Lauren Goode

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Tesla Owners Hit the Road to Prove Long-Distance Can Be Done

A group of Tesla Model S owners, charged up over a recent New York Times column that challenged the reliability of the electric vehicle, hit the road this weekend to replicate the same drive the Times reporter made.

One of the Tesla S Road Trip cars, at a charging station in Milford, CT.

One of the Tesla S Road Trip cars, at a charging station in Milford, Conn.

The group, which started out with nine cars, drove the 353 miles from Rockville, Md. to Groton, Conn., live-tweeting telemetry updates and color commentary throughout the trip.

But not all of the starting nine completed the entire drive, for varying reasons.

I happened to cross paths with them today at a highway rest stop in Milford, Conn., where I saw the Teslas charging and found the owners sitting inside at a Dunkin’ Donuts. They were on their way back home.

At the rest stop, Tesla owner Aaron Schildkraut told me they had followed the same route the Times’ John Broder did, making pit stops in Newark, Del., and again in Milford, to super-charge their electric vehicles.

In case you haven’t been following the saga and are curious as to why these people would want to spend President’s Day weekend hanging out at rest stops: On Feb. 8, the New York Times ran a column titled “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway”, that recounted a less-than-positive experience with the Tesla Model S, an award-winning electric vehicle that claims a 256-mile-per-charge estimated range. Broder’s car battery died during the test drive.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to call the Times piece a “fake,”  and followed up with a blog post that his supporters said backed up his assertion. Then Broder responded with a blog post of his own. Short version: If you’re a big Tesla fan, you don’t believe the Times. Lots of other people do.

The “Tesla Road Trip” folks aren’t the first to jump at the opportunity to mimic Broder’s drive. Last week, a reporter from CNN made the drive from Washington, D.C., to Boston without needing the help of a flatbed truck, although, as the reporter wrote, the trip was not anxiety-free.

The Tesla Road Trip drivers, hanging out inside the rest stop while they wait for their cars to finish charging.

The Tesla Road Trip drivers, hanging out inside the rest stop while they wait for their cars to finish charging.

None of the Tesla Road Trip cars have run out of juice, the group said. But the trip was not without incident: One driver’s Tesla S stopped working at the Delaware charging station, due to what they believe was faulty circuitry. The owner called Tesla support, the group said, and a software update was pushed to his car remotely, allowing him to drive it to Milford.

Tesla has not yet responded to a request for comment about that vehicle’s troubles.

In total, only four of the original nine Tesla S drivers stuck it out for the whole trip, from Rockville to Groton and back south. Some opted out early on, in Delaware. Another driver, during the first leg of the trip, chose to stay in New York City and see a Broadway play.

“We were going 65 [miles per hour] pretty much the whole trip,” Schildkraut said, noting that they slowed down when they drove through New York City and when they encountered snowy weather.

“I think Broder’s biggest problem was that he didn’t charge his car fully,” one of the drivers, Dante Richardson, opined. “You wouldn’t fill up your car with gas for 50 miles if you were taking a 100-mile road trip.”

The group said their trip was not commissioned or sponsored by Tesla, although they said Tesla vice president of sales George Blankenship contacted them after hearing about the mission.

“We FaceTimed with him during the drive,” said driver Lanny Hartmann, who spearheaded most of the group’s social media efforts.


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