Skip to comments.Taxpayer Millions, Lithium Ion and Rich People Just Don't Mix Well (Elon Musk)
Posted on 02/12/2013 9:29:15 AM PST by jazusamo
Undoubtedly alternative energy and transportation innovator Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) like his competitor for the taxpayer-funded, six-figure electric automobile market Henrik Fisker is a smart guy. But will economic and technological realities humble him, or worse, make him look like a fool?
After the experiencerecounted last week by New York Times journalist John Broder, who test drove the Tesla Model S in frigid conditions that required frequent unplanned recharging stops throughout the Northeast, humility is out of the question for Musk. The jury is still out on inanity.
The Times published Broders devastating account on Friday. The plan was for the reporter to set out from the Washington, D.C. area and examine the claims that the Model S battery has a 300-mile range on a full charge, utilizing the carefully spaced new superchargers located at rest areas in Newark, Del. and Milford, Conn. approximately 200 miles apart. Broder explained that the 480-volt superchargers (other companies amusingly call them fast chargers) require 30 minutes of juicing to provide 150 miles of range, with an hour needed to fully charge the EV.
The first leg of the trip, from D.C. to the Delaware station, was uneventful, according to Broder. However the recharging process doesnt sound like it went as promoted, requiring 50 minutes to fully power the half-drained lithium ion battery.
From there it was all-downhill, and not in the gliding wheeee! sense of the term. Rather, Broder noticed a dramatic, sudden drop on the battery indicator, and realized he would need to preserve his power by turning off cabin heat (outside temperatures were in the 30s) and slow down to 54 miles-per-hour, realizing that making it to Milford would be dicey. Range anxiety set in.
All the while, Broder wrote, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white.
The remainder of his experience ( it must be read to be believed) only got worse. Suffice it to say it was filled with fits, starts, warning signals, an overnight loss in 10-degree Connecticut weather of 65 miles of range, unplanned hours of slower-than-expected travel, and ultimately a tow-away.
Fortunately, Broder observed, the cab of the tow truck was toasty.
Following his report, Teslas stock price promptly plummeted. According to Bloomberg shares declined up to 4.4 percent the biggest intraday drop since Dec. 13 before recovering slightly. That sent Musk into emergencyTwitter mode on Monday, looking to mitigate the damage. In consecutive posts, he wrote:
NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn't actually charge to max & took a long detour.
Tesla blog coming soon detailing what actually happened on Broders NYTimes range test. Also lining up other journalists to do same drive.
Whats that about picking fights with those who buy ink by the barrel (or pixels by the peck)? Shortly afterward Musk moderated his tone a bit, by posting, Am not against NYTimes in general. Theyre usually fair & their own prev(ious) Tesla test drive got 300+ miles of range!
Still, calling a New York Times reporters work fake (unless youre a conservative, which Musk is NOT) does not sound conciliatory to someone who is otherwise sympathetic. Instead it conjures images of Jayson Blair, which will not get the Gray Lady on your good side.
And thats pretty much what Musk did in an interview with CNBC on Monday. He characterized the article as something of a setup, and accused Broder of taking a detour through Manhattan after not starting his trip fully charged. But according to Broder, the Model S was delivered to him by a Tesla representative and the vehicle was fully charged, which got him to Delaware. Only afterward while passing through New Jersey did he begin to recognize dramatic power loss, according to his report. So either Broder is telling the truth, or hes been possessed by the Blair demon.
Right or wrong, Musks approach without working out what happened with Broder is risky and puts his companys credibility on the line. It is also reminiscent of Fiskers tactic last May, when a fire was caused by one of their extended-range electric Karmas, which led to extensive damage to the home of a Texas owner. Afterward Fisker suggested possible fraud or malicious intent was involved, which the customer did not appreciate. After another fire, in California last August, Fisker struck a similar tone that emphasized the fact that no one was hurt, rather than show concern for the losses of the Karma owner.
No injuries were reported; the vehicle was parked; and the fire was extinguished safely by the emergency services, a company statement said, dryly.
At least the Tesla Model S didnt catch fire. But Musks reaction nonetheless exhibits a bit of hubris, which is especially distasteful from a man who asked for, and received, a $465 million loan guarantee from U.S. taxpayers to help build his $101,000 toy electric car for rich people.
For all his smarts, Musk actually is pretty dependent on the government dime. He is best known as co-founder of the company that became PayPal , and is now chairman of SolarCity and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, the private space flight company. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, SolarCity spent $535,000 in 2009 and 2010 to lobby Congress and the Department of Energy on climate legislation, the Recovery Act, green workforce training and development, and provisions in various legislation relevant to solar development. SolarCity also sought to extend a program that delivered to manufacturers an upfront cash grant in lieu of a 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (called the Section 1603 grant program). Through the middle of last year, according to DOE reports, SolarCity had received more than $66 million from that program.
The company also won a partial guarantee from DOE of a $344 million loan that would place up to 160,000 rooftop solar installations on military housing across the country.
Similarly, Musks Tesla Motors spent $480,000 from 2007 to 2011 to lobby Congress, the White House, EPA and DOE on climate and energy issues, the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act, and the Recovery Act. That was rewarded with the $465 million loan.
Speaking of audacity, while taxpayers ponied up to subsidize Musks schemes and dreams, late last year he bought a mansion in ritzy Bel Air, Calif., for $17 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 20,248-square-foot home has six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, five fireplaces, a wine cellar that holds 1,000 bottles of wine and a two-story library. The property overlooks Bel-Air Country Club and includes a lighted tennis court, five garages, a pool and spa, gym and guest quarters.
And most recently, earlier this month, Musk felt so good about himself that heintruded intoBoeings business by offering help with the disastrousDreamliner shutdown. Calling Boeings lithium ion battery packs inherently unsafe, he boasted that neither Tesla or SpaceX ever had fires, despite fly(ing) high-capacity lithium-ion battery packs in our rockets and spacecraft, which are subject to much higher loads than commercial aircraft and have to function all the way from sea level air pressure to vacuum.
Musk might be right. He might even be able to help. But he also needs the taxpayers help, obviously, and the medias. The arrogant attitude and cavalier flaunting of his personal riches, while acting desensitized to those he needs, will wear thin quickly. Hes yet another character the government gives millions to that makes you shake your head.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com , an aggregator of North Carolina news.
I missed that thread, what a hoot.
I didn’t realize Musk made so little money, $33,000 a year is practically living in poverty. LOL!
I wish I could find the other two segments of that.
When his battery went dead in the library he had to start the gas motor and drive out with it sounding like a chainsaw.
The interview with potential investors was pretty good too.
“If we could staff the factory with children, that would be brilliant”
Top Gear made their own electric car and it didn’t cost taxpayers anything.
Yeah, it was a blast.
And the true believer in the trhead just couldn’t understand what the issue was.
“Elon Musk is worth 2 billions!!!” -imagine that said in squishy spittle flying voice.
“Then why does he need taxpayer money to fund his car?” -everyone else in thread.
This is what conservatives are up against, especially when the subject happens to be green fanatasies.
People have been indoctrinated since the early 80’s about green fantasy ideas.
Solar power has been “achieving parity in the next ten years” since the 70’s.
Electric cars have been messed with near forever with very little to show for it.
Heck, turbine powered cars looked promising but were killed off with little to show for the research done.
Being able to run on vodka and vegetable oil was a scary idea to some people.
Actually, the NY Times article about the performance of LiIon batteries is fairly accurate.
They perform as advertised when their temperature stays above 70F and below 120F. When you take them outside this range, they suffer serious performance loss.
If you get them too cold, they won't charge and they won't discharge, as Broder found out with his winter test-drive.
If you get them too hot they will vent and if you get them really hot, they'll burst into flames, as Boeing found out with the 787.
She’s a drug dealer.
(rep for Eli Lilly)
If I was a Dr., I’d DEFINITELY want to listen to her pitch, LOL
I just can't believe the cobalt type LiIon was approved for use in the 787 but they were. The cobalt type is the more dangerous type from what I've read but I wouldn't think any type of large capacity LiIon should be used in airliners.
Speaking of fair weather electrics, I’m wondering how my local Little Miss Adventure is doing with her black Chebby Volt right now.
Or if she’s wrecked out somewhere due to her passion for holding her cellphone to her left ear with her right hand, arm cocked over her nose while driving down the centerline.
Our recent spate of cold here couldn’t have been good for her Volt.
I know, it’s a [poorly designed] hybrid.
She probably had to use far more gasoline than normal.