Top Gear Team Proves Electric Vehicle Batteries Can Run Out, Goes to Lunch

By · May 13, 2011

Top Gear LEAF Test

After Tesla's recent much-publicized lawsuit against the BBC and its wildly popular Top Gear series, you'd think that the show might be inclined to keep its bias against electric vehicles in check for a little while. But Top Gear has never shied away from controversy, and is evidently preparing to launch yet another assault in its war on plug-ins.

Video emerged yesterday of the Top Gear team pushing a battery-dead Nissan LEAF around the British city of Lincoln, where they were filming an episode apparently aimed at proving that (a) electric vehicles have limited range, and (b) there aren't enough public charging stations in Britain to make them viable.

After driving around Lincolnshire in search of a place to charge (which Nissan's GPS navigation system would have been perfectly capable of telling them didn't exist before they embarked on the journey,) a crowd emerged to watch Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May push their vehicle to the local university, where they plugged it in to a standard outlet and announced they were heading to lunch.

While waiting for the LEAF to charge, the Top Gear team took in some of the local sites. "(We) learned a lot about medieval history, Lincoln Cathedral and the Norman conquests," said Clarkson to the BBC following the incident. "Although we were testing two electric cars in a genuinely sensible way to see how they work.”

Lincoln is roughly 40 miles from the nearest charging station, though according to the University of Lincoln website, that won't be the case for long. Once the school's engineering department completes its transition to a new building this summer, several charge stations are slated to be made available. Thankfully for Top Gear's production schedule, Clarkson and May were able to beat them to the punch.

That isn't to say that Britain is covered in charge points. Judging from this map provided by EV Network UK, there are still several major gaps in public charging availability.

But so far, the extra chargers don't seem to be needed. Reportedly, fewer than 600 people have taken advantage of Britain's EV rebate so far, meaning that there may be as many as one public charging station for every 2.5 newly-registered plug-ins in the UK. Plans are in place to expand public charge coverage throughout Britain, but among EV advocates, a debate has always raged over whether public charging is even all that vital to early plug-in adoption.

You can watch amateur video of the incident below, though it's anyone's guess how it will be edited and presented for the actual show. Perhaps Top Gear's intentions weren't as malevolent as they seem, but considering its track record and rants from its host about green vehicles, it's unlikely that the Nissan LEAF can expect a very glowing review.


· · 7 years ago

If those two blokes were flying Spitfires in the fall of 1940, we'd all be speaking German today! Britain can do better today than having to rely on the antics of these geezers.

· SteveEV (not verified) · 7 years ago

Is it really that difficult to find a place to run out of fuel? On the other hand, I have found it relatively easy to drive my EV every day and never run out of power. I drive thousands of miles each year with no range problems. Those guys just look foolish.

· JJ - Can (not verified) · 7 years ago

When ICE cars first came out in the 1920's did they have gas stations all over the place?

· · 7 years ago

Isn't it time that someone told these guys to look at the fuel meter once in a while ?
I'm amazed that someone gave them a LEAF to bash.

· · 7 years ago

ICE cars actually predate the 1920s, JJ-Can, but that seemed to be the decade when Henry Ford's Model T became widely adopted. The T was actually a "flex fuel" vehicle, capable of running off alcohol with a minimum of modification.

My father, who was born in 1913, recounted a story to me once about the time he took a "real" road trip in a neighbor's Model T during his early teens. From Harrisburg, PA, to one of the larger New Jersey coastline cities in the late 1920s took them about 4 days and, I'm sure, the driver had to carefully plot ahead of time for fuel stops. Such long distance auto excursions, with dirt roads being more common than paved ones, were very rare back then. The more mainstream way of doing it then would have been to go by train.

· Samie (not verified) · 7 years ago

Top Gear is in it for sensationalism and ratings, nothing more.

Instead of the uneducated backwards thinking associated w/ us in the States, the Brits should exam some of their own (Jeremy Clarkson and James May,.... I must find where he gets his wigs).

later chaps :)

· jim1961 (not verified) · 7 years ago

Top Gear is loyal to BP.

· 9691 (not verified) · 7 years ago

Oh, that is not the first time BP and the BBC are pushing a joint cause. These two donkeys are pretty good at making fools of themselves. While watching the video, I had the feelings that the pipers will come out of somewhere any moment.

· · 7 years ago

Would a Leaf charge faster in Britain than the U.S. from a standard wall outlet? I believe their outlets are 230 volt/15 amp right?

· · 7 years ago

There is fairly fresh conversation here, Michael, regarding Leaf charging . . .

The Leaf, apparently, is presently limited by its internal 3.3kWh charging circuitry, which gives the owner a full charge in about 8 hours. On the horizon for next year's Leaf is an upgrade to 6.6kWh circuitry, which cuts that charge time in half. Other up-and-coming EVs are already at the 6.6kWh internal standard.

I don't know about the British home wiring standard, but i think that all domestic EV charger installations - regardless of country - are going to have to accommodate more than the standard small household appliance voltage and amp settings . . . much the same way that large appliances in US households (laundry room driers, etc.) are almost always designed to run off 220V / 30A circuits.

· JJ - Can (not verified) · 7 years ago

Thanks Benjamin for the story of your father.
They had a lot of adventure in those days when a lot of things were new that we now take for granted.

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 7 years ago

This film would be impossible with a GM Volt, that is the flexibility advantage of a plug-in hybrid.

· Entertainment Value (not verified) · 7 years ago

All these comments about 'Clarkson and May look like fools' are missing the point. They deliberately set out to look a bit dim, and succeed in their aim - I don't think they (or most regular Top Gear viewers) are going to be upset by comments to that effect.

It's been a long time since Top Gear was a genuine car review show - these days (as Clarkson has commented on numerous occasions) it's really an entertainment show that features cars, and anyone that makes their buying decision based on what's jokingly said on the show is clearly very easily led. I don't think TG's jokes about EVs will dent their sales at all - bottom line is if the EVs are good vehicles, that fit into people's lives, they will sell. If not, they won't.

· · 7 years ago

>> This film would be impossible with a GM Volt, that is the flexibility advantage of a plug-in hybrid. <<

There are stretches of Nevada highway where the gasoline range of the Volt would concern me. It is fortunate that the Volt can also use the way more ubiquitous electricity that's out there.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

Love them or hate them ?

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