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.

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