Nissan calls out Top Gear on electric car sabotage

Top Gear is not a huge fan of electric cars. They dissed the Tesla Roadster pretty badly back in 2008, and Tesla is now suing them for libel. In Top Gear's most recent review, they made fun of the Nissan LEAF for dying on them in the middle of nowhere, but Nissan says they've got proof that Top Gear cheated.

In an episode of Top Gear broadcast just a week ago, Jeremy Clarkson attempted to drive a Nissan LEAF to the seaside (a distance of some 60 miles) as part of a "sensible test." Stop me if you saw this coming, but the car ran out of power halfway there (surprise!), Jeremy was unable to find a charging station, and had to wait overnight for the LEAF to complete a 13 hour charge. Conclusion: "electric cars are not the future."

Problem is, Nissan LEAFs are equipped with all kinds of fancy electronics, including a monitoring device which records the position of the LEAF along with the state of the battery. As it turns out, the car was only at 40% charge when it started on its 60 mile trip, and when it got to the spot that the producers had apparently decided that it would run out of batteries, it kept going. So, they drove the car around in circles for another 10 miles until it finally died, and which point they turned the cameras on, and shockingly, the car had run out of electricity. Shockingly. Except it wasn't shocking at all, because the entire time (including the start of the journey), the LEAF was informing Jeremy that hey, it was low on battery, and it wasn't going to be able to make it to its destination because they hadn't charged it long enough.

Now, I love Top Gear. And I'm not saying that electric cars don't have issues, and one of those issues is definitely range. And if you're reviewing an electric car on a TV show like Top Gear, you'd be doing your viewers a disservice if you didn't address how far it can get on a charge. But part of the responsibility of Top Gear (and the venerable BBC, for heaven's sake) is to provide fair and factual information, and from what I can tell, Nissan has a point that the LEAF's segment on the show was rigged to make it seem far less practical than it actually is.

The executive producer of Top Gear responded thusly:

1) We never, at any point in the film, said that we were testing the range claims of the vehicles, nor did we say that the vehicles wouldn't achieve their claimed range. We also never said at any time that we were hoping to get to our destination on one charge.

2) We never said what the length of the journey was, where we had started from, nor how long we had been driving at the start of the film. So again, no inference about the range can be gleaned from our film.

Um, WTF? Look, when you're testing an electric car, and you're making a big deal about how it runs out of juice halfway to where you're trying to get to, I don't think it's unreasonable for the audience to assume that you started with a full charge on the batts, right? This is like running one of those endurance/distance driving tests that Top Gear also likes to do, except where the car only starts with half a tank of gas, is forced to drive a longer distance than is shown in the program, and then when the tank runs dry, the hosts complain about how it didn't get as far as they were hoping. Seriously now, you're deceiving your audience.

Let's be clear: Top Gear is first and foremost a show that entertains, and second (sometimes a distant second) a show that informs. Does anybody believe that all the crazy stuff that they do is actually 100% not staged? Of course not. Having said that, there's a difference between (for example) staging a race to make it as exciting as possible without altering the result, and fundamentally crippling a car that you've said you're going to test, because the latter context in no uncertain terms implies that there's going to be some degree of honesty involved.

Via The Guardian

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