressed in the documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car?”

    It’s really good if you’ve never seen it.

  62. 62
    Roy G. says:

    Nice Broderism here, involving a Broder no less! Of course both sides do it, even though Musk has brought actual hard data to the table.

    If you want to check into John M. Broder’s agenda, just look at his reportage for the Times. He’s not an automotive reporter, he covers the oil industry:;s=newest

  63. 63

    I haven’t bought a gallon of gas since July 2011. Can’t say I miss it.

    No oil changes, either. You can see why the establishment is all fired up to stomp on EVs when you realize the car doesn’t have a fucking tailpipe. The only reason I ever go to a gas station anymore is to buy the occasional lottery ticket.

    The governor of my state is in the truck stop business. His family owns Pilot, the largest chain of truck stops and gas stations in the nation. I figure it’s only a matter of time before he quashes our EV program.

  64. 64
    alhutch says:

    Not sure what Broder’s agenda was, but he obviously didn’t think Tesla could so easily refute his claims or he would be a complete dope to make them. As Musk stated, since the Top Gear incident, they log everything on a journo drive and the discrepancies are throughout the test (circling the parking lot for 15 minutes to reduce displayed range to zero???).

    Broder isn’t going to get clear of this one. The lure of “taking down” a company like Tesla must be very appealing to take chances with one’s profession. I’ve heard that lying is kind of a big deal in journalism (or used to be).

    To SB’s point above, it’s all hippy punching. Any car manufacturer that can get an edge on the competition will do so. They really don’t care how the car’s are powered, just that they sell them.

  65. 65

    So Broder is the “environmental” reporter for the times. An environmental reporter who hates EVs? Ok that’s kind of a funny quirk right at the start. Say what you want about EVs, anyone who has read the data knows that, despite where the electricity comes from, EVs are cleaner than fossil fuel burning vehicles.

    Broder’s reporting and actions here are questionable, at very best.

    So why?

    Well, we don’t know. And we won’t know, likely, ever. This wouldn’t be the first time a reporter at the Times was craven whore to some industry or interest group. It would be irresponsible not to speculate, no?

    Chelsea Sexton wrote a piece for Wired on this and it was excellent in that it points the one thing most people aren’t talking about. Not every car is good for every thing. If you need to pull a boat trailer, that Honda Fit, despite positive reviews and ratings may not be the right choice. Just like choosing a Ford enormo dualie turbo diesel isn’t the best choice for Manhattan commuters who live in Connecticut. And so it goes that right now, EVs aren’t great choices for road trips. No one, even the NYT writes reviews of cars that suck because they can’t haul bails of hay. It’s logically ridiculous and obviously stupid to complain that an EV can’t do something it’s not designed to do. Range anxiety is real but it’s also as trumped as John McCain’s renegade designation.

    We’re at a transitional time in transportation. That isn’t new. I’m sure there were lots of folks who would never have given up their horse a century (or more) ago and maybe even for good reasons. But that will change and so will EVs and gas cars. To think that situation will remain static is just silly.

  66. 66
    Maude says:

    I read both articles. Broder talked to people at Tesla every time he had a problem.
    The main problem was the amount of charge the battery had and how far Broder could drive.
    Broder was told by Tesla that there were software problems with the car. That seems to be the problem that Broder had with not reaching the destinations he was supposed to via Tesla’s claims.
    Musk claims that the logs prove Broder is salacious?
    If the logs on the car are based on the software that has problems, then Musk has a problem.
    This car has 13,000 people waiting to buy it.
    They need to find out if the car goes as far as it is supposed to. The car has to make it to a supercharging station, especially at night.
    I like electric cars, but distance driving has been a problem because of how much charge a battery can hole.
    The Tesla car has an lithium ion battery.

  67. 67
    PeakVT says:

    @David in NY: @PeakVT: I perused the list of his articles at NYT back to 2010, and they are a mix of environment-related articles. About half involve the oil industry in a major way.

    However, the simplest explanation is usually the best, and Broder just may have been trying to make a splash with a contrarian article, rather than being sympathetic to the oil industry and deciding to make up a review on that basis.

  68. 68
    David in NY says:

    I think there may be problems correlating Broder’s account of the trip with the log data. That is, I find it hard, though maybe others have figured it out. If there’s a problem with what Musk says, it’s probably in whether the labels he’s put on the graphs are accurate.

  69. 69
    khead says:

    I continue to be stunned by the reactions.


  70. 70

    Check out John Broder’s sins against journalism when he covered the BP oil spill, thanks to the liberal hippies at Media Matters.

    I’ll admit I’m biased, but hey, looks like Broder is a serial offender to me.

  71. 71
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Southern Beale: Over 2/3 of the US’s electricity-generating capacity comes from non-renewables. 42% coal, 25% natural gas, 1% fuel oil. What percentage of that is in a car is more difficult to calculate, as there’s a difference between steady-state generation and peak-usage generation (i.e. winter vs summer.) In the winter, it’s more heavily the fossil fuels.

  72. 72
    some guy says:

    Broder is the Times Oil, Gas, and Tar Sands guy, so why he was assigned the Tesla story, and his blatant lies about the Model S, are not that difficult to find a motive for.

    Why not just stick with the Bradley Berman review 9one of my favorite Wheels reviewers) and call i a day. Broder’s followup story about the Norwich electric charging station makes it clear what axes he is grinding.

  73. 73
    jamick6000 says:

    Times reporter John M. Broder took one for a test drive and says the battery ran down much more quickly than it should have, resulting in his having to be towed. Tesla CEO Elon Musk (link fixed) claims Broder lied about the whole thing

    I think the Times AND Tesla are equally at fault for this spat. They should have Jim Lehrer do a test drive to get to the bottom of this.

  74. 74
    techno says:

    I really don’t understand the right wing’s problems with electric cars (high efficiency light bulbs, wind turbines, PV arrays, etc) at all. They even hate the Chevy Volt which is a brilliant piece of engineering—maybe the best GM has done in 50 years.

    As for Top Gear, those crude morons even hate the Lexus—easily the most carefully fabricated car on earth. I have a 17 yo LS with 165k on the clock that looks and drives like I bought it last week.

  75. 75
    David Hunt says:

    My understanding is that the car was reviewed by Consumer Reports. Given my impressions of that publication, I’d tend to trust whichever account more closely resembles CR’s review.

  76. 76
    some guy says:


    the driving around a parking lot for 15 minutes, and lying about how long he charged the battery for, are the clear tells about what Broder was up to.

  77. 77

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Yes I know where most of our electricity comes from but it doesn’t have to, save our political will. There’s no reason at all that so much of our electricity has to come from coal. Zero.

    Plus, EV charging stations can and are built as grid-fed solar systems. We have public chargers here in Nashville that are solar powered. It’s not rocket science, it’s easy and cheap.

    The argument that the problem with EVs is how this country currently chooses to generate electricity is fucking stupid. We can change. You know what we can’t change? What we put in an ICE. That’s going to be dirty no matter what.

  78. 78
    Dennis Doubleday says:

    I think Tesla has a good case that Broder was not honest in his review.

    I also think that Musk’s description of what Broder SHOULD have done (SOP) demonstrates vividly why it would be a pain to own an all-electric at this time.

  79. 79
    jl says:

    @Maude: thanks for the info.

    ” If the logs on the car are based on the software that has problems, then Musk has a problem. ”

    I agree, are the logs accurate? That is the key issue here it seems to me.

    I am not a big fan of cars, electric or otherwise, and would prefer a life where they could be relegated to recreational excursions and vacation trips. That is one reason I dislike automotive reporting, since it is always written by driving junkies.

  80. 80


    I really don’t understand the right wing’s problems with electric cars….

    You know, I really think the problem is just with the “institutional right,” not actual right wing people. Because as I drive around town I get all sorts of people asking me how I like my car and telling me they want to buy one. Hell, Bill Frist and his family were among the first Leaf owners here in Nashville. Ditto Lamar Alexander.

    A Leaf makes sense, they’re made locally (or will be in a few months when the Smyrna plant gets up to speed), they’re great cars and if you don’t do a lot of long distance driving, there’s no reason to be paying all that for gas.

  81. 81
    Calouste says:

    Journalist makes shit up to write a story. News at 11.

    Assume that any news or background article you read, that the author knows can’t be easily independently verified, has embellishments in it, if not outright lies.

  82. 82
    Chris T. says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Complicating the picture (a lot!), there is a lot of electricity embedded in each gallon of gasoline, because refineries run on electricity. But wait! Refineries often burn natural gas in a cogeneration setup, making (say) 50 megawatts of electric power that they use some or all of to make gasoline, and use most of the leftover heat to run other parts of the refinery (since a lot of the refining process consists of “boil the oil in a carefully controlled environment”). Cogeneration is a more efficient use of fuel than “pure” electric generation: the best pure-electric natural-gas-fired plants waste about half of the energy in the natural gas, while cogeneration plants waste only a quarter (sometimes less).


  83. 83
    GregB says:

    @Southern Beale:

    We all know that Forbes has a skin in the game. A Forbes skin if you will.

  84. 84
    Anonymous37 says:

    Summary: Times reporter John M. Broder took one for a test drive and says the battery ran down much more quickly than it should have, resulting in his having to be towed [emphasis mine].

    A lot of people have prefaced their comments with “if the logs put out by Musk are accurate, haven’t been tampered with, etc.” But as commenters on point out, the details of the towing are hugely damning to Broder. He could have called Tesla, who would have been there in minutes, started recording video with his cellphone, and told them the car wouldn’t start. But, of course, the Tesla guys would have taken a video recording as well. And if the car really would start, then Broder would be immortalized as an idiot, dishonest, or a dishonest idiot.

    So he calls someone else to do the towing. This detail, in my opinion, gives the game away: Broder is lying, and Musk/Tesla didn’t have to falsify the logs to show it.

  85. 85
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Southern Beale: I know it *can* change. I’m also old enough to remember when nuclear was going to be so efficient and widespread that electricity would be “too cheap to meter.” The real world has a way of not living up to expectations.

  86. 86
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:


    backyard do-it yourself petroleum mini refineries. The preppers will eat them up.

    Or better yet, market the smaller and more mobile version that you can run in your poorly ventilated garage (with the door closed of course, so the sneaky government-snooping liberal neighbors across the street can’t see what you are up to and turn you in to the nanny-state energy police).

    Nothing could go wrong with that.

  87. 87
    Mnemosyne says:


    The logs show in big things and small things that Broder was lying and actively trying to run down the charge. If those logs are accurate, Broder is a faker.

    Given the recent history of the NY Times, the first question that springs to my mind is, “Did Broder actually drive the car, or did he have an intern do it for him and then write his story based on what the intern said he did?”

  88. 88

    I don’t know if the Tesla logs are different from the Leaf’s, since their chargers are different, but I can’t imagine why they would be.

    When you charge your Leaf the car communicates with the charger. I have an iPhone app that contacts me when my charge is complete. The charger and car also calculate how much energy you’ve used, what the equivalent of that is in gallons of gas, whether you were charging during peak and off-peak times, etc. It’s pretty cool. I don’t think it’s that complicated for the chargers to log when a car is being charged, if they’re reaching full charge or not, etc. All of this is communicated back to Big Brother at the EcoTality project, so not a big deal for Tesla to keep track of it, if it’s the same as what we have.

    Those of us in the DoE’s pilot program have our driving habits and charging habits monitored by the DoE, so they can better determine EV drivers habits and determine where they need to locate chargers in the future.

    I can’t imagine why Tesla’s logs would be incorrect. A more plausible alternative would be that Musk is lying about his logs but that’s so easily verifiable it doesn’t seem likely.

    Broder’s probably an idiot who didn’t know that we live in the land of Big Brother and his driving and charging would be monitored. Welcome to America, land of the corporate overlord, SUCKA.

  89. 89
    jl says:


    ” Musk/Tesla didn’t have to falsify the logs to show it. ”

    I don’t think the only alternative is that the logs were falsified. They may be inaccurate due to some problem with the car.

    Though I agree, a lot of details pile up that are hard for Broder to explain.

  90. 90
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Chris T.: Considering that cars only use about 15% of the energy in gasoline for actual propulsion, using gasoline to generate electricity is still way more efficient than putting it in cars. It’ll also be more efficient to update a single power plant than it would be to update a bunch of cars.

  91. 91
    Mark C says:

    The Times’ Public Editor is on the case

  92. 92
    Vlad says:

    Eh. Guess I’m going to be in the minority and say that I find Musk’s whole reaction to the Broder piece to be a ridiculous hissy-fit, and Tesla’s analysis of the logs to be at least as suspect as anything Broder is supposed to have done.

    I read the Broder article when it came out, and haven’t read it again. It didn’t strike me as a hit job, or even a terribly negative review, unless you’re Elon Musk (or one of the many, many fans of the EV car industry) and regard anything but glowing praise of the Tesla to be a hit job. As I understood it, the whole premise of Broder’s trip — a premise suggested by Tesla — was to test the car’s ability to do a long distance trip relying mainly on the two new Supercharger stations that Tesla recently installed on the East Coast. So that’s what Broder did, and reported that the car wasn’t able to get as far as Tesla, and he, had hoped it would relying primarily on the Superchargers. Along the way, Broder also reported several instances of battery life dropping much faster than he expected. Eventually, he misjudged the range he had left, and ended up bricking the Tesla when it completely lost its charge. My main takeaways from the Broder article were:

    1. It’s not really possible to do the drive he did relying primarily on the Superchargers;

    2. Tesla’s “fuel gauge” needs some work, especially in cold weather;

    3. It’s a big, big problem if you run out of a charge in one of these things.

    Most notably, I don’t think Broder ever said, or implied, that it would be impossible to do his drive in a Tesla without running out of charge. That wasn’t the point of his article. I understood him to be seeing if you could do the drive with minimal charging time — relying mainly on the Superchargers, with minimal charging at the much slower regular charging stations.

    Musk’s rebuttal strikes me as an attempt to distract from what Broder really wrote by knocking down a bunch of straw men. For example, can everyone please note that Musk’s claim that Broder drove around “in circles” for the express purpose of bricking the Tesla is NOT necessarily supported by the logs? The logs show a lot of stop-and-start driving at the end of charge. There could be a lot of reasons Broder was doing that other than a ham-handed attempt to make the Tesla look bad, and Broder has already explained that what he was really doing was driving around a lot looking for an unlit, unmarked Supercharger in the dark.

    A lot of Musk’s other claims seem equally flimsy. He’s made a lot of noise about Broder DRIVING 80!, but if you look at the log, it seems obvious to me that Broder was passing people when he really sped up — they’re very short, sharp spikes in the plot. That’s hardly unreasonable behavior on a highway. The same goes for the heater thing — Musk’s whole claim that Broder was lying seems to depend on Musk knowing the precise minute on which Broder claimed he turned the heat down, but I’m pretty sure Broder wasn’t nearly that precise in his article, and there is a later period on the same log when you do see the heat being reduced.

    What strikes me as lame about Musk’s decision to go to war over this is that nothing in his rebuttal really addresses the legitimate limitations of the Tesla that a fair reader would take from Broder’s article.

    You can’t rely on the current superchargers for East Coast road trips, at least in winter — apparently true, since Tesla has already said they’re going to move the superchargers closer together.

    Running the cabin heater can have a significant effect on a EV car’s range, since there’s no waste heat from a ICE that can be repurposed — obviously true

    A long-range trip in current EV cars requires careful planning — also clearly true.

    Look, I like what Teslas represent, even if I do think their pricing is ridiculous and their air of Silicon Valley superiority is off-putting. I own a hybrid myself. But there are obvious shortcomings to what the current state of the technology can do, and Broder’s article didn’t do anything but point those out.

  93. 93

    @Gin & Tonic:


    I don’t get your point about nuclear. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl killed the nuclear industry, also economics. Live and learn.

    At some point when our greedy transportation sector gobbles up the last of the dinosaur juice, what do we do then? Horse and buggy?

    The point is, it IS changing. Change is inevitable, it’s happening, I’m part of it, and so are thousands of other people. Bush and ExxonMobil tried to kill it but we’re back and we’re not going away.

  94. 94
    rda909 says:

    @David Hunt: Consumer Reports gushed about the Tesla Model S, and even tested it on a section of the same route Broder did, and with snow on the ground, and gave the charging stations a great review too.

    Broder didn’t even plug it in overnight? Who doesn’t know to do that with an electric car?!? And the guy who has already driven his Model S across and up and down America, over 5,000 miles, has responded to Broder’s article:

    I think he’s too quick to blame Tesla for not explaining things to Broder enough, since he’s trusting Broder’s account of the story, but the point is still the same – you can drive the Model S long distances with some simple planning.

    Plus, it took decades for cross country travel with gas-powered cars to become comfortable. EVs, and Tesla’s especially are already extremely practical for commuting, which is the overwhelming majority of car use in the world, and are rapidly getting more practical for long distance. It’s amazing how fast they’re coming on. I’ve driven a Tesla Roadster and it was the best experience I’ve ever had behind a wheel, and I’ll be getting a Model S as soon as I can afford one. It’s a brave new world!

  95. 95
    TriassicSands says:

    It sounds like the Times needs to investigate. If what Tesla claims is substantiated, Broder needs to find a job at the Washington Times.

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    The reason the wingnuts hate electric cars has everything to do with the uber-cozy relationship the right wing has had with oil companies.

    Maybe, if the SCOTUS would get off it’s butt and simply declare that the oil companies own electricity, they’d change their tune.

  96. 96
    shortstop says:

    OT but very exciting to we Illinoisans: Our state senate just passed the marriage equality bill. If we can get it through the House, Quinn will happily sign it.

  97. 97
    Joe Buck says:

    A log of a single measurement could be inaccurate (a sensor might be broken). But Tesla posted details of many measurements that show convincingly that the reporter did not accurately describe his test drive.

  98. 98
    retr2327 says:

    FWIW, my overall take is that Broder got caught trying to gild the lily, in order to make a better story. In other words, the basic facts are largely true (i.e., in particular, you can run into range problems driving an electric car long distances if you park it overnight in freezing weather), but he exaggerated his driving habits, temperature settings, speed, etc. to make it even worse than it really was.

    His most glaring “fabrication/omission” is that five minutes of circles in the parking lot (not, SFAIK, “donuts,” which implies much more throttle to the floor). OTOH, it’s hard to see why he did that, and why he left it out. OTOH, it would not have much impact on the range of the car overall, so what was the point?

    Bottom line: the NYT does not need (more) reporters who get caught playing with the facts to get a better story, even if the underlying story is, more or less, accurate. So it comes off worse than Tesla, for me.

  99. 99
    Chris T. says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): I presume you mean “using natural gas to generate electricity” (instead of using it to produce gasoline, which then, in whichever case, you transfer to the vehicle so that it can provide propulsion)?

    There’s no question that “well to wheels”, using natgas to make electricity to power cars is the way to go eventually. The hard part is saying precisely how efficient things are right now, because the EV parts are continuously improving (a lot) and the gasoline-powered cars are just about standing still.

    There is a whole lot of infrastructure to build and upgrade—not just things like superchargers; this includes basics like road bridges that are falling off interstates into Minnesota rivers—that make it hard to say when who should do what. I’ve already jumped into EVs with my plug-in hybrid, and I much prefer driving it on electric, but it’s clear that not everyone is ready for that yet.

  100. 100

    The Atlantic has Musk’s driving logs here.

    I’ve already posted where the Atlantic seems all-in on ensuring EVs are a failure, so I don’t exactly trust their analysis. But more shall be revealed.

  101. 101
    David in NY says:

    @Mark C: @David in NY: As I noted above, the logs may be accurate, but open to more than Musk’s interpretation. Here’s a piece questioning whether his interpretations are correct. I’m not sure what interpretation is right, but it will be interesting to see the Times’s response.

  102. 102
    liberal says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    It’ll also be more efficient to update a single power plant than it would be to update a bunch of cars.

    Hmm…not sure that’s the right way to look at it.

    “Capital stock” in cars turns over pretty rapidly; we don’t really have to update cars, they just die off and will have to be replaced anyway.

    Capital stock in power generation and distribution, however, is another matter entirely, AFAICT.

  103. 103
    David in NY says:

    @Southern Beale: @David in NY: Didn’t know they had a possible bias. But some of their points seem well-taken.

  104. 104
    Gin & Tonic says:


    His most glaring “fabrication/omission” is that five minutes of circles in the parking lot

    Approximately a half-mile of slow speed circling, looking for the charging port in the dark.

  105. 105
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Southern Beale: My only point is that I’ve seen a lot of highly-touted alternatives to dinosaur juice come and go (fission and fusion for instance) and the one constant is dinosaur juice. I’d love to see something else succeed, and it may. But we may also run out of dinosaur juice without a good large-scale alternative in place. I’ll be dead, so I don’t worry too much.

  106. 106
    👽 Martin says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Coal. This car would look different to folks if it were sold accurately as a coal-powered car.

    Most are sold in California, and we don’t have a single coal-fueled power plant. In fact, we’re at 20% renewables on the grid now.

    Our gas power plants have a thermal efficiency of about 60%. A car is about 25%, with the refining only about 55% thermal efficiency itself, so the oil->mechanical power efficiency of a car is at best 10% when transportation is included. Our natural gas->electricity efficiency is roughly 50% for the same comparison.

    Coal plants are about 33% efficient, and maybe 25% or so when transportation, etc. is included. They’re still a better deal than the oil cycle, unfortunately. Oil power plants are about the same.

    They all beat gas by a mile. The reason gasoline was chosen as a fuel was that it was a waste product of refining. It was effectively free. Eliminating gasoline won’t eliminate the oil consumption by the same amount because we’ll still need to refine for other products and gasoline will return to being a waste product again. The refining formula would change (it’d tip heavily toward diesel like Europe does), and those other products would change because gasoline to some degree subsidizes them now, but there’s only so far you can justify (it’s actually pretty far) cutting gas consumption before you get no further benefit from cutting more.

  107. 107
    Hoodie says:

    Possibility is a version of the guy who gets torqued about the inflight WiFi in Louis CK’s “everything ins amazing and no one is satisfied” story. Broder, not being a auto reporter, much less a guy that specializes in EVs, may have a fairly superficial understanding of Tesla’s technology, may have misunderstood what Tesla’s people were telling him and may have not followed their instructions correctly. Alternatively or in addition, it’s a new car and charging infrastructure, and it may have some bugs or quirks. The charger may have erroneously told him the car was fully charged, or he may have misinterpreted the indication. Often, an auto test drive has stuff like that happen, because the test may involve demo equipment that hasn’t been fully shaken down. Seasoned auto reporters take that kind of stuff in stride and still look for positive aspects of the vehicle but this wasn’t technically a car test drive. He therefore jumped to conclusions about the vehicle and about the technology in general because the latter is what he views as his beat. That may have been exacerbated by a bias against electric vehicles because he is immersed in the oil industry and is somewhat cynical about the practicality of supplanting that infrastructure with EVs. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he has ulterior motives, but there is a lot of gratuitous political sniping at Steven Chu in that piece, which has bupkus to do with whether the Tesla car or charging system is a defective product. That aspect of the article pretty strongly suggests that the guy has a bit of an agenda. Maybe the car/charger had some glitches, and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn it into a hit piece on EVs in general.

  108. 108
    Maude says:

    I was in a doc’s waiting room and read Car and Driver. I didn’t like it at all. They don’t say how a regular driver would do with the car.
    My concern is someone getting stuck with the car.
    If it’s just a software problem, then Tesla can fix that. If the display in the cabin shows a different driving range than the amount of charge in the battery, that’s a problem.

  109. 109
    jl says:

    @liberal: Capital stock in the sense of what kind of fuel a power plan burns (as in coal versus oil versus natural gas) can change quite rapidly, especially if the plant was designed (as many have been) to switch fuels.

  110. 110
    Butch says:

    I guess OT, but the original Chomsky quote is “colorless green ideas sleep furiously,” yes?

  111. 111
    Napoleon says:


    They may be inaccurate due to some problem with the car.

    For items like speed and how far it has traveled it completely defies common sense that the log could be wrong short of the log being tampered with. For something like battery life left I could see that because the software itself may need to blend several sensors inputs to arrive at a number, so the assumptions the software makes, etc. may come into play, but for stuff like speed and distance the computer is going to do nothing but log the information. BTW it has been critical for years that sensors get this stuff absolutely right because the car functioning correctly depends on it.

  112. 112
    MCA1 says:

    @jl: I only regret that in that Thunderdome Amerikka just around the corner, there will be no functioning judicial system allowing me to bring a nuisance intellectual property lawsuit against you for stealing my idea, and that the cash settlement I could extort through such a suit would be worthless, anyway, when we use the teeth of dead animals as our sole currency.

    Seriously, though, good business idea. Puts my “gerbil breeding kit so’s you can restore the interwebs after the reckoning” idea to shame.

  113. 113
    joel hanes says:



    Musk claims that the logs prove Broder is salacious?

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  114. 114
    jl says:


    I avoid driving whenever possible, so I guess I am not a regular driver. When I do ‘car up’ for a long trip, I tend to plan carefully, since I do not like driving much, so there damn well better not be any problems.

    One thing that I overlooked, but a commenter above noted, is that the NYT article was a review of the Tesla Superhcharger stations on the East coast, as well as the Tesla. But in that case, some of Broder’s actions seem even more puzzling.

    What the hell, I think newspaper and magazine automotive reporting is mostly junk, most of the reporters who do that stuff either dim or lazy, and this episode just adds to my skepticism.

  115. 115
    👽 Martin says:

    @Chris T.:

    The hard part is saying precisely how efficient things are right now, because the EV parts are continuously improving (a lot) and the gasoline-powered cars are just about standing still.

    Gasoline internal-combustion engine is hardly standing still. Auto racing has been working for decades to squeeze more power/efficiency out of them. The million dollar F1 engines and the endurance engines (where fuel efficiency is really important) have a thermal efficiency of 34%. It’s a lot better than a street car, but it still sucks compare to nat gas or electric (even with coal producing the electricity). There are no major improvements to be had in the gasoline engine in terms of efficiency. F1 has resorted to electric augmentation (generate power from engine braking and return it through an inline electric boost), and endurance racing is getting dominated by diesels now that they’ve figured out how to make them reliably go fast because they refuel half as often.

    The problem is that most internal combustion engines get more efficient as they get larger. Semi trucks are more efficient that passenger cars and container ships are more efficient yet. Unless we want to switch to buses and trains, we’re fighting against the laws of thermodynamics here. It’s a theoretical dead end, which is why everyone has given up on it.

  116. 116
    shortstop says:

    @joel hanes: Ha! On the other hand, you have to admit that “Broder” is an objectively hot name. RrrrrRRRrrrrr.

  117. 117
    liberal says:


    Capital stock in the sense of what kind of fuel a power plan burns…

    That’s not what most people would mean when talking about capital stock in this context, IMHO.

  118. 118
    jl says:

    @MCA1: We will fight it out with the asses’ jaws, for the apocalypse will be Biblical, literally, it will be Biblical. Probably tomorrow, for the NRA tells me so.

  119. 119
  120. 120
    liberal says:

    Nah, it’s entirely a coincidence.

  121. 121
    jl says:

    @liberal: We are talking about what kind fuel is used to power things, right? Is that not the context? That is determined by the specific type of capital stock that constitutes a stationary power plant.

  122. 122
    liberal says:

    @👽 Martin:

    with the refining only about 55% thermal efficiency itself

    Wow, didn’t know it sucked so bad.

    And my quick perusal of the web makes it seem like electric power transmission has much less loss than I thought it did.

  123. 123
  124. 124
    liberal says:

    The original issue was Belafont saying it might be more efficient to update a power plant than a bunch of cars. I was merely making the side point that power plants are enormously expensive, and if you replace it long before its useful lifespan is over, there’s an enormous economic loss involved. Whereas with cars, the lifespan is so short, you wouldn’t scrap a car before its time; you’d just wait for the car to die before replacing it.

  125. 125
    catclub says:

    @👽 Martin: I want an electric powered bicycle with flywheel battery (two or four in dipole/quadrupole configuration to minimize undesired torques).

    Given the amount of charge most typical rides would take, the flywheel batteries don’t have to be super good at holding their power. Only problem is jolts and vibration that have to be damped against. And that such flywheel batteries would cost thousands each to manufacture.

    Chrysler planned to do three impossible things in one of its Le Mans efforts: (1,2)Flywheel battery with regen braking, and (3) power it with a turbine engine ( not simply turbocharged). Also hybrid turbine-electric power.
    Not a notable success at any of them. I think that was in the 80’s

  126. 126
    liberal says:

    I saw somewhere (talkingpointsmemo?) that one of the scenarios bandied about by the NRA for a riot (so we’d better get our guns now, or something) is a “debt riot”.

    …OK, it was indeed on TPM:

    Nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection. And the American people know it.

    Jesus, stupid about guns, stupid about fiat currency. Not sure what would be more fitting for him: death by firing squad, or having his mouth stuffed so full of paper currency that he can’t breathe.

  127. 127
    gEORGE tIERNEY says:

    Broder needs to take prompt action. Slut shaming of Sandra Fluke turned out well for me.

  128. 128
    Craigo says:

    @David in NY: Check the comments on that piece.

    1. Doesn’t know that a few miles in rush hour Manhattan traffic is significantly worse on battery life than the same distance on the highways Broder was supposedly using.
    2. Never bothered find out that the S has a reserve and doesn’t die at zero charge.
    3. Refuses to admit that Broder lied about his speed several times.
    4. Doesn’t think that deliberately undercharging your car is as stupid as not putting enough gas in it.
    5. Refuses to acknowledge that the S reached its destination despite #4.

    It’s a hack job yb someone wqho appears to be dangerously stupid. I had to check the byline to make sure McMegan hadn’t returned.

  129. 129
    PeakVT says:

    @Martin: There are no major improvements to be had in the gasoline engine in terms of efficiency. F1 has resorted to electric augmentation (generate power from engine braking and return it through an inline electric boost),

    Um, no. F1 is hardly concerned about fuel or thermal efficiency. It’s sole concern is maintaining its image as the pinnacle of motor racing, and combining greenwashing with its existing techno-wizardry angle is a clever marketing ploy.

    Also, too, there are plenty of gains to be had in gasoline engines. If that wasn’t the case, car companies wouldn’t be working on homogeneous charge compression ignition engines.

  130. 130
    liberal says:

    Maybe if they design the flywheel right, it will keep POS SUV’s from tipping over. /snark

  131. 131
    rda909 says:

    @Southern Beale: Yea, what a stupid response in the Atlantic. Why are they getting in the middle of this anyway?

    So Broder’s idea was to only use Tesla charging stations?!? That’s flawed before he even starts. Tesla is putting in many more in that area right now and has just started on the east coast, so why limit the test to the system when it’s in the nascent stage? Broder could’ve easily made the trip if he used non-Tesla charging stations. Several reviewers have used the Tesla charging system to go up and down California already, and report it only added 1 hour to the trip from Tahoe to Los Angeles, and worked great. A Model S owner recently completed a 5,000 mile trip around America and reported very few hassles. This is amazing for something so new.

    Having said that, and being a huge proponent of Tesla, I don’t always like how Elon handles things. It’s obvious Broder is simply a moron who might even have a bias against EVs, but Elon should not be claiming malfeasance without irrefutable proof, and should’ve just said Broder wasn’t using the system properly…operator error. I appreciate everything he’s done to get Tesla to where it is, but he really shouldn’t be the face of the company in my opinion. Not his skill-set. I also wish he wouldn’t have lost focus from Tesla by doing this Space X thing either, but oh well. We’re here now, and Tesla is on the verge of being one of the leaders of the EV revolution.

  132. 132
    Butch says:

    @liberal: I teach a business writing course and would put the quote up on a slide mostly to watch the reactions of this very literal minded group of engineers and scientists.

  133. 133
    Napoleon says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Gasoline internal-combustion engine is hardly standing still.

    That is an understatement, to say the least. The problem is that the manufacturers have used the improvements to increase power of cars instead of their efficency. Go look at stats for engines from, say, 1980 and compare them to today.

    I have a 2009 Toy. Yaris. The engine is 1.5 L with 106 HP and gets 29/36 mpg. Look at a 1980 Escort with a 1.6 L that had 68 HP (I can not find a MPG for it). I bet you Toyota’s newer 1 liter is better then the old Ford 1.6 L

  134. 134
    MCA1 says:

    @jl: Is that why Ted Nugent’s had a shofar player at his recent concerts? Anyway, yes, looking forward to grappling over this. Perhaps down by the bank of that lake over there, which oddly enough appears to be on fire. Afterward, I will eat 100 locusts to celebrate my great victory.

  135. 135
    jl says:


    But you don’t have to replace the whole power plant in order to change between fuel oil, natural gas, and coal as a fuel.

    The ability of power plants to switch fuels quickly goes back to the OPEC embargoes and oil shocks, and oil price boom and bust of the 70s to mid-80s. It had a big effect on the structure of the fossil fuel market and the flexibility of national economies in response to shocks in the price of crude oil. And unfortunately, maybe, encouraged the use of coal, since a plant did not have to be designed with its whole life cycle committed to one type of fuel anymore.

  136. 136
    Trollhattan says:

    Help us, David Brooks, you’re our only hope!

    [apologies if this has already been covered, but anyway] There’s a second layer of opposition to Tesla–the car dealers. Musk is bypassing them entirely and selling directly to the public, which may prove against existing laws–I suspect we’ll be finding out in court unless the Usual Suspects can succeed in killing off Tesla via other means.

    This may be part of “other” means.

    The Tesla S is gorgeous–I spotted one driving past in Berkeley (I know, I know) and only the emblem tipped me off as to what it was. It could have been an Aston Martin.

    I’d probably own a Volt if I still commuted by car. EVs aren’t ready for long-distance travel yet, as we don’t have the infrastructure (at least in the West) but my old commuting habits would have seen 90+% of my driving electric-only, with the gaz mode kicking in on occasional long trips. I think this concept gets it right, for this decade anyway.

  137. 137
    👽 Martin says:


    The problem is that the manufacturers have used the improvements to increase power of cars instead of their efficency. Go look at stats for engines from, say, 1980 and compare them to today.

    That’s not a problem with the manufacturers, but with consumers. People don’t want an 80MPG car with a 0-60 time of 16 seconds and a top speed of 60 MPH. Interstates have top limits of 75 now. They were 55 then.

    And they can easily make diesels with that kind of mileage, but nobody wants those either because, diesel. Diesels in Europe get 70MPG but here only hit 45MPG because Europeans are willing to trade out power, whereas American’s aren’t. Has nothing to do with the engineering. Anyone looking for that kind of efficiency is buying a hybrid or a plug-in, so those solutions do exist.

    I can increase the sticker MPG on my car by 50% simply by keeping RPM low and not going over 65, so this isn’t a limitation of anything but the consumers.

  138. 138
    alhutch says:


    My concern is someone getting stuck with the car.

    Even this is being addressed. Our local (Oregon) AAA has purchased a service truck with a generator that can quick charge fully depleted EVs to get them somewhere for a full(er) charge.

    Just like the gas they will bring members when they run out of that fuel.

  139. 139
    Scott P. says:

    Musk’s rebuttal strikes me as an attempt to distract from what Broder really wrote by knocking down a bunch of straw men.

    Broder’s own article shows him leaving a charging station on a 68 mile leg without 68 miles of charge in the car. That’s pretty damning.

  140. 140
    Bago says:

    Doug, that was some serious trolling. You really floated a Broder didn’t you?

    Logs FTW!

  141. 141
    taylormattd says:

    @Mark C: Oh christ.

  142. 142
    gcreptile says:

    Tesla is the future. I wish them well.

  143. 143
    Gromit says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Coal. This car would look different to folks if it were sold accurately as a coal-powered car.

    Wait, don’t coal-powered plants produce excess energy at night, when EV’s would typically be charged? Granted, mass-adoption of EV’s could change this, but that’s true of a lot of variables in this equation.

  144. 144
    Alex S. says:

    Tesla is the future. I wish them well.

    (wrong username in an earlier, hopefully deleted comment)

  145. 145
    Alex S. says:


    It gets progressively dumber from there on.

  146. 146
    Bago says:

    @Maude: I guaran-fucking-tee you that they have tested the shit out of this thing, and this reporter isn’t the first person to notice any oddities. They’re in a bug database, tracked, fixed and documented somewhere. And here’s the rub. THEY HAVE LOGS!

    I know not all of you work in software, but logs are truth spoken from on high. Do you know how to debug a distributed system that’s multi-threaded and running in 30 different processes per server, 2 servers per datacenter, over 5 datacenters around the globe, and each process taps into the thread pool, which can be as large as 100 on a single quad-proc box? We are talking about 30,000 concurrent threads of execution in a single app distributed across the planet.

    And that’s simple compared to a twitter or a search engine. How do you debug something of that complexity? Logs.


    If somebody tries to cast aspersions about your software, you check the log. You use logs to fix broken software. Saying that the software has bugs in it (hint: all software more than 10 lines has bugs) is trite. Saying they faked the logs is libel.

    If I were the reporter’s boss, I’d get a rep from tesla to fly up with a laptop and the logs, have him give a presentation with the reporter in the room, and if he couldn’t explain a single value on the logs, fire him on the spot. The NYT is supposed to be the paper of record. Logs are records. Records win. Period. No if, maybe’s or broderisms. LOG.

  147. 147
    Bago says:

    @jl: The logs are not inaccurate. They are a key tool for analyzing the car and are practically step one in the development process, in order to iteratively improve the product. The yield curves on battery performance might be a bit wonky, but logging is the hello world of computer science.

    10 print “hello world”

    You have a log.

  148. 148
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Bago: Like the Splunk t-shirt: “log is my co-pilot.”

  149. 149
    Bago says:

    Seriously, this is like the FBI having the credit card receipts for a plane ride and the purchase of a gun, the registration of a gun, the gun, and the GPS history of a suspects cellphone, putting a killer at the scene and time of a crime, with forensics information linking the bullet to the gun, and this guy saying “it wasn’t me”.

    O.J. Has a better alibi.

  150. 150
  151. 151
    chopper says:

    despite being on musk’s side here, i gotta say it’s totally stupid to bring up the heater. if the logs prove broder is a liar, that’s great, but yelling out ‘of course the car died, you turned the heat up’ doesn’t exactly endear people to EVs.

  152. 152
    bago says:

    @chopper: where does the energy to make the heat come from? A battery perhaps?

  153. 153
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Scott P.:

    Broder’s own article shows him leaving a charging station on a 68 mile leg without 68 miles of charge in the car. That’s pretty damning.

    And, even by doing that, he still got 51 miles out of it when the car itself was saying he only had 32 miles left.

    If Broder’s point was to drive like an idiot who doesn’t realize that cars will run out of gas if you don’t put enough in to get you to your destination, I guess he proved that. I’m not sure who those drivers are, but I suppose they must exist somewhere if a NY Times reporter is deliberately trying to drive like one.

  154. 154
    Stan Gable says:


    i gotta say it’s totally stupid to bring up the heater.

    The point was not that he turned the heat up but Broder claimed to have turned it off.

    What Broder seems to have done is sort of like driving on the freeway in 1st gear then complaining about the fuel economy.

  155. 155
    Warren Terra says:

    I’m with the minority here: I don’t trust Broder, and I suspect he sexed up the details a fair bit, and he certainly made some mistakes in operating an electric car (leaving it unplugged overnight, attempting to use the stations for their minimum charging time) – but a number of the issues seem to have arisen from him treating the Tesla like a typical modern car (again: leaving it out overnight, minimum charging, etcetera). Assuming he’s not just inventing things out of whole cloth, Tesla is shipping cars with a “range remaining” gauge that fluctuates and is inaccurate, and is doing a terrible job of customer service (for example, not warning him against leaving the car unplugged, and not telling him to switch the car’s charging settings to a range-maximizing option that the manual warns will shorten the life of the batteries).

    Some of his stunts were misguided – hot rodding on the interstate, driving in circles to make the “gas” gauge hit empty – but are things any casual listener to Car Talk can tell you automobile reviewers often do.

    The single most damning part of the whole story was – unless he’s fantastically misrepresenting what happened – the Tesla will let you drive it until it is so completely out of juice that not even any basic systems are operational (not a good design feature) and that when the Tesla is completely drained it implements a parking brake that cannot be disengaged manually nor by supplying a trickle of power, such that the car cannot merely be “towed” to a recharging station. So youve got not merely a disabled car but rather a two-ton brick. That last, if true, is a design catastrophe.

    More generally: Consumer Reports put the Tesla’s range at ~260 miles. Tesla (which claims a 300 mile range) put their stations 200 miles apart – and warn that cold weather can reduce the range 10%, and parking overnight can reduce the range further, and running the heat in February can be a big hit on the range (I saw a blog comment by a Leaf owner whose heater nearly doubled their power consumption), and keeping up with the traffic can reduce the range (on what stretch of I-95 can you drive at 55 without angering other drivers?). Tesla set up a test their car could only fail, if it were driven like a typical car rather than lovingly babied by an aficionado of electric vehicles. Broder may be an oil-industry hack, but Tesla handed him the keys on a test drive that their car was never likely to pass. That’s stupidity, hubris, or some sort of scheme to engineer a contretemps.

  156. 156
    keestadoll says:

    None of this matters to the aging male silver-ponytailed baby boomer whose chief concerns are maintaining a constant flow of Viagra, creating a diversion from his retreating hairline, and ability to have bragging rights among his Yerba Matte-sipping carbon-neutral buddies.

    No price or technical glitch is too high!

  157. 157
    Nunya says:

    Efforts to squeeze some sort of worthwhile conclusions out of Broder’s article are noble in the sense of extending the guy a huge benefit of the doubt, but they’re entirely a waste of time because, as the logs demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt, the guy is a complete fucking liar.

  158. 158
    Mike E says:

    I watched the American Experience episode on Henry Ford, and I bet if he was alive today, he’d take issue with everyone commenting here. Well, speaking for myself as a pro union, charcoal grill using, Ford minivan driving liberal, I bet I’d make his head asplode. And tote bags. Also.

  159. 159
    Anonymous37 says:

    @Warren Terra: I don’t trust Broder, and I suspect he sexed up the details a fair bit

    Except that the sexing up is the point of Broder’s original article. Had he fully related all of the details, including Tesla’s original instructions and his deviations from same, as well as his not charging the damn car overnight as anyone with a brain would have done, then the internet response would have been mild: “Okay, if I don’t plug in my electric car overnight, the range will suffer. I thought plugging in overnight was something every electric car user does, but whatever.”

    Instead, if the logs are to be believed (and short of Tesla knowingly altering them, I see no reason not to), he lied. He didn’t set the cruise control to 54mph. He took a detour through Manhattan traffic. And those slight variations, given that the destination distance and car range were very close with his partial charging, were very likely the difference between making it and running out of charge.

    If he did indeed run out of charge. I am amazed that a reporter wouldn’t think of making a cellphone video the moment he was unable to start the car. I am also amazed that he didn’t think to contact Tesla at that point in order to get their immediate response. The only conclusion I can come to is that Broder lied, and his “sexing the story up” wasn’t the accumulation of a few minor details or lack of same.

  160. 160
    Walker says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Everything you are bringing up hinges on the reliability of Broder’s narrative. These logs (which are the most trustworthy part of any complex system) assert to be a massive liar. Unless these logs are faked, any arguments from authority (and that is exactly what a narrative without external evidence is) from him are worthless.

    The only way that you can support Broder is by claiming Musk is a liar.

  161. 161
    Stan Gable says:


    Except that the sexing up is the point of Broder’s original article.

    Yeah, the other thing is that the existence of all the charging stations along the route means that the only reason the car ended up on the flatbed is because that was the reporter’s intended outcome.

    It’s hard to make an argument that this was a good faith effort to see if the road trip was feasible therefore I assume his objective was to wind up with a dead battery and then write a story about it.

    I don’t think that’s a minor detail.

  162. 162

    @Stan Gable: You Alpha Beta’s always talk so tough.

  163. 163
    Vlad says:


    No, we don’t need to say that either Broder, or Musk, is a liar. The logs show that Broder is lying only if you accept a number of questionable, and self-serving, assumptions that Musk makes as part of his presentation:

    1. That the 1/2 mile of “driving in circles” was a deliberate attempt to kill the battery, as Musk claims, rather than an attempt to find the supercharger in the dark at the Medford service stop, as Broder claims;

    2. That Broder claimed he turned down the heat at precisely the 182 mile mark, as Musk claims, instead of about 40 miles later, as Tesla’s own log seems to indicate; and

    3. That Broder’s article suggested it was impossible to charge the car more fully, or frequently, than he did, which is not a fair reading of the article.

    I don’t think Musk is lying. I do think that Musk overreacted to the article when it came out, called Broder a liar in public, and is now attempting to save face by interpreting Broder’s article in an inaccurate/unfair way that makes it easy for Musk to point out the “lies.”

    I have to say that I’m surprised there isn’t more skepticism about Musk’s motives here. You don’t need to think that he’s a bad guy to see that this is very obviously a PR situation for his company, and he’s not exactly unbiased.

  164. 164
    chopper says:


    duh. your point?

  165. 165
    Anna in PDX says:

    @chopper: OK but 74 degrees, really? Isn’t that sort of warm? And he said he was turning it down when he turned it up? I am thinking about buying an electric car once my son has my current car and it is paid off. And I have done a little bit of research about it already. And it is a pretty basic fact that yes if you run the heater/AC it will run down the battery. EV makers are not trying to hide this fact.

  166. 166
    Warren Terra says:

    There seem to be a number of bad-faith criticisms here. There are definitely things to criticize in Broder’s actions and especially his writing – his failing to completely charge the car at his pit particularly stops demands explanation, and looks fishy – but people who say things like “he said he was turning it down when he turned it up” are deliberately misreading the log (the point at which he turned the heat down was clearly later). Similarly the people who accuse him of “driving at 80” – he very briefly spiked to 80 for some reason that could have been passing a semi trailer, or could have been a foot cramp. Again, Broder’s actual driving behavior is deeply suspect (it’s not clear when he supposedly drove at 45 for a long time as he claims), but the claims made against him exaggerate and so lack credibility.

    Basically: both sides here seem to have valid complaints about the other’s performance. Rather than relying on these, both sides are making exaggerated claims and destroying their own credibility. A dispiriting performance.

  167. 167
    khead says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Both sides do it! Awesome.

  168. 168
    chopper says:

    @Anna in PDX:

    no, they arent trying to hide it per se but considering the main reason the car didn’t make it is because the guy didn’t fuckin charge it, pointing at the heater is not good PR. that’s all I’m sayin.

  169. 169
    chopper says:

    @Warren Terra:

    ‘foot cramp’?

  170. 170
    Warren Terra says:

    You’ve never stretched a cramped foot and floored a gas pedal in the middle of a long road trip on an empty road? Especially if you happened not to be using cruise control?

  171. 171
    Stan Gable says:

    @Warren Terra:

    You’ve never stretched a cramped foot and floored a gas pedal in the middle of a long road trip on an empty road? Especially if you happened not to be using cruise control?

    I can’t say that I’ve ever done that, especially in an instance when I’m concerned about range.

    Fact is that there are a bunch of minor areas where he described taking a bunch of range-extending actions that mostly appear to be fiction. Maybe the heater’s not that big of a deal. Maybe the 80mph excursion’s not that big of a deal. Maybe he forgot that he set cruise at 55mph instead of 45mph. The problem I have is that all of these things point to a guy who wasn’t really that concerned with reaching his destination.

  172. 172
    chopper says:

    @Warren Terra:

    i’ve driven the stretch between DC and NY a thousand times. never done that. sounds like a wacky reason he would go 80.

  173. 173
  174. 174
    Tomolitics says:

    Late in the game/thread but here is Broder’s reply to Tesla’s blog accusations and data:

    Have to say that his comment on the cruise control basically jumping up to 80 on a downhill did not make a lot of sense to me.

  175. 175
    chopper says:


    you’d think he would have reported something that goofy in the story.

  176. 176
    Stan Gable says:


    Have to say that his comment on the cruise control basically jumping up to 80 on a downhill did not make a lot of sense to me.

    Seems implausible. I assume that Tesla probably has accelerator and brake pedal input data, so we’ll see.

  177. 177
    different-church-lady says:

    Looking at the back and forth, I’m at a loss to understand why the speed indications on the logs and the display of the speedometer would differ. You’d have to believe one of two things for that to be so:

    1) Telsa has bothered to build two different ways to measure speed into each car.

    2) Telsa has decided that showing an artificially low speed to the driver is of some sort of benefit.

  178. 178
    chopper says:

    @Stan Gable:

    maybe the computer controller got a foot cramp.

  179. 179
    Obliterati says:

    Okay, seriously:

    This car costs $100,000! If I drop a hundred grand on a car it better go exactly where I want it to go, at whatever speed I want to go, with an internal temperature of whatever I decide, without failing or acting weird or involving confusing, complicated instructions. And it better bake me a damn cake at the end of the trip too.

  180. 180
    butler says:


    This car costs $100,000! If I drop a hundred grand on a car it better go exactly where I want it to go, at whatever speed I want to go, with an internal temperature of whatever I decide, without failing or acting weird or involving confusing, complicated instructions.

    And the car in questions will do exactly that. What it won’t do is continue to function after it loses its source of power and you, the operator, fail to replenish it. Which is true of any car whether it costs 10K or 100K or a million. User error knows no price point.

  181. 181
    different-church-lady says:

    @Obliterati: Point of order:

    The base Model S starts at US$59,900 with a 40 kW·h battery pack up to US$79,900 with the 85 kW·h pack before any government subsidies.[4][10]

    Which is not to refute your point, but still.

  182. 182
    Speedenator says:

    Disclaimer: I have a Model S. A made-in-fucking-America electric car powered by made-in-fucking-America electricity generated by deposited-in-America rain that then flows into rivers that are bottled up by dams. To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, “It goes really fast and doesn’t get really shitty gas mileage!”

    I have the 85 kWh battery. Initially, they were claiming this provides a range of 300 miles. It turns out that they recommend a lower degree of charging that puts it at 240 miles. My to / from commute is about 7 miles, and the range drops by about 22 miles (I’m usually plugging the car in at night at 218). I haven’t done long road trips yet. Ambient temperature outside ranges from 32 – 50 (that’s right, I’m nowhere near CA :) ). There is an option to go into “extended range” driving but there’s a big disclaimer that it will cause more severe wear on your battery, thus they don’t recommend doing that. Feels a bit like a bait & switch to me, but that’s a far cry from what Broder did write.

    The telemetry on the car is as exact as Musk puts out… so the data is FAR more accurate than what a reporter likely imagines or thinks he did. Broder may be misremembering at some points (e.g. cruise control at 45 vs 60) but from the data, pretty clear that he was not interested in writing that fair of an article. There ARE points to the negative on the Tesla, but really performance and range aren’t where it’s at (charging time at SuperChargers IS one, and it gets a little light in the front about 90, but I digress).

    Rock on.

  183. 183
    Roy G. says:

    It’s funny how this thread is like the ‘wingers deconstructing Obama’s shotgun picture. Well, the car logs COULD have been faked… just like the smoke coming out of the barrel. Obama and Musk BOTH have technology that could make that happen. And Musk SAYS he’s a car guy, just like Obama SWEARS he’s a gun owner. We just don’t KNOW for SURE.

  184. 184
    Gravie says:

    We test-drove the EV1 for two weeks back in 1995. I loved that car. Just loved it. Everyone we encountered on the roads around DC, where we live, was incredibly enthusiastic and excited about the vehicle, as were the other test drivers who stood up and testified about their experience at a banquet that GM and Pepco, our local utility company, threw for us. It broke my heart that this technology was torpedoed and went nowhere. I have no idea about the Tesla but I would come down on the side of this innovation every time, no questions asked.

  185. 185
    bcw says:

    Broder wrote numerous false equivalence articles on global warming in the NY Times. For years, every piece of evidence presented for global warming from a reputable scientific source was carefully framed against unsupported supposition from economists or lawyers from the Heartland institute or some other Mobil mouthpiece so as to leave no hope that the nonexpert could ever hope to understand what was real.

  186. 186
    Chris T. says:

    @Obliterati: A Bugatti Veyron costs a million bucks, and if you pee in the tank instead of putting gasoline in it, it won’t go.

  187. 187
    Cpl. Cam says:

    @Stan Gable: Wouldn’t it be a lot better to just get a positive review of his car in the New York Times?

  188. 188
    El Cid says:

    There was a time when over-monied types paid far too much for various types and origins of coffee when no one else would, but their overpaid geekdom paved the way for the ability of ordinary people to buy decent coffee in their grocery store years later.

    The big dollar “first adopters” of Tesla are likely funding the generation of performance-oriented battery / hybric / electric drive tech to come.

  189. 189
    Sebastian says:

    In the meantime, CNNMoney automobiles writer Peter Valdes-Dapena conducted an investigation of his own by duplicating the exact route Broder drove from Washington DC to Boston.

    No sweat.

  190. 190
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @butler: Don’t you know Maseratis run on kitten farts and rainbows!?

  191. 191
    Stan Gable says:

    @Cpl. Cam:

    Wouldn’t it be a lot better to just get a positive review of his car in the New York Times?

    Given the EV background, they might want to get ahead of the curve by pantsing a reporter in public.

  192. 192
    Thymezone says:

    why did the Times have an environment reporter test drive the car rather than an automotive reporter?

    Maybe they wanted someone who could write about the topic without stupid and ill informed gushing over a technology whose time WILL NEVER COME because it is too expensive and can’t compete with the good old internal combustion engine as long as there is cheap fuel to be found. That’s why, Doug.

    The car magazine writer types can’t write about any car without gushing over irrelevant crap and criticizing things that irritate sixteen years olds.

  193. 193
    Frank in midtown says:

    Mr. Broder’s work is destined for the Journal of Irreproducable Results.

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