Tesla V Top Gear: Top Gear’s Track Record With Electric Cars

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2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

It’s been two weeks since Californian electric automaker filed papers against the BBC’s Top Gear for libel in relation to a segment the popular entertainment show did on Tesla’s all-electric Roadster back in 2008. 

By now you’re probably familiar with the details of the case (if you’re not you can head here to check them out). What you may not know is that the 2008 Tesla Roadster wasn’t the first electric car to get the Top Gear treatment. 

Believe it or not a previous version of Top Gear covered GM’s all-electric EV1 back in 1997. A fresh-faced Quentin Wilson gave the then new electric car a mixed review. Since then, Wilson has come out the closet as an electric car convert

When the show disappeared from television screens and was reincarnated without the pro-EV Wilson, things took a turn for the worst. 

The new trio of Clarkson, May and Hammond found a new whipping boy in the form of the Indian-made Reva. Sold in the U.K. as the G-Wiz, it featured a top speed of just 40 mph and a range just about big enough to get from one side of London to the other. 

Top Gear pounced. A whole series of stunts followed which got increasingly bizzare, including a race between the electric neighborhood electric vehicle and a table which sees the $16,000 car collide with a seemingly normal wooden table. 

Recorded not by Top Gear the series, but a similar production crew in a Top-Gear Style for a non-televised DVD fronted by Jeremy Clarkson

In the video which predates the Tesla fiasco, the table appears hardly damaged, with little more than a few chips on its pristine surface, while the G-Wiz sits a few feet away from the impact crumpled and leaking battery acid. 

But just like so much on television, the crash was completely staged. 

Keith Johnston, former managing director of GoingGreen, the company responsible for importing the electric quadricycle into the U.K., recently posted his own views on the Tesla V Top Gear court case on his electric vehicle blog.

Early Reva G-Wiz

Early Reva G-Wiz

Johnston makes reference to the stunt and quotes Mike Boxwell, the G-Wiz owner who liaised had spoken to the production crew and prop crew about the stunt after it was recorded while visiting the Top Gear set for another G-Wiz event. with the BBC top gear production crew to produce the stunt. 

Boxwell’s version of the crash is dramatically different to the one played out on screen. 

"That video is...erm...significantly misleading. The table was actually built from one inch thick steel veneered with wood and mounted into the ground with 3 foot long stakes.

The chassis on the G-Wiz was cut in several places in order to ensure it crumpled correctly. How do I know? I met and spoke to the person who engineered the whole exercise. Steve was actually quite impressed at how strong the G-Wiz was. “

In other words, the G-Wiz’s untimely demise was, you guessed it, staged. 

Top Gear ER-EV 2

Top Gear ER-EV 2

Which brings us onto other stunts involving electric cars. Moving on from the G-Wiz versus  table the BBC aired an episode which saw a heavily modified G-Wiz blown up in a race against a toy remote-control car. 

Then of course there was Top Gear’s very own custom-built EV - the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust, built just a year after the original Tesla piece was aired. 

And that’s the point. Yes, Top Gear will continue to hate electric cars. At least, in its current incarnation it will. 

But given the BBC’s past reputation with all cars electric do we see Tesla winning its David vs Goliath match? We hate to say it, but it's looking unlikely. 

Edit: We appologize to Mr. Boxwell for not making it clear he was not involved in the actual Table vs. G-Wiz stunt. 

 
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