A screenshot of the tweet that inspired this article.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a zealous Tesla fan on Twitter. After seeing a tweet that was contextually dishonest about Volkswagen’s Electrify America network, I told the guy that Tesla doesn’t need us to do anything dishonest to defend it. Its charging network is presently the best in the United States, hands down. It is simply so far ahead of other networks that Tesla doesn’t need us to cheat for it to win, and such an approach can actually do the Tesla brand harm.

After saying this, I started getting DMs from the person (who I will not identify, because I don’t wish to “doxx” or “brigade” them) accusing me of being overly emotional (likely because I’m a woman) to the man’s “just the facts” tweet. And that’s what he kept saying, over and over: that he only presented facts.

I don’t want to make this whole article about one bad tweet, though. There’s no shortage of bad takes on Twitter, and sometimes I’m the one making them. What I want to do here is learn from what happened so we can all be better Tesla fans who help the brand instead of hurting it.

“Facts” Are Worthless Without Context

The argument I got into reminds me of something I learned in photojournalism classes in college. When you take a still or video camera out to cover an event, the camera doesn’t lie, ever, as long as you didn’t do any dishonest editing. On the other hand, where you point the thing, how close you zoom in, and the angles you use all contribute to how honestly the photo really represents the event.

There’s a temptation to tightly crop the image around something like a protest, often just to make for an interesting image, but a dishonest person with a camera can make a protest they agree with look like it was far more well-attended than it really was. Conversely, a protest that a photographer disagrees with can be made to look like hardly anyone showed up, simply by leaving a lot of empty space in the frame.

In both cases, the image is a real image of the event in question, and is definitely “just the facts,” but context matters. By picking and choosing what to present, being careful to present things in a favorable or unfavorable light, or by only showing part of what happened, “facts” can be used to distort just as easily as they can be used to honestly present the whole truth.

How This Particular Tweet Was Dishonest

I know some readers will be quick to defend the tweet that I’m using as an example here. After all, it’s good for Tesla (and $TSLA, of course). Truth be told, Volkswagen did take an ID.4 across the country and spent 18 days doing it, too. That’s a fact, and facts are facts, right?

As I pointed out earlier, factuality alone doesn’t make for honesty. What facts one chooses to present, what they choose to ignore, and what things they compare are also factors. Let’s look at some more facts that put Volkswagen’s 18-day trip in full context.

First off, one can use Volkswagen’s Electrify America network to cross the country much faster than 18 days. As of this writing, the current EV Cannonball record (fastest trip from New York to Los Angeles) was set by a team in a Porsche Taycan. They did this in 44 hours, 26 minutes despite facing some difficulties with the Porsche and the Electrify America network. This time was made possible by the Porsche’s multi-speed transmission and the 270 kW max charging rate, and that several cross-country routes are now open.

Admittedly, the ID.4 doesn’t charge as fast and probably consumes more electricity than the smaller, faster-charging Porsche, so we need to gather more context to see what’s possible.

A Better Route Planner (which is known to be reliable and pretty accurate) shows that driving within 5% of the speed limit from New York to Los Angeles would take the ID.4 just under 55 hours. Assuming you’re not teaming up with other drivers to do it all in one go, and you’re going to stop at hotels along the way, it would make sense to drive 11 hours daily to take it relatively easily. That would mean the trip is possible in about 5 days. If you wanted to only drive 9 hours daily, make it 6 days.

Even if you only wanted to drive 8 hours per day, you could still do it in a week. That’s still 11 days less than Volkswagen took.

The only reason the Volkswagen team took 18 days for their trip was that they were slowly taking the scenic route.

Image by Volkswagen.

They went from New York to DC, then to Chicago, then down to Florida, and when they finally went across the continent, they took a number of side trips to places like Dallas and even Marfa, Texas (home of the famous Marfa Lights illusion).

So, yes, they did take 18 days touring the country, but could have easily gone a lot faster if they wanted to. Making it sound like it actually takes 18 days to go across the country in a Volkswagen ID.4 is not an honest presentation of in-context facts.

Tesla Doesn’t Need Us To Do Stuff Like This

What’s particularly silly about this is that it’s not needed. At all. Why? Because there’s plenty of stuff Tesla is doing better than Volkswagen’s ID.4 that doesn’t require that we be dishonest or play stupid games.

When it comes to the Supercharger network, they have stations in many places that Electrify America does not. The ID.4’s max charging rate is half of what most newer Tesla vehicles is. Supercharging is plug-and-play. Without playing around with out-of-context facts or stretching the truth, we can very honestly say that you’ll be able to go far fewer places and you’ll get there slower in an ID.4, and with more charging hassles.

The vehicles are better, too. Performance wise, Tesla’s cheaper Model Y is seconds faster going from 0 to 60 mph than the ID.4. The Model Y is available with 7 seats. ADAS features are better. Model Y towing capacity is better. We could probably go on all day listing ways the Model Y beats the ID.4.

These are all in-context, verifiable, unstretched facts. They’re more than enough.

Bottom line: there’s nothing to gain playing stupid games and misrepresenting facts. Tesla wins by a mile without doing that. The only thing we can accomplish being intellectually dishonest is make the Tesla community look bad.

 

 


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