A little over a week ago, the BBC aired an episode of its popular motoring entertainment program Top Gear in which presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May searched in vain for an electric-car charging station.
They needed to recharge their fully-drained 2011 Nissan Leaf in the rural English county of Lincolnshire.
Needless to say, they had purposely exhausted the car's battery, and chosen a place known for its lack of electric-car charging stations.
As with past Top Gear segments involving electric cars, many plug-in fans weren’t impressed. Neither was Nissan.
But while some British media outlets like The Times and The Daily Mail used the Top Gear episode to continue their usual--and predictable--assault on electric cars, a surprising number chose to take a different editorial line.
Most notable among them is The Guardian. Columnist George Monbiot recently took exception not only to the way Top Gear portrayed electric cars, but with their apparent immunity to BBC’s standards and editorial guidelines.
While many electric-car advocates have decried Top Gear’s lack of editorial accountability for years, this is the first time we’ve seen a major newspaper call foul on Top Gear’s editorial bias.
Monbiot even suggests that Top Gear’s political agenda is “an extreme form of libertarianism and individualism,” assing that the show “derides attempts to protect the environment" and promotes "the kind of driving that threatens other people’s peace and other people’s lives.”
Alongside Monbiot’s editorial is a post in praise of electric cars by former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson, who's a contemporary of Jeremy Clarkson. Willson became an electric-car fan after leasing a 2010 Mitsubishi 'i' for a year during a U.K. trial of electric cars.
More than anything, though, these examples of pro-electric-car sentiment have helped to spark a healthy debate on social-media sites, fan pages, gas-guzzler forums and, of course, around the office water cooler.
If some of the discussions we’ve seen and heard are anything to go by, the public’s attitude to plug-in vehicles is slowly changing.
And that has to be a good thing. So, thank you, Top Gear.