Former Tesla nemesis Top Gear raves about Model X

Tesla Model X (Arnie Papp - CC BY 2.0) copy

The tiff between Tesla and British car show Top Gear was the EV world’s equivalent of the OJ Simpson circus. After prickly presenter Jeremy Clarkson, a famous hater of all things electric (and most things American) gave the Roadster a snarkily negative review in 2008, Tesla sued for libel. The ensuing drama dragged on for three years, delivering a massive amount of publicity for both Tesla and Top Gear (expensive publicity for the former, which ended up paying over £100,000 in court costs).

The BBC show got its own back by refusing to review the Model S (and running a gushing review of the Fisker Karma, which was seen as a Tesla competitor at the time).

Well, a lot has changed over the past few years. The controversial Clarkson is gone, Tesla is the leader of a mushrooming market for plug-in vehicles, and Top Gear has aired a 10-minute review of the new Model X.

Presenter Rory Reid, who recently joined the show, went to New York to test drive the Model X P90DL, and delivered a rave review.

“Welcome to the future,” says Reid. “It’s an electric car that might just do to petrol and diesel what the Ford Model T did to the horse. Here I am in a spacious, luxurious six-seat SUV that aced every single crash test it’s ever been in.”

Reid praised the Tesla’s low center of gravity and instant torque. “It doesn’t roll around and – in bends – stays surprisingly flat. There’s really not an awful lot of feedback from the steering wheel but because it has no engine and it’s silent, you can hear the tires as they approach the limit of grip. It’s like driving with your ears, a very strange sensation but I like it.”

In true Top Gear tradition, Reid does a drag race with a 6.2 L supercharged V8 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. After demolishing the Dodge, Reid asks, “Am I still a petrol-head?”

He certainly sounds like a convert to electrons. “Forget cylinders and super unleaded, because the future is cells and supercapacitors. There’s no point trying to fight it because you can’t stop it. The future is here. And it’s electric.”


Source: Top Gear via Tesla Updates
Image: Arnie Pappf (CC BY 2.0)

  • Food4Thought

    I am glad EVs are getting a fair shake. Someday soon (i hope) Burning gasoline in cars may seem as quaint as burning kerosene or whale oil in lamps…

  • bob

    Yes, it may take a while but EV’s are here and appear to be staying. Gas will someday be old school. We have a 2015 Leaf and have loved it. It does what it was designed to do, be a commuter or mid-range vehicle. Just bought a 2017 Volt. We are going as electric as we can. Waiting for out Tesla 3. Hope to be in the first wave of deliveries.

    • Electric Bill

      You betray your doubts! “EVs… APPEAR to be staying.”

      There is no question: fossil fuels are finite, and can never compete with electrons that you can get for free.

      And to buy a Volt after having had a Leaf… that is far better than anything relying solely on gas, but tells me you still must have range anxiety, the only reason anyone would own something with an, engine.

      It really is all about the batteries… how fast they can be recharged, and just how ubiquitous the charging network is. If someone can own a Leaf for years and then still feel the need to buy a Volt tells me we still have a way to go before everyone will feel comfortable cutting the umbilical cord to Big Oil.

      This transition away from fossil fuels may happen in any combination of tree, ways: batteries increase in energy density so greatly that we can drive hundreds of miles without stopping; secondly, batteries (or supercapacitors, or any analogous technology) that allows us to recharge in just minutes; or, thirdly, any technology that allows us to charge while driving, such as inductive coils in the roadway, at stop lights and drive-thrus that allow us to get a partial charge before continuing on.

  • bob

    Hey Electric Bill, well, it is what it is. Fact is on most days my wife and I can now run totally on electrons. Last weekend, instead of driving a Volvo wagon with 300 H.P. and eats gas, we were able to go to a friends cottage and run 40% of the trip in electric mode (with us plugged in to 110V at their cottage) and the rest on gas but even then with a car that gets better mileage. The Leaf would not have been able to do that based on its range and a lack of chargers along the route. Since I can’t convince my wife to spend a 100 grand on a Tesla S ( not sure why), it will have to be this way until battery range or infrastructure gets better. The Chevy Bolt, Nissan leaf and Tesla 3 will mean we could go sans petrol. That range should hit the sweet spot for most folks. That is why there are 373,000 people besides me that put down a grand for the Tesla 3. And my friend is waiting for the Bolt to hit the dealers.

    • nordlyst

      I agree. The difference between the current and the next generation of BEVs is even bigger than a lot of people think. In the real world, in addition to the gross and net capacity of a battery pack there is such a thing as “capacity that you can comfortably use without getting nervous about being stranded”.

      For me, I need to have about 20 km of spare capacity to be completely worry-free. I have a 2012 LEAF that I usually charge to 80% (would charge to 90% if Nissan allowed the user to actually decide..!). That means my real-world range – in summer! – is only about 80 km, and so my “comfortable range” is down to an underwhelming 60 km.

      Now, if I got a Bolt (Ampera-e) that spare capacity doesn’t grow at all. If I were to charge the Ampera-e also to 80% (although here 90% will likely be an option) I would get a real-world summertime range of about 240 km. Subtracting the 20 km of spare capacity we see that my “comfy range” has increased from 60km to 220km. That’s a factor of 3.5 – much more than the 2.5 times increase in gross battery pack capacity!

      Obviously if you run the numbers for winter it gets even crazier, since the 20 km spare capacity eats up even more of the range of my LEAF…

      A similar phenomenon applies to long-distance travelling. The last 20% SoC take unreasonably long, so you’ll want to avoid charging beyond 80%. And I still need (at least!) those 20 km of spare capacity to feel I’m safe even if a charger is out of order. My “comfortable range” is thus again down to just 60 km (in summer!). The chargers aren’t placed at exact 60 km intervals, so in the real world you may have to deviate from your optimal point of recharge by some amount – say, 20 km.

      So in practice, with the LEAF I may end up having to charge every 40 km on average. Not only do I have little range to begin with, but I only get to use about 40% of that range between recharges due to the many constraints of the real world.

      Consider the same limitations with a Bolt! They are all there, but most of them stay fixed and do not increase relative to the battery pack size. You’d still only want to charge to about 80%, but the spare capacity remains 20 km and the suboptimal placement of chargers still “costs” the same (my guess is 20 km on average).

      How much farther can I go between recharges then?

      LEAF: 100km * 80% charge – 20km spare cap – 20km suboptimally placed chargers = 40 km

      Bolt: 300km * 80% charge – 20 km spare cap – 20 km suboptimally placed chargers = 200 km

      That’s a quadrupling of practical, real-world, actually useable driving range for long distance. It is night and day!

  • bob

    Bill, you mention “range anxiety”, well yeah!
    How else can I drive from London, Ont. to my sister’s place in Florida. Long trip in a Leaf.
    Option would be all gas. At least with the Volt we start in EV and when we stop to eat, we will try to charge, plus at the motels. Until I win the lottery or win a Tesla, this is the best way for long range travel. I actually tried to justify buying a Tesla S before I went with the Volt. In Ontario we get $11,500 + buying a Volt. Plus, I got another $1250 GM credits. Final was 13 grand off the Volt. Cheaper than a Malibu. Funny thing is, I never thought I would buy a GM product. I have been a BMW/ Volvo guy my whole life. For now, the Volt is the best of all worlds. Not a perfect car but EV range close to what I get with the Leaf. I told GM I was disappointed with the 3.6 KWH charger. And no fast charging. Leaf has a 6.6 and BMW 7.
    Next wave with the Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla all shooting for 200 Mi./ 300+ kms. will be the big break through.
    Ontario is also expanding public charging. How about where you live Electric Bill?

  • bob

    Hi Nordlyst,
    Your range seems still low with a safety net. On a good day in summer, I can get over 100 kms. with plenty to spare. Winter is the issue in the Great White North. My advantage is my 2015 has the 6.6 kwh charger plus the fast charger, when ever they come to my neck of the woods. When the fast chargers are up and running, I will be able to venture out farther across Canada. The Volt, while only two weeks old, has given a range of 85 + kms. on EV. That was with the AC on too.