Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc., lashed out at a New York Times reviewer who wrote about a nail-biting tale of woe trying to take one of the $100,000 vehicles on an extended motor trip.
On CNBC Monday, Musk called the review a "fake" and said the reviewer didn't fully charge the Tesla Model S and took a detour during the test. "NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake," Musk later tweeted.
NYT reviewer John Broder wrote: "I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn't smiling."
The reason, he said, was during the cold weather conditions, the car's batteries didn't deliver nearly the stated range and the only two charging stations between New York and Boston were too far apart to reach. He wrote that he needed to have the car towed to a charging station after the battery quit.
In a statement responding to Musk's comments, the newspaper said the review was "completely factual, describing the trip as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was 'fake' is, of course, flatly untrue." And, "There was no unreported detour."
The review touched a nerve that is at the heart of the unwillingness of many drivers to embrace electric cars: The fear of getting stuck without power and long recharge times limiting extended road trips. The Tesla has a special fast-charging battery (less than an hour) that can be filled at charging stations under construction across the country.
Tesla claims the Model S has a range of up to 300 miles per charge, although the NYT reviewer said in his tests it was less than half that and he was forced to throttle the heater to save power.
"Essentially, we think the article is a bit of a set up and is unreasonable," Musk said on CNBC.
Tesla is closely watched by investors because it's one of the few publicly traded electric car companies. The 10-year-old, Silicon Valley-based company received $465 million in funding from the U.S. government and $10 million from the state of California.