Top Gear On Electric Cars: “We Are Allowed To Put Into A Film What We Want To”

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BBC Top Gear Team Use Handicapped Spaces During Electric Car Segment

BBC Top Gear Team Use Handicapped Spaces During Electric Car Segment

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Uh-ho. Those crafty chaps known as the BBC Top Gear team may have thought they got away with their recent review of the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Peugeot iOn (a rebadged predecessor to the 2012 Mitsubishi i)  - but they would be wrong.  

The fur started flying yesterday, when Nissan Senior Vice President Andy Palmer gave an interview to The Times  newspaper in which he said that the all-electric hatchback had apparently been driven around in loops to force its battery to drain flat, purposely misrepresenting the car. 

Now Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman has responded to the allegations of foul play.

Top Gear Stage Another Electric Car Stunt

Top Gear Stage Another Electric Car Stunt

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“Our film was a snapshot of living with an electric car. A film is an impression of life. We are allowed to put into a film what we want to”, Wilman is quoted as saying by the Herald Sun. “We can’t cover every base.”

And in a newly released statement on the BBC Top Gear Transmission Blogs, Wilman refutes the accusations from Nissan -- and many electric car fans and Leaf drivers -- that both Leaf and Peugeot iOn were badly represented on the show. 

“When we set off, we knew we would have to recharge at some point, because that was an experience we wanted to devote part of the film to,” Wilman writes. “The Leaf is a very good car per se, and there’s nothing wrong with electric motors, but the battery, in our view, remains the Achilles’ heel of the whole package”

While presenter Jeremy Clarkson was mildly positive about the Leaf during his test drive, as soon as it started to run out of charge his demeanor changed dramatically, with a large portion of the review devoted to the time it would take to fully recharge the car on a completely empty battery. 

Sounds plausible, right? Not quite. As we found out in May shortly after the film crew was spotted in Lincolnshire, England filming the segment, both cars were purposely left overnight the day before filming without a recharge, starting the film shoot with just 40 miles of range

As for running out? We’ve confirmed with a Nissan spokesperson that Clarkson’s Leaf was driven to empty, leaving it with just a 1.33% capacity remaining in its battery pack, meaning that the Top Gear team chose to ignore all of Nissan’s audible and visual warnings that the car needed to recharge. 

Yes, shocks of all shocks - the Leaf feature was scripted for entertainment purposes. 


BBC Top Gear Team Use Handicapped Spaces

BBC Top Gear Team Use Handicapped Spaces

Enlarge Photo

But while electric car fans and journalists alike are being urged by the BBC to remember that Top Gear is an entertainment show rather than a factual motoring program, the episode has faced criticism from a completely different group, one with more political clout - handicapped drivers. 

During the segment, Messers Clarkson and May pulled into a parking lot to discuss the cars. Unfortunately, they occupied at least three handicapped spaces in the process. 


As for the Nissan Leaf? We’re not sure the latest Top Gear episode is anything to worry about. After all, as someone told us earlier this week, “No-one who watches Top Gear and takes what they say seriously would be buying an electric car anyway.”

We think they have a point. 

Is it time to ignore Top Gear's electric car verdicts? Tell us your opinion in the Comments below. 

[BBC, Herald Sun]

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Comments (23)
  1. It's an entertainment show with their "car verdicts" being rather irrelevant... While quite revolutionary a few years ago (filming is still top notch), the humor begins to wear me out. The season 2 of the American version appeals more to me now...

  2. After putting up with the BBC and its fraudulent behavior for the past 40 years, this comes as no surprise. While Clarkson is quite correct in stating that the battery is the problem in this particular car,
    the problem is due to battey prices, not so much any operational deficiency. He should know that and have addressed the issue in a more intelligent manner.

  3. The smartest thing Top Gear have done is appear as a factual show to their millions of devoted fans and an entertainment show to their detractors.

    Even if EV buyers aren't normally watching, someone in the household probably is.

    Remember this will fund its way to 300 million viewers in the coming months

  4. "The smartest thing Top Gear have done is appear as a factual show to their millions of devoted fans and an entertainment show to their detractors"

    Good observation! This is the ideal set up for mass manipulation, and boy did they do a number on the unsuspecting crowd playing into their fear of being stranded, being an early adopter betting on the wrong technology and their fear of batteries based on experience with abused batteries in cheaply produced consumer electronics.

  5. Entertainment is definitely the key word. The Top Gear UK show takes normal car issues and accentuates them to make the show more enjoyable.
    - No Horse Power, but 16 cup holders!!
    - Flappy paddle gearbox, Why?!
    - An SUV, with two wheel drive, what engineer thought this up?!
    In my opinion (and I prefer electrics to gas/diesel cars), the show took the obvious flaws of current electrics (high cost, low range, and long charging time) ... [no standards for charging outlets @ level 1, 2, 3, 4, AC or DC , would be my next choice] ... and showed them in a humorous way.
    Just like an old Hummer & a Porsche 911 have obvious flaws (but people still bought them), electric cars definitely have universal flaws that the show would be remiss to skip over.

  6. So when are they going to lampoon the enormous sums of cash one forks over to put petrol into a Range Rover or Veyron? (which of course, is the obvious Achilles heel of said vehicles)

    Yeah, that's just what I thought.

  7. Oh Oh, and just to add a bit more... I don't offend easily but the show is quite offensive always making fun of other nationalities (poor Australians, Americans and even the Mexicans got a taste of that crap for no reason recently), so it's the main thing that bugs me - you just don't do it these days (or is it just America) - it makes you look and sound stupid. The American version can have some good humor without making fun of groups of people or burning RVs.

  8. I think the Top Gear stunt was pretty balanced. Of course they concentrated on charging time - it's one of the important things potential buyers like me want to know. At no time did TG say the cars were fully charged.

    They liked the car and mentioned many positive things about - rightly so. But every car manufacturer should expect the 'bad things' about a car or technology to be aired - like it or not, the truth hurts sometimes.

    Thankfully, TG did not do the test in winter, 4 up and in Scotland!

  9. If it was so balanced, where was the

    - Rapid charge at Smiths Nissan, Peterborough, en route to Cleethorpes?

    - Mention of the announcement by Chargemaster of 4000 charge posts being installed in towns across the UK which would solve the searching issue or indeed the Sat-Nav's ability to pinpoint chargers?

    - Discussions of long warranties on EV batteries rather than trying to tar them with this 5 year brush.

    - Highlighting of breakthroughs by the likes of MIT in lithium-air technology, which gives energy density of 2500 wh/kg. Put another way, enough to drive a Tesla over 3000 miles on a charge.

    - Correction to their previous piece which claimed charging an EV = coal fired power stations. They could have set the record straight on that.

  10. They showed surprise when the charge was up. That implied that the car had failed(since they are professional drivers) and only their admitting IN THE PROGRAMME to starting with a third charge would have countered the slander.

  11. I've been showing electric cars at public events since before the Top Gear episode about the Tesla Roadster. I frequently talk to people who are interested in electric vehicles, but took the information presented in that episode as factual. They are surprised to find out that the running out of battery scene was faked and that the car will go 240 miles at 55 mph or 175 miles at 70 mph on a single charge. It was bad enough when they were spreading misinformation about an exotic sports car, but far worse to be doing that with a mass market car.

  12. A typical day in the life of an EV doesn't involve leaving it off-charge the night before then driving too far and moaning about the recharge time. How many EV owners do you know that moan about recharge time? How many ICE car owners do you know that moan about fuel costs?

    No, a typical day in the life of an EV is going to work/shopping/friends and occasionally embarrassing M3s... again... but that's another story.

  13. Incidentally, I left my Leaf off charge last night, and still managed to do all my day's driving with less than half a charge!

  14. That's bizarre; I guess you're not making a fake reality scripted entertainment consumer interest factual mock-u-mentory comedy show then.

  15. When is the last time Top Gear had a segment on a gas-powered automobile running out of gas in the middle of nowhere?

    When I see that. then I would give them a little credit for being balanced. Until then I really feel they are going out of their way to make electric cars seem like a bad idea.

  16. As it's been discovered that Top Gear is in part sponsored/funded by oil&gas firms, no one should be surprised with their general anti-EV slant. Hopefully their audience is smart enough to search out truthful sources of information before drawing any conclusions. And since when does calling a show "Entertainment" give the producers a license to sell lies?

  17. That's the same excuse Rush Limbaugh gives when he is caught telling lies also. "It's only entertainment."

  18. Early adopters of newer technologies will probably always attract ridicule, especially from those already entrenched (and currently locked into the fossil-fool ideology)...but let's not obsess about that as we strive toward energy independence and more, while laughing all the way to the bank and helping defund terrorism's cash cow of petrodollars in one feel swoop...

  19. I saw an article in yesterday's Metro paper that was referring to this research:

    Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

    So can we unequivocally convince 10% of the people of the benefits of EVs?

  20. Top Schmear...I...I mean Gear is barely entertaining at tall, anaway. I must be too serious a car nut.

  21. I sincerely hope that they sue . They said they were setting out on a 'perfectly ordinary trip to the seaside'. Most important, who would go on such a journey on one third charge. Who would choose Cleeethorpes from London. Who would not check where recharge points are . They knew they could not reach their destination and then pretended to be surprised when they had to stop in Lincoln. That alone implies that the car should have got to the destination and back and that it, the car, failed.

  22. Yes, it doesn't seem that EV owners surprisingly run out of juice. I don't know why TG thinks they have to show us for every EV what that would look like. Although maybe I would like to see it for the Model S, just to see their cameraman's take on the Model S.

  23. Actually Norbet for many the shock will be that on a supposedly factual programme, they are effectively acting out a script and...acting!. The bias towards EVs is of course not surprising from those who need a junky thrill from their engines.

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