Top Gear Reviews Tesla Roadster and Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen

I was browsing AutoBlogGreen today and I found out that Top Gear had done a piece on the Tesla Roadster. This was something I had been waiting for for a very long time, because I love the British show and couldn’t wait for their take on the famous electric supercar. Performance wise, the car, fitted with Tesla’s Powertrain 1.5, definitely impressed Jeremy Clarkson, likening the car to broadband motoring in a world of dial-up. However, that was before the car’s battery died after 50 miles of driving. Then they were not impressed by the 16 odd hours it would take them to charge it back up. So they got another Tesla Roadster, which Jeremy managed to overheat (overheated motor, he said, which is odd because the electric motor is just air-cooled for its nominal cooling requirement). To add insult to injury, somehow, the brakes broke on the first one while it was sitting in the garage. So this led the show’s hosts to deem the car impractical for today’s world of driving. Here is the Top Gear: Tesla Roadster Youtube video, which will probably go down soon:

[EDIT: If you want to see Tesla’s side of the story, scroll down to the first comment of this article, by Rachel Konrad, Senior Communications Manager of Tesla Motors. Top Gear’s piece ended up being somewhat of a PR disaster regarding Tesla’s reliability, and hearing another side to the story is helpful.  I won’t make a judgment on what happened because I wasn’t there and I can only write about what was in the video.]

The other host on the show, James May, sparked my curiosity at the end, talking about finding an alternative to the battery electric car and future of motoring. So I found the James’ segment on the Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen electric car. I have never been a fan of hydrogen cars, because they are about as technologically advanced as spaceships and don’t seem like they will be practical economically. Some say the car, right now, would be priced at $10,000,000. Plus, hydrogen is something Shell can sell you, so of course they will push this on us. But I was impressed by the FCX Clarity Hydrogen, which is really basically just an electric car with a hydrogen powered generator that will extend the range to around 300 miles. So it utilizes the superior efficiency of an electric motor while eliminating the bulk and range limits of batteries.  Also according to the video, hydrogen is about at cheap as gas and the car’s only byproduct is water. Don’t be fooled though, the hydrogen car is very far down the road. Here is the Top Gear: Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen segment:

Sources: YouTube, Autobloggreen

12 thoughts on “Top Gear Reviews Tesla Roadster and Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen”

  1. For the record: Thanks to The Stig’s impressive turn behind the wheel, the Tesla Roadster gets a higher ranking in Top Gear’s performance board than a Porsche 911 GT3. Jeremy Clarkson, a die-hard “petrol head” with a clear bias against green cars generally, said that it must be “snowing in hell” because he had such a great time driving the Roadster and now considers himself a “volt head” thanks to the Roadster’s amazing performance. This is amazingly high praise from Clarkson, whose entire schtick is to savage even his most beloved petrol-guzzling sports cars.

    However, I would like to clarify a couple things. Never at any time did Clarkson or any of the Top Gear drivers run out of charge. In fact, they never got below 20 percent charge in either car; they never had to push a car off the track because of lack of charge or a fault. (It’s unclear why they were pushing one into a garage in the video; I’ll refrain from speculating about their motives.)

    The “brake failure” Clarkson mentions was solely a blown fuse; a service technician replaced the Roadster’s pump and it was back up and running immediately. They were never without a car, and the Top Gear testing did not put the Roadster’s reliability or safety in question whatsoever. Again, I’m going to leave out comments as to why the good folks at Top Gear might have mischaracterized the blown fuse as a brake failure, which is was decidedly not.

    I am also unclear as to why Clarkson said it took 16 hours to recharge the Roadster without qualifying that statement at all. The vast majority of people who have taken delivery of their Roadsters (and there are more than 100 of them now) have much faster systems that recharge from dead to full in as little as 3.5 hours.
    However, I really enjoyed Clarkson’s suggestion that, if people want to race Roadsters 24-7, they should simply buy two. 😉

    If anyone continued watching the show until the end, you no doubt also saw the show’s astoundingly uninformed coverage of Honda’s hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, which cannot be purchased at all but rather leased in Southern California to 200 pre-qualified customers in the next three years. (Did they even watch “Who Killed the Electric Car” to learn about the fate of another lease-only next-generation vehicle?)

    The fact that Clarkson rips on the Roadster for being three times the price of a Lotus Elise is a bit odd, considering the Top Gear folks never even mention the price of the Clarity, which is about five times the cost of a Roadster, according to industry analysts. (Honda refuses to divulge the price of the Clarity, but its previous FCX, first delivered in 2002, cost about $1 million each to produce, and executives have coyly indicated that the new ones are about half the cost of the old ones.)

    A conspicuous omission, me thinks. Let the readers beware.

    Rachel Konrad
    Senior Communications Manager
    Tesla Motors Inc.

  2. Arguing the difference between a fuse and brake failure is semantics. If the car doesn’t stop when I want it to, that’s brake failure. I don’t care if it’s electronics or the actual disk is broken. I don’t think the brake failure was a mischaracterization and the tests did put the Roadsters reliability in question. I completely agree with the other mischaracterizations and the horribly biased review of the clarity, but you can’t put in such a ridiculous argument about blown fuses not being brake failure when you’re writing to complain about misinformation.

  3. Sonny,
    You do not even need to know anything about the Tesla, just knowing the law in California is enough to understand why a pump not working due to a blown fuse cannot be a brake failure.
    The law requires that brakes are operated in a mechanical fashion, such that if a pump for a power-brake fails, you still have brake action on your pedal, you just need to push harder on the pedal for the same brake force, but failure in an electric system can never lead to loss of brakes in a legal car.
    Many EV developments have proposed to use exclusive electric brakes, but this law is what voids such attempts.
    Of course the editors of sensation-seeking programs like Top Gear do not care about such details as telling the truth, so it is good to do you own due diligence and ask questions on forums where you can meet engineers that understand what is going on or who even work on electric cars. One such forum is the EVDL, the EV discussion list where it is only allowed to discuss anything related to EVs.

  4. I’m just wondering if it would be practical (long term) to operate some sort of swap out system for electric batteries.

    Rather like what you do with Gas bottles. Yuo bring the old empty one in and they replace it with a full one (and of course some money). If you could standardise on the packaging of batteries etc., it might be possible to operate such asystem.

    You would need some sort of collabotarive effort of course, probably never actually owning the bateries etc.


  5. Zuber,

    Your great idea is being implemented in Project Better Place. They are currently signing with several states and nations to build an infrastructure of battery swap stations. The swap is done in a matter of minutes. You basically subscribe to the service like a cellphone provider, never actually owning the batteries.

    Here’s a link:

  6. I figured I would not be the first person to think of it 🙂

    Given that it’s viable, I just don’t get the point of Hydrogen based…


  7. I watch top gear every week and was very angry when i found out you actually cannot buy the Honda hydrogen car but you can only lease one ,thats if your one
    of the lucky 200 which is all honda are releasing so how bloody rediculous,
    Top gear has gone down in my book they are supposed to inform the public
    with genuine honest information but seem determined to put down electric
    vehicles in their own twisted sneaky manner just watched lewalyns weekly liberal rant on you tube and he just about sums it up,but more importantly
    i now think BP or shell might just sponsor Top gear.

  8. I wrote to the BBC about the misinformation. I don’t suppose it will make any difference because Top Gear is an entertainment show and not to be taken seriously. However, many people do absorb notions from the media, without applying their critical faculties.

    I found Rachel Konrad’s comments to be very helpfully informative. Perhaps it was not such a good idea to let Top Gear have a couple of Roadsters to try out; sorry.

    Please can we kill the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle idea. Hydrogen is not a fuel; it has been synthesized as an energy storage medium which can have the energy extracted through an internal combustion device or a fuel cell. The first is as inefficient as any other ICEs and the second produces electricity which has to be fed through an electric motor, just like the Roadster.

    The BBC had James May say that Hydrogen is the most common element on earth. Perhaps he meant the Universe. I would like to know where I can find free hydrogen on Earth? That is to say, hydrogen that is not attached to other elements from which you detach it by using energy, only a fraction of which can be recovered. Then you have to compress it or turn it into a liquid and transport it to storage tanks in big tankers which can only carry 350kg of hydrogen compressed to 200 bar or 3.5 tonnes of liquid hydrogen in cryogenic tanks of the same capacity. Then you have to keep it in the vehicle without endangering your life, all for a conversion rate at the driving wheel of about 17% of the energy which was expended in getting it into your tank in the first place.
    If we are going to synthesize any gas, methane would make more sense; not much but certainly more than hydrogen.

    Oh! where does the energy come from to synthesize hydrogen? could it be oil?
    Call me an old cynic but could there be any connection between the established motor manufacturers and the oil companies?

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