BBC TV programme in row over Nissan electric car

Aug 03, 2011
Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the BBC's Top Gear programme, drives an Aston Martin in Bucharest in 2009.
Jeremy Clarkson, outspoken presenter of popular British motoring show Top Gear, has defended an episode of the series in which he deliberately runs out of power in Japanese automaker Nissan's Leaf electric car.

Jeremy Clarkson, the outspoken presenter of popular British motoring show Top Gear on Wednesday defended an episode of the series in which he deliberately runs out of power in Japanese automaker Nissan's Leaf electric car.

Clarkson drew a furious response from Nissan after Sunday's episode of the programme showed him being pushed along in a Leaf car after its battery went flat.

The presenter, who has whipped up controversy on numerous occasions in the past, was left stranded in the eastern English city of Lincoln where there are no public recharging points for electric cars.

He ended the show with the comment that electric cars "are not the future."

Nissan blasted the episode as misleading because the car was not fully charged before starting the journey, but in comments to the Times newspaper on Wednesday Clarkson refused to apologise, saying: "That's how TV works."

"The piece was about the difficulties of recharging the electric car," he added.

"At no point did we mislead the viewers. Top Gear's job is to say to everybody, 'Just a minute, do not believe (electric cars) can be run as simply as you have been told. Charging them up is a pain in the arse'."

In an interview after the episode, Andy Palmer, Nissan's executive vice-president, accused Top Gear of deceiving viewers, saying there were safeguards in place to stop Leaf drivers running out of power.

He pointed out that a device sending updates showed Clarkson had started the day with the battery only 40 percent charged and said the car appeared to have been driven in loops in Lincoln until the battery was flat.

Andy Wilman, Top Gear's executive producer, denied the show had misled viewers, saying it was intended to highlight the "patchy" recharging infrastructure for in Britain

In February the BBC was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador to London after a Top Gear presenter described Mexicans as "lazy", "feckless" and "flatulent" in a segment about a sportscar made by Mexican firm Mastretta.

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User comments : 25

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epsi00
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2011
I wonder if Mr Clarkson would have a different idea if the car was not Japanese. This experiment smells bad.
Shootist
3.5 / 5 (11) Aug 03, 2011
Great show. Wonderful show.

The American version sucks, however.
di0nysus
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2011
Didn't watch the show so I'm not sure in what context the last statement "are not the future" was made, but I'm sure if you look hard enough there were plenty of doubt surrounding the first petroleum fueled car.

But to sandbag an idea because it doesn't fit 100% of the population is pretty short sided if you ask me.

Electric cars will be the future, until hydrogen replaces it.
sstritt
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 03, 2011
Great show. Wonderful show.

The American version sucks, however.

Agreed- the American version is a pale humorless imitation.
TheQuietMan
not rated yet Aug 03, 2011
Interesting. What and how is the "American" version different? I watch Top Gear on BBC America, and am under the impression it is the British show rebroadcast. Is the "true" British version longer than an hour? Maybe the commercials are less funny (and who would notice?). Maybe there is an American version I'm not aware of?
Shootist
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2011
there is an American version you're not aware of.
Doc_aymz
5 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2011
He didn't say electric cars 'are not the future' he said 'batteries are not the answer.' He said he was a dinosaur and that electric cars are the [inevitable] future.

He is right about the batteries. Simply too fragile, too expensive, very wasteful, power generation infrastructure simply wouldn't support it. Once you add the energy required to make the batteries and reprocess them and accelerate the weight it rapidly stops looking environmentally friendly at all.
BenjaminButton
3 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2011
@ Doc aymz: If you create an industry of Battery leasing and reprocessing then it is both environmentally friendly and economically viable. The batteries are definitely expensive but you can lease a new one every year and constantly upgrade. In many countries you pay no road or carbon tax on electric vehicle so the cost is further reduced. If you charge off peak and maybe use some of the money you save on fuel and tax you could install a few solar panels to boost your elec supply. It is the future, it's just not the only future.
Magnette
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
Interesting. What and how is the "American" version different? I watch Top Gear on BBC America, and am under the impression it is the British show rebroadcast. Is the "true" British version longer than an hour? Maybe the commercials are less funny (and who would notice?). Maybe there is an American version I'm not aware of?


BBC America broadcasts the entire program, the only difference being that we don't have commercials on the BBC.

This piece was designed to show the short-comings of current EV technology and it did it very well.
Clarkson was full of praise for the Leaf as a car but showed that it was very expensive compared to a petrol/diesel equivalent, it wasn't suitable for long journeys and we don't have the infrastructure to deal with charging cars when away from home.
From completely flat to full charge was said to take 13hrs on our 230V system & that's just not acceptable if the car is to be seen as a full replacement vehicle rather than a local only car.
Shootist
3 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2011
There is Top Gear:UK and there is a Top Gear:US. The UK version, with Clarkson, May and Hammond, is not the same TV show as the US version. The US version stars three boobs who I suppose the Beeb sees as Average American Joe Sixpacks (or something).

Simply terrible.
33Nick
1 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2011
Clarckson is a step above a petroleum derived caveman. Anybody who hails a Honda hydrogen sedan over the zippy Tesla Roadster is either completely bought out or has just sniffed too much gas. I drove both, including the Leaf and can't justify his expected way of reaction.

I drive old performance cars and by far enjoy modern performance electric cars and see the value in them, while seeing the future there.

Clarkson is just trying to be relevant and playing up to his reputation. Top Gear UK has lost me and the US is not that bad after all...
Moebius
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 06, 2011
What a deceptive scumbag trick. Does he work for FOX?
Magnette
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2011
What a deceptive scumbag trick. Does he work for FOX?


Why deceptive? He drove it until the battery went flat to demonstrate the point that EV's are not ready for general use and are really only good for local commuting.

If you watched the piece you would see that he rates the Leaf as a car very highly, his only issue being with it's short operating range compared to the petrol equivalent.

UK presenter on a UK program for the UK audience...FOX is a US program so why or how would he be working for them??
CasusUniversum
1 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2011
He should have an episode where he takes a car that's only 40% full of gas and drives it until it runs out. I love Clarkson and Top Gear, but driving your car till "empty" doesn't prove the car sucks, it just proves you can't read gauges.
david_42
1 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2011
I suppose his next show will involve trying to haul 20 tonnes of gravel on a motorcycle to show that they are worthless to the average driver.

Regardless of his point, real drivers in the real world watch their gauges. I've never had my current cellphone run out of power, because I charge it every night. I do not carry a charger for the phone around with me. Every electric/plug-in hybrid on the market has a built-in charger that can tap a house circuit.
Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2011
What a deceptive scumbag trick. Does he work for FOX?


Why deceptive? ....


When you deliberately mislead people, even by omission of the facts (a well used Fox trick along with distorting the facts), you are being deceptive. If you have a valid point to make about a car (or anything else for that matter) there's no need to be deceptive. If your point won't happen in the real world it's pointless. You don't drive a gas car 100 miles into the desert with 100 miles of gas unless you are planning on feeding the vultures. It's no different for an electric car, hydrogen car or hybrid. Nissan has every right to be upset.
Magnette
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2011
That's correct, you wouldn't drive into the desert with 100 miles of fuel and be surprised if you ran out. What Top Gear were doing in this instance was showing the public who don't necessarily have any idea about EV's just what the limitations are.
Nissan are very off hand about being able to plug it in anywhere and charge it up, Top Gear showed that it wasn't as simple as it's made out to be until EV charging points are installed in our towns and cities. To demonstrate this it was necessary to run the batteries completely flat which also demonstrated the limited mileage availabilty of these vehicles in the real world and not the slightly fanciful figures of the manufacturers.
No facts were omitted from the piece (I've never seen Fox so I have no comparison on journalistic style) and Nissan have no reason to be upset if they were to be truthful about real world items like mileage expectations and charge times.
Magnette
not rated yet Aug 07, 2011

Regardless of his point, real drivers in the real world watch their gauges. I've never had my current cellphone run out of power, because I charge it every night. I do not carry a charger for the phone around with me. Every electric/plug-in hybrid on the market has a built-in charger that can tap a house circuit.


They ran the car out on purpose to demonstrate mileage potentials and charge times.
Yes, you can charge from a house power supply but what are you going to do when you're 90 miles from home in a strange city that doesn't have EV power points? You certainly can't rock up to a strangers house and ask for 13hrs of electricity!
CuriousMan
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2011
Sheesh. So he demonstrated a lack of infrastructure and blamed NISSAN? Why not demonstrate driving around some isand on the north sea that has no gas stations. Because it would be BORING. Totally manufactured controversy, totally useless.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2011
the car appeared to have been driven in loops in Lincoln until the battery was flat.
Magnette
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2011
Sheesh. So he demonstrated a lack of infrastructure and blamed NISSAN? Why not demonstrate driving around some isand on the north sea that has no gas stations. Because it would be BORING. Totally manufactured controversy, totally useless.


Not at all, they were driving a Peugeot as well and neither manufacturer was blamed, purely the current infrastructure.

The only dig at all manufacturers of EV's was regarding their mileage potentials on a charge.

You guys really need to watch the episode first before believing all of the press.

In an update Nissan have commissioned a couple of EV charge points in Lincoln (the town where the piece was filmed) and named them Jeremy & James so I guess it did some good after all.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2011
Andy Palmer, Nissan's executive vice-president, ...pointed out that a device sending Nissan updates showed Clarkson had started the day with the battery only 40 percent charged and said the car appeared to have been driven in loops in Lincoln until the battery was flat.
I don't know that I like the idea that a manufacturer both tracks my movements and retains records of my movements. This is simply too "Big Brother-ish" for my taste.

I wonder how long it will take the police to lock onto this for criminal investigations, and criminals, authoritarian governments, and officials to use it for blackmail and control?

krwhite
not rated yet Aug 08, 2011

Quoting Top Gear's response on their blog (Look it up on the internet)

In the story in The Times Andy Palmer, Nissans Executive Vice President, was quoted as saying that our film was misleading. Well with respect to Mr Palmer, Nissans own website for the Leaf devotes a fair amount of space to extolling the virtues of fast charging, but nowhere does it warn potential customers that constant fast charging can severely shorten the life of the battery.


Looks to me like I'm better informed after watching a 'rubbish' car program than I would be by going to direct to the manufacture's website. During the episode, they showed the miles driven on the car, it was 72.5 when the battery had '7' miles left. Is it actually inconceivable that someone could of actually given 72.5 in an afternoon, or, more likely, didn't have the facilities to charge it the prior night?

Laughable. I hope it gives top gear more reviewers, maybe it will give more people a sense of humor.
krwhite
not rated yet Aug 08, 2011
reviewers = viewers.
Egleton
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2011
Anyone ever heard of "Peak Oil?" Aparently it was in 2005.
Get a bicycle.