I traveled from my home in Portland, Oregon, to Harris Ranch, California, on a beautiful day in May of 2015. At the time, the battery swap station was being promoted as a way for drivers of the company's vehicles to get to their destinations in less time than it takes to fill up a car with gas. I decided to spend a long Memorial Day weekend in California's Central Valley to see if Musk's latest piece of dream weaving could stand up to reality.

There, amid the pervasive stench of cow droppings from a nearby feedlot, I discovered that the battery swap station was not available to owners who drove between California's two largest cities. The company was using diesel generators to power additional Superchargers, the kind that take 30 to 60 minutes to charge a battery, to handle the holiday rush, their exhaust mingling with the unmistakable smell of bullshit.

I never could have predicted that the decision to find the truth underlying Musk's promises would change my life in ways I never could have imagined. The world seems to be understanding what I learned from the experience, that once you stop taking Musk at his word, his heroic popular image evaporates and a far darker reality begins to reveal itself.

Finding those diesel-powered Superchargers called into question the two pillars ofTesla's image: an environmental mission and technological leadership. I found out that the carbon impact of the cars that it sold was overstated, and that it was getting double the California Zero-Emission Vehicle credits for every car it sold.

I reasoned that the duplicity on the part ofTesla couldn't be an accident. Warren Buffet says there is never just one insect. In the years that followed, my investigations turned up no shortage of roaches.

In the year 2016 I found out that the company had been requiring customers to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to get free repairs to defects. This practice kept bad news away from investors and cut off auto safety regulators from their only independent source of information about defects. Even after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called the practice unacceptable, and after major media outlets picked up the story, I was accused of faking it.

I was mobbed by angry fans on the internet despite not knowing what short selling was all about. Here was the turducken ofTesla's information control strategy, which included a vicious pack of online enforcers and a total disregard for facts. It didn't matter how much evidence I had, or how little Musk had, there was always a large and growing community willing to disagree with their hero.

Factual reporting drew attacks rather than refutation, Musk's unofficial social media enforcers evolved from a mob to an array of media outlets, and the stock always kept climbing. There was clear evidence of Musk's overpromising, and stories that would have earned any other automaker a congressional hearing, all became lost in the shadow of his ever-growing legend. Musk's reputation for aggression made it difficult for many potential sources to come forward, including some of the most eye-opening anecdotes I heard in more than 100 interviews with former employees.

I almost gave up on the possibility that my reporting and analysis could explain the realities of auto manufacturing and self-drive cars by the time my book was released. It was only one thing that mattered toTesla's fortunes: their faith in Musk. I realized that this wasn't a story from which most people would learn important lessons about critical industries and technologies, but a celebrity story.

There are just three explanations for Musk's behavior.

Musk's celebrity has proved to be as resilient as it is unique because of the genuine enthusiasm for the products he delivered. When it wasn't the third such move, calling one of the Thai cave rescuers apedo was secure. It's not the first story showing the deep cynicism behind the environmental mission of the company.

Even as his behavior became more erratic and his science fiction fantasies became less plausible, Musk's fame and stock price have continued to grow. I didn't want to become a celebrity journalist because I realized that his personality was the key to his entire empire, even though I had heard stories and rumors about his personal life that suggested it was out of control. When Insider reported that Musk had paid a cabin crew member on his private jet $250,000 to settle allegations of sexual misconduct, the only surprise for me was that reporters who cover celebrity scandals had taken so long to catch on.

I have never known how this story would play out, and many of the twists and turns over the years have been total surprises, but a single intuition has never left me: Musk's trajectory is unsustainable. It was only a matter of time before his arrogance and impunity caused his mask to fall, and then the world would be ready to learn that the valuation of the company was built on deception.

We were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters on its head, but now it seems that Musk has finally lost his aura. Social media is a topic that everyday observers were able to see that Musk's judgment could be questioned, especially as he tried to go back on his deal to buy the company. Musk's plans for a quintupling revenue while reducing reliance on advertising are no more implausible than his other plans.

I don't know what the immediate future holds for Musk and his company, even though I have been here for seven years. If people are ready to learn what I have discovered in my time not taking Musk at his word, at least some part of his spell must have been broken. If my experience has taught me anything, it is that once you stop taking his words at face value, you can never hear him again.