Crosspost: The BBC moves to protect their cash cow, again

Just to follow-up on my previous post “Top Gear’s electric car shows pour petrol over the BBC’s standards | updated 15 Aug 2011″

The production team chose to defend themselves against potentially damaging criticism.  In the defense they manage to cite what they didn’t say, but clearly intended to portray.  But since they didn’t actually say or claim these things, then they must be free of any wrongdoing.

And they are right, they didn’t state any of these things. They simply used their reputation and their huge audience base to persuade people that electric cars are impractical, whether it is from lack of a charging station, or poor battery technology. It’s not as if the show was attempting to portray electric car technology as being primitive, or any such thing as that…

German electric car, 1904, with the chauffeur ...
German electric car Image via Wikipedia

After all, behaving as if the electric car had let them down, and left them stranded in a particularly seedy, possibly dangerous location, with no way of escaping wouldn’t be an attempt to influence perspectives, would it? I mean, they didn’t actually add criminals, street thugs, or gangs, to the background of the handicapped (disabled) parking spot they chose to place the car into did they? Noooo.. not at all.  Perfect little angels, the lot of them.

The official defense is reminiscent of Bart Simpson of The Simpsons.  “Ha ha, I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, there’s no way you can prove anything!”  Or better: “I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again!”

Here’s Mr. Simpson’s Wilman’s defense: (yes, I added some images)

Electric cars: charges answered

Posted by Andy Wilman
12:32 pm on Tuesday August 2, 2011

I’d like to put a few facts straight regarding a story in today’s Times about our recent road test of two electric cars, the Nissan Leaf and the Peugeot Ion, which was shown on Sunday’s programme. The Times’ headline reads: ‘Clarkson didn’t give our electric cars a sporting chance, says Nissan.’

Further into the story it says that the film was embarrassing for Nissan, because it shows that electric cars cannot be trusted to get you to your destination. The writer, Ben Webster, the media editor, then goes on to suggest that actually ‘it is Top Gear, not the car, that cannot be trusted.’ Mr Webster’s logic for this centres on the fact that when the film started the cars were not fully charged, and were therefore destined to run out at some point along the way, thus giving a false impression of the ability of the vehicles.

In response, I’d like to say:

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.

3) We were fully aware that Nissan could monitor the state of the battery charge and distance travelled via onboard software. The reporter from The Times seems to suggest this device caught us out, but we knew about it all the time, as Nissan will confirm. We weren’t bothered about it, because we had nothing to hide.

4) The content of our film was driven by the points we were trying to explore. As James stated in the introduction, you can now go to a dealer and buy a ‘proper’ electric car, as in one that claims to be more practical and useful than a tiny, short-range city runabout. That’s what the car company marketing says, and that’s what we focused on in our test: the pros and cons of living with one as an alternative to a petrol car.

(lwo Note: Let’s be fair here Bart. Your focus was upon showing a pro, and then the cons, and more cons, and more cons, with an extra portion of cons for good measure. Just as you planned.)

So yes, when we set off, we knew we would have to recharge at some point, because that was an experience we wanted to devote part of the film to. Now granted, James and Jeremy’s stopover – which included brass rubbings, adult scrabble and tattoos – was more knockabout than an average motorist would experience, but the consumer points coming out of the film were quite clear:

1) Electric cars are still very expensive.

(lwo Note: Yup here in the States, the average price of a sedan is just about $30,000 these days.  The Leaf starts at $32,780 before we knock off the $7,500 instant rebate from the government and that leaves us $5,000 below the current average… that’s terrible!)

2) The recharging infrastructure is patchy.

(lwo Note: “Patchy”…  Bart, have you by chance read a history of the petroleum filling station? No? That seems clear. Using the wall socket in your home is clearly much worse than having to run over to the local pharmacy to pick up some petrol, eh?)

3) The range readout varies enormously, unlike the information given by a petrol gauge.

(lwo Note: Yes indeed, it varies enormously, given that it recalculates the range available based upon the actual driving going on at the time. It would seem that the Leaf range readout constantly gives you a pessimistic view of how much driving distance is left.  Of course you could go for a Mercedes M class and have to pull a fuse to recalibrate after filling your petrol. Much more accurate I’m sure.)

4) The Leaf is a very good car per se, and there’s nothing wrong with electric motors, but the battery, in our view, remains the Achilles’ heel of the whole package.

(lwo Note: Well, finally, Bart has a point here. Battery degradation is a significant issue.  Car Advice has provided a reasonable review of this issue without the need to push an agenda.)

In the story in The Times Andy Palmer, Nissan’s Executive Vice President, was quoted as saying that our film was misleading. Well with respect to Mr Palmer, Nissan’s 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.

(lwo Note: Yes, CONSTANT fast charging might severely shorten the life of the battery.  And constantly running your V8 at 6,000 RPM might severely shorten the life of your engine. Why would anyone assume that either action is likely?)

It also says that each Leaf battery should still have 80 percent of its capacity after five years’ use, and that, to a layman, sounds great. But nowhere is it mentioned that quite a few experts in the battery industry believe when a battery is down to 80 percent capacity, it has reached End Of Life (EOL) status. Peugeot, for example, accepts 80 percent capacity as End Of Life.

(lwo Note: Here Bart Andy tries an exercise in tu quoque. An ineffective attempt. Why don’t you want to believe the manufacturer Bart?)

Now I also know, to be fair to Nissan, that when you go to buy a Leaf they do warn you about the pitfalls of constant fast charging. But the website is the portal to the Leaf world, it’s their electronic shop window. Is it misleading not to have all the facts on display? I’m only asking.

(lwo Note: A reasonable point Bart, why didn’t you have all the facts on display? Perhaps some dialogue indicating to those watching that you had drained the batteries on the cars just to dramatize what could happen if you were silly enough to set off without recharging. Somewhat similar to setting out to Lincoln from London with the petrol gauge reading close to empty?)

In conclusion, we absolutely refute that we were misleading viewers over the charge/range, and we stand by the consumer points raised in the film.

Bart's nude scene in The Simpsons Movie.
Bart Wilman... er, Simpson Image via Wikipedia

Andy Wilman is the Executive Producer of Top Gear 

After reading this masterpiece of circular thinking on the Top Gear blog ( I provided my views to Top Gear and the production crew below.

tweetingdonal commented on this article

Monday August 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I was a fan of Top Gear until this episode. I believe “electric cars are not the future” pretty well sums up the position for the referenced episode.

Top Gear creation
A Top Gear Creation - Image by dennis.tang via Flickr

With nearly all other send ups of various technologies and ideas it is clear that it’s a send up. Sunday’s episode was presented as if it was intended as an honest evaluation.

If you’d been trying to portray the concepts you now weakly cite after the fact to present some defense of your transgression, you would have played it for the laughs, much like episodes where each of the team builds a scratch caravan.

The intent to deceive and to bias is clear. I’ll be sure to pass to all of my contacts that you not only attempted deception during the production and presentation of this episode, but that you’re now fabricating a position to continue your ruse.

Either BBC should enforce its publicly stated standards, or Top Gear should be prefaced with a disclaimer, that it bears as much semblance to reality as other fictional presentations, such as Dr. Who.

I’m saddened by what I have seen, and now distrust the Top Gear presenters totally. I’m still waiting to see if I should also distrust BBC/BBC America.

Larry Oliver
Colorado, USA


Thanks to, The Telegraph, Green Car Reports for the images.