As every gearhead knows, Tesla had their comeuppance last week. A New York Times reporter tried to drive a Tesla from DC to Boston, it died, and it wouldn’t even roll onto the flatbed recovery vehicle. Tesla then went into media relations meltdown, blaming the journalist for not using their preferred “hypermiling” driving style. 

‘Tis nothin’ new… Back in the late 60s Car and Driver wrote an unflattering Road Test of the new Porsche 914. Somewhere between the writing and distribution Porsche read  the unflattering revue and then read C&D the riot act. Under threat of losing one of their biggest advertisers, C&D backed down and thousands of 914 owners weren’t given fair warning of what they were buying. Couple decades later Daimler was introducing their new Freightliner Century heavy truck, and one of the trucking mags picked a veteran Consolidated Freightways driver with a mere couple million miles behind the wheel of previous Freightliner models to test the new truck. His review wasn’t entirely complementary, and though the revue made it to press Daimler demanded and got a more favorable retest with a different driver/writer. But the truth worked it’s way out- over a decade after it’s introduction, the Century is widely considered to be a cheap throwaway fleet truck, born out by it’s anemic resale value. 

So it’s no surprise that after a Times motojournalist did his job and gave the Tesla a real world test that it colossally flunked, Tesla blamed the motojournalist. Tesla’s chorus of electric car junkies joined in the whining, unwilling to admit that their fantasy of an electric car future isn’t ready for prime time.

It’s not the motojournalists job to produce sugar coated thinly disguised ad copy for the motor vehicle makers. I get suspicious when i see a “softball” road test, conducted on a flat rural freeway or sometimes never even leaving the parking lot. In the real world we buy vehicles and drive them all over the countryside in all seasons and keep on driving them for years and even decades. That’s why a road test route should include city street and dirt road driving as well as easy expressways, and be conducted in as wide a weather extremes as possible. Tested in real world environments, Volvo’s low RPM Interstate cruiser and Hog(NYSE)’s cruisers don’t cut it. 

And electric cars? Tesla’s is one of the most sophisticated and has the longest range, and it still didn’t make it. Not hard to see why-  at a steady 55 MPH pace that nobody drives at, the Tesla with the biggest battery option has a range of a mere 300 miles. Tesla brags about their “supercharger” charging stations that can recharge in an hour, but there’s less than a dozen in this huge country. On garden variety 120 volt electricity it takes 60 hours to charge a Tesla. Let’s see, I live 600 miles from a Tesla dealer, so a round trip to bring the Tesla in for service would take a mere eight days. On a day like today with heavy wet snow to push through and and power redirected to defrost windows and keep the lights lit, a five year old Tesla would be lucky to make the 150 mile roundtrip to Sioux Falls I made the other day, and then it’d need two and a half days recharging to repeat the “feat”. And this is the best electric car in the biz… can you imagine how short the real world range will be of a decade old Nissan Leaf that’s worth less than the cost of a new battery?

That’s why we need more motojournalists, especially the bloggers and small publishers and nonprofits like Motorcycle Consumer News and Consumer Reports that owe nothing to advertisers because they don’t have any. And BTW, of late CR has been exposing some of the Hybrid and Electric cars questionable mileage and range claims…