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Top Gear Fights Back At Tesla 369

Posted by timothy
from the shocking-truth-as-a-staid-defense dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Top Gear's producer Andy Wilman responds to Tesla's lawsuit: 'We never said that the Tesla's true range is only 55 miles, as opposed to their own claim of 211, or that it had actually ran out of charge. In the film our actual words were: "We calculated that on our track it would run out after 55 miles."' Interesting points, and as far as I can remember also correct. But I'm assuming Tesla is going the get the PR they want on this regardless of any court rulings."
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Top Gear Fights Back At Tesla

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  • Really?

  • Tesla (Score:5, Funny)

    by wideBlueSkies (618979) * on Sunday April 03, 2011 @11:52AM (#35699962) Journal

    It's about time that Nikolai stands up for himself and goes after the use of some of his inventions. Poor guy - if he doesn't he's likely to end up broke, broken, and dead in a hotel on 34th Street in NYC.

  • You might think a 60+ mile per gallon Kawasaki Ninja 250 with a 4.8 gallon fuel tank will have a range of over 200 miles but it seems if I drive around in circles in my driveway it only has a range of a few hundred feet.

    • You might think a 60+ mile per gallon Kawasaki Ninja 250 with a 4.8 gallon fuel tank will have a range of over 200 miles but it seems if I drive around in circles in my driveway it only has a range of a few hundred feet.

      Based on my analysis, the problem is that you need a bigger driveway. Clearly a larger driveway results in better gas mileage and should be included with any new vehicle purchase to allow for optimal MPG.

  • by Belisarivs (526071) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:05PM (#35700060)

    A lot of the reporting seems to focus on claim it would only go 55 miles. As far as track cars go, that's pretty good. The Ford GT would only go about 60 before it would empty it's tank. A series earlier, they figured a Ferrari 599 only got 1.7 miles per gallon on the track.

    Apart from reliability issues (both Tesla cars broke in various ways), the biggest flaw the cars had was that while the range was on par with regular track cars, when you ran out of fuel in the other cars, you took a few minutes to fill up and could go back out. The Tesla, on the other hand, was done for the day as it took something like 12 hours to recharge.

    That was the damning conclusion of the Top Gear episode, and it was entirely accurate. Even if Tesla has improved the recharge time, it's still hours long. Tesla is just trying to distract from that fundamental fact - despite the fact it's marketed as a sports-car, it's not suited to track use. Even if people have no plans on taking it to the track, it's allure is tarnished by that fact.

    • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:11PM (#35700100)

      A lot of the reporting seems to focus on claim it would only go 55 miles.

      A claim whose figure was from Tesla's staff. Should be interesting court.

      Top Gear was spot on about the real world implications - refueling time is one area electrics need to improve to be viable replacements, as opposed to short trip around town, vehicles.

      • by kimvette (919543)

        Top Gear's tests cover the real-world driving conditions of very few people. Sure, there are people who flog exotic and sportscars on the street and people who have been to the fun side of 185mph, but it doesn't reflect the the expectations of 99.5% of the driving population (except maybe in Germany and Italy), so based on the people criticizing Top Gear, why bother watching the show at all?

        That show shows what cars are capable under very demanding driving conditions - as in driving the car flat out. I hav

    • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:36PM (#35700254)
      The battery of the Tesla Model S can be swapped in 5 minutes [autoblog.com]. I don't suppose that's true of the roadster though.

      I would really like them to go one step further, and divide the battery into about 4 separate packs, so they could be lifted by a single person, but just as importantly so you can only carry 1 or 2 packs if that's all you need. It would greatly reduce the weight of the car, increasing efficiency and performance. My commute is only 20 miles round trip, which is about the national average IIRC.

      • by arikol (728226) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @01:20PM (#35700540) Journal

        Yeah, and the Tesla battery pack weighs around 450 kilos (about 1000lbs). And costs U$ 36000 (yes, that's 36 thousand US dollars)
        Unless there was some sort of lease system and an automatic quick change system (park your car over the sensor, battery packs get changed) then changing battery packs is not a viable option.

    • by burnin1965 (535071) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:42PM (#35700286) Homepage

      when you ran out of fuel in the other cars, you took a few minutes to fill up and could go back out. The Tesla, on the other hand, was done for the day as it took something like 12 hours to recharge

      An issue, yes, an insurmountable issue, no, and an issue that was only in the minds of the Top Gear hosts rather than reality.

      Running out of charge and pushing the car to the shop was a stunt, a hoax, it was fake, neither car ran out of charge [crunchgear.com].

      I like watching most of the Top Gear shows but I expect them to flog cars not their egos and stubborn pride.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        That scene of the crew pushing the car back to the garage is the main thing I remember from the episode, too. That was a cheap shot. But if it was just misleading, and they didn't explicitly make false claims, I wonder if it is legally actionable.
      • when you ran out of fuel in the other cars, you took a few minutes to fill up and could go back out. The Tesla, on the other hand, was done for the day as it took something like 12 hours to recharge

        An issue, yes, an insurmountable issue, no, and an issue that was only in the minds of the Top Gear hosts rather than reality.

        Running out of charge and pushing the car to the shop was a stunt, a hoax, it was fake, neither car ran out of charge [crunchgear.com].

        I like watching most of the Top Gear shows but I expect them to flog cars not their egos and stubborn pride.

        They never claimed the car DID run out of charge, as in "why is it suddenly not moving anymore". The exact words from the film were "we calculated that on our track it would run out after 55 miles". And that number came from the Tesla technicians themselves (see the linked article). Yes, they showed the car stopped on the track, maybe a cheap shot to show "this is what WOULD have happened", but nobody from Top Gear stated that a car actually stopped on the track - neither due to a flat battery, nor due to t

      • by Kaboom13 (235759) <kaboom108&bellsouth,net> on Sunday April 03, 2011 @01:19PM (#35700532)

        If you watch Top Gear for responsible journalism, you are doing it wrong. This same show recently did a comparative review of a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley, and a Mercedes Benz, but the Bentley was actually a Yugo, because Bentley didn't loan them the real car. It's an entertainment show. They had a point to make, that once you ran the batteries down on a Tesla roadster, you are stuck until it has time to recharge, which takes several hours. It's the biggest fundamental limitation of electric cars. It's what keeps me from wanting to purchase one, that's for sure. The fact that the car did not actually run out of juice during the limited time they were filming doesn't make it any less of a legit complaint. Filming for a series like Top Gear has a very tight schedule, especially filming on the track because you are limited to a narrow window when the sun is in the right spot to get the shots you want. So they faked it, the same way their races are fake (you don't think it's odd they somehow have cameramen in just the right places everytime? How every race comes down to a close finish?) It's television.

        Tesla is full of shit, because instead of addressing the fact that what Top Gear said is true, they are trying to cover it up by claiming the means Top Gear used to say it are wrong. They took their car to a show that uses dramatics and hyperbole to make their points, and they are surprised that's what they got? I saw the episode when it came out and thought it was much more positive then I would have expected.

        • I consider it an act of "electrochemical empathy" that they did not run the battery so flat that the car would not move to make their point. Whether the battery was in-fact dead or not is irrelevant, they certainly could have run it flat, everybody knows that.

          I find it reprehensible that Tesla is using the court system for free PR, and if I were the judge, I would fine them punative court costs to the approximate amount of the PR value they have received. Even when they win on appeal, it would hopefully d

      • I like watching most of the Top Gear shows but I expect them to flog cars not their egos and stubborn pride.

        I've only watched a handful of TopGear episodes in the past few years, but they ALL seemed to focus on flogging the host's egos and pride.

    • by arikol (728226)

      not only that, but in track use you are likely to have a higher average speed than 55 miles an hour, meaning that your time of playing around is mighty limited if you don't actually live ON the track. Driving there and home again is a no-go. Heck, only being able to drive on the track for just around 50 minutes would suck! The fuel sucking monsters like the Ford GT can be refueled in minutes, the Tesla takes hours (and hours and hours)

      I hope alternative fuels get worked out so that they become usable, but s

  • by kju (327) * on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:25PM (#35700176)

    This: "The second point is that the figure of 55 miles came not from our heads, but from Teslaâ(TM)s boffins in California. They looked at the data from that car and calculated that, driven hard on our track, it would have a range of 55 miles."

    So they are suing the BBC over a claim they themselves fed to the Top Gear producers which was only relayed in the show.

    Yeah, really, I can see how Top Gear acted in bad faith here. How dare they trust the information from the manufacturer!

    • I have seen the show in question. Clarkson is clearly suggesting that the Tesla ran out of juice before completing the test, and had to be pushed back to the starting point. Neither is true. Most Brits seeing this would just laugh and think "there goes Clarkson again". But, when the show is rebroadcast on BBC America, most Americans wouldn't get it.

      I think that part of the problem is a culture clash. Telling outrageous lies is a common form of humor in Britain, and Clarkson is a master. But this kind of
    • by thomst (1640045)

      This: "The second point is that the figure of 55 miles came not from our heads, but from Teslaâ(TM)s boffins in California. They looked at the data from that car and calculated that, driven hard on our track, it would have a range of 55 miles."

      So they are suing the BBC over a claim they themselves fed to the Top Gear producers which was only relayed in the show.

      Yeah, really, I can see how Top Gear acted in bad faith here. How dare they trust the information from the manufacturer!

      Absent a transcript of the actual communications between Top Gear and Tesla's "boffins", the substance of the above claim is entirely unclear. It would not surprise me, for instance, to find out that what actually happened was that TG emailed Tesla to ask, "Could your car make it 55 miles on our track?" If Tesla's techs replied, "Sure!" TG could then claim that "Tesla's boffins" gave them a range of 55 miles on their track.

      What IS abundantly clear is that TG did NOT themselves drive the Tesla they "tested"

  • Hurrah for BBC! (Score:4, Informative)

    by rogerdugans (902614) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:40PM (#35700270) Homepage

    It is great to see the BBC not succumbing to pressure from fools.

    I for one would not have been able to use a Tesla as a daily driver once in the last 15 years: between driving to work and travel during the day, 250 miles is not enough range. I would have been stuck someplace I could charge for the night at least half the time. And if anyone tells me I can fully charge an electric car on 120v US standard household current in 30 minutes I will call you a liar at this time in their development.

    The cars stopped functioning normally. That means "broken." If you have an internal combustion engined car with 2 of 4 spark plugs fouled and not firing is your car still fine but just operating with reduced power? No. It is broken and needs to be fixed. Next question!

    And the brakes were broken, end of story. How easy the fix was is irrelevant: the brakes broke. Done.

    As for a previous comment including Motor Trend as an example of "honest" reporting- seriously? That comment alone makes everything else you say suspect by association, man.

    If you watch the Top Gear segment remembering who is doing it- an entertainment show that loves fast cars that handle well, you will actually see that they LIKE the car but don't feel it (or any other pure electric) is ready for use by most of the motoring public.
    Which is a very accurate assessment.
    For the money, a Lotus (which the Tesla was based on) is a far more practical, useful and reliable vehicle and leaves plenty of money left for fuel and purchasing "carbon credits" for those who so desire.
    And yes, it goes faster too.

    • You might want to consider a non-retarded lifestyle then. Yep, it takes some work and some self-reflection, but you can do it! Soldier on!
    • by Firethorn (177587)

      I for one would not have been able to use a Tesla as a daily driver once in the last 15 years: between driving to work and travel during the day, 250 miles is not enough range.

      Wow... What do you do, and do you realize that the average driving distance in the USA is only 15K miles a year? At 50 weeks/year 5 days a week*, that's 60 miles a day. Or the Roadster having 4x the needed 'average' range. By my calculation - you're driving an estimated 62k miles a year(250*50*5). Or four times the average.

      Now, I'm going to flip this on you a bit: You've been hurting from the gasoline prices lately, yes? Pretty much everybody is. Do you realize that if we get like 50% of the city dw

      • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @04:00PM (#35701816) Journal

        Now, I'm going to flip this on you a bit: You've been hurting from the gasoline prices lately, yes? Pretty much everybody is.

        Sorry to burst your bubble but, according to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] the battery pack for the Tesla model in question costs $36k and has a lifetime of 100k miles which is 36 cents/mile travelled to which you can add about 3 cents/mile in electricity costs (86kWh per full charge at 200 miles/charge and assume 7 cents/kWh). Current US petrol prices seem to be about $3.55 per US gallon [doe.gov] so for a petrol car to have the same fuel costs as the Tesla it would need to have a fuel consumption worse than 9.1 miles per gallon...which is about comparable to a hummer [wikipedia.org].

        So, unless the cost of petrol gets very significantly higher (by x3-4) or the cost of batteries drops considerably the fuel cost of an electric vehicle is significantly higher than a petrol driven one. I wish that were not the case but sadly, for now, it is.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @12:52PM (#35700340) Homepage Journal

    Wait, i remember them saying something along the lines it had to be pushed back into the garage due to a dead battery. Perhaps it was not 'real' but it still eluded to it being.

    I know they do things for entertainment and there is a LOT of satire on the show, but i do hope they get their hands slapped for this as i have seen them do similar to others and some people actually take it seriously.

  • by Joao (155665) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @01:14PM (#35700498) Homepage

    A little disclaimer: I'm an environmentalist, I work for an international environmental organization, bicycle commuter, haven't owned a car in over 15 years, and spend my vacations volunteering at animal rescue facilities.

    I've been reading a lot of "the Top Gear guys are petrolheads who only care about big petrol engines" and such comments. One thing a lot of people seem to be forgetting about this case is that, on the same episode where they tested the Tesla, they also tested the Honda Civic Electric Fuel Cell. And guess what? They had nothing but high praise for the Honda.

    One may argue that they didn't push the Honda nearly as hard as they pushed the Tesla, but that is because they were holding each car to the candle of what each manufacturer claims. Honda claims their car is just a Honda Civic. Reliable user-friendly everyday transportation. So that's how it was tested it. Just like every other reliable user-friendly everyday transportation vehicle they test on the show. The Tesla on the other hand describes their car as a supercar. So they did the tests the same way they do all other supercars. On the track at high speeds. The Honda succeeded as reliable user-friendly everyday transportation. Yet the Tesla failed miserably as a supercar. That is all there is to it.

    So no, this has nothing to do with Clarkson being a petrolhead. Yes, he is a petrohead and an ass. Vey funny, but an ass nevertheless. I highly disagree with most of his opinions about just about anything. But I think both tests were spot on.

    • The car has a fuel tank, needs fill ups, and runs on combustion. If the Top Gear folks (or just Clarkson, really) are biased, the Clarity is much closer to what they already know.

      And in terms of helping the environment, fuel cell cars are essentially useless. If you're in the very small portion of the population that lives near a fueling station, great, more power to you. Most of us don't. However, we do all have electricity in our homes. We've spent too long sitting on our hands wrt. climate change and
      • by Kreigaffe (765218)

        I think you think electric cars are far greener than reality would suggest.

        never mind that you're dismissing a large portion of the population that may need to drive more than a few dozen miles in a day, or who need the car to operate at an odd schedule that would not allow for full charging (let's say someone works 8pm-4am, and then car is used to take kids to school, grocery shopping every several days -- pattern of use that simply doesn't work with an electric).

        • by linuxpyro (680927)

          Well, I'm not sure that the roadster really fits into that niche anyway. I mean, it's essentially a toy for rich people. It's a great way to start developing the technology, as some of those people will want to adopt it. I'm not sure that that person would fit your description.

          And with hydrogen, it really depends on where the hydrogen comes from. If it's from electrolysis, it's still derived from electricity, which could be useful or might not be. (Though there are other sources too, of course.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by virtualXTC (609488)
      Disclaimer: I'm not an environmentalist, I just disdain sensational journalism.

      I sincerely disagree with our supposed tree-hugging friend. There was definitely an anti-carbon free energy theme to the show, try starting right after they slam the Tesla for having a long charge time at 5m30s:

      "Before people green people say that's a price worth paying, lets not forget where that electric comes form"
      - cue ominous music -
      -- cut to a picture of a nuclear power plant--
      - switch to car parked in-front of an e

  • Oh please... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by billybob_jcv (967047)

    The Tesla is a "statement car" - it is intended to show that electric power is not just for smug twits who enjoy the smell of their own farts. [youtube.com]

    Apparently, the people at Tesla have spent too much time with their noses firmly planted between their own butt cheeks.

  • by vorlich (972710) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @01:47PM (#35700712) Homepage Journal
    especially for Tesla.
    Top Gear is a comedy show. It contains British Satire. They rip the pish out of stuff. This is a national sport in which the British have no equal (re: Gervais Golden Globes http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&v=1Ryr5EqURkQ [youtube.com]).
    And why not? It's funny!
    Oh for the benefits of a classical education.
  • In the UK you have a annual safety test for motor vehicles, called the MOT. No vacuum powered brakes when the car is supposed to have them, is a failure. No vacuum powered brakes and no way to fix them is a tow-away for the AA. If you get in an accident with a car that has broken vacuum powered brakes and you subsequently crash into something, you are liable. How much more clear would you like the term "broken" defined? It doesn't matter that in an emergency case you could still stop the car, by using exces
  • I shagged Tesla's mum in the butt.

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