Tuesday morning we'll take a one day test drive in the Tesla (TSLA)Model S from Washington, DC to a suburb just outside Boston. We are not the first, nor will we be the last to recreate the same test drive that led to a very public spat between New York Times Reporter John Broder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. If you haven't followed the back and forth between Broder and Musk, it's worth going back on CNBC.com and reading what both men wrote about Broder's test Drive of the Model S.
(Read More: CEO: Report About Tesla Electric Car Is Bogus)
Whether you believe Broder or Musk, one thing is clear, this is a watershed year for Tesla and the Model S.
It's one reason Musk responded so vehemently to Broders article and a picture showing a dead Model S being loaded onto a flatbed and being towed away.
Musk believes Broder paints the Model S as a flawed and ultimately impractical car. That is the last thing Tesla needs in a year when it is expected to finally post a profitable quarter and make the Model S more than just a niche car.
Why is this such a critical year for Tesla?
I recently talked with a respected veteran auto analyst about Tesla. The analyst does not cover Tesla, but he's watched the firm closely. I asked him for his take on Tesla. "If they can get up to speed this year and the Model S takes off, watch out. Tesla will turn heads," he said.
(Read More: Tesla's 'Model S' Wins Car of the Year Award)
Sure, there are a lot of unknowns.
Can Tesla deliver 20,000 Model S Sedans?
Can the company keep costs in check while ramping up production of the Model S?
Once thousands of the Model S models hit the road, will there be reliability issues?
Behind all those questions is a skepticism in the U.S. that electric vehicles will ever become viable, every day cars you see in your neighborhood. I hear it on a regular basis. Just a few days ago when I told a friend I was making this test drive he said, "Come on, how many people are really ever going to buy an electric car." Implicit in his comment was the suggestion EV's will be limited to a few wealthy or "greenie" types.
Musk believes otherwise. For him, this is the start of the electric car revolution. The start of EV's popping up in mass numbers all around the U.S., and eventually around the world. It's a bold vision, and you may think he's nuts. Believe me, there are plenty of people in the auto industry who think a pure electric car will never work. There are also plenty who are scared to death Musk and Tesla are right.
Time will tell if 2013 is the year Musk and Tesla go from being a fledgling auto maker and become a car company with the staying power.
(Read More: Toyota Top Auto Brand, Tesla Gaining: Survey)
And right now, whether or not that happens depends largely on the Model S. Let's hit the road.
-By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com
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