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Thursday
Sep252014

But it's all so complicated!

I posted this picture on Twitter the other day which caused a bit of a flutter.

It’s a still taken by someone during the shoot of a new series of Top Gear.

I was impressed that the old men in jeans are even attempting to use an electric car, so the initial view of this picture is great.

Big Jezza’s seen the light…… sort of.

For a start the BMW i8, the car in the picture, is amazing, fast and made of the future. It also has a petrol engine and a fairly limited electric only range.

It’s a plug in hybrid £100,000 supercar and that’s fine and dandy.

I think it’s fantastic and much better than an old school massive engine in two-seater supercar.

However there’s a couple of things in the picture that give the impression that all is not 100% hunky dory in the brave new Top Gear change of mindset regarding electric cars.

The first is the position the car is parked in.

The charge port on the i8 is on the passenger side, there are two parking spaces for electric cars at this location, if he’d parked in the other one the cable running from the charger wouldn’t have to be stretched over the bonnet to look all awkward and ungainly.

If he had reversed in, as you would in a Tesla Model S, the same lack of cable stretch would apply.

You would only park in this position to ‘make a point’ that it’s a bit silly to plug a car in.

Sure, some people stop with their filler cap on the far side from the petrol/diesel pump, we’ve all done it, a couple of times.

Any normal human being who is just using the car would gather that instantly and move the car to the other bay, then the cable would just reach with no problem.

But this is Jezza, I suppose he has to make it look awkward.

The second and far more important point is the charger he’s using belongs to Ecotricity and it’s specifically designed as a rapid charger.

It can charge my Leaf from close to empty to 80% in under 30 minutes.

But the Leaf is designed to take this fast charge, the BMW i8 is not.

The battery in my Leaf has a capacity of 24-kilowatt hours, the battery in the BMW i8 has a capacity of 7.2 kilowatt hours.

If you plug the i8 into a 32-amp domestic charge socket it will take about 3 hours to fill.

If you don’t ever charge the battery the car still works, regenerative braking and indeed the amazing 3-cylinder petrol engine can charge the battery so if you’re not stopping somewhere for more than a couple of hours it’s not really worth clogging up a rapid charger.

It will take a charge from the Ecotricity system but only at the same rate you’d get from a 32 amp charger at home.

Not that an inconsequential thing like a fact should get in the way of good telly, so stretch that cable, moan about how complicated it is to understand and make sure another couple of million people don’t understand how electric cars and plug in hybrids work.

Job done, the fossil fuel companies can sit back and relax as further development and understanding has been held back for another few years.

After all, that’s his job isn’t it?

Reader Comments (16)

Not that I'm about to side with Mr Clarkson, but it raises a couple of interesting points.

1) He might have made it awkward on purpose and used the 'wrong' bay, Top Gear are renowned for deliberately cocking things up in the name of entertainment; or it might just be that there was another car there which left.

2) As for the charging... well, it's perfectly possible that they didn't know the i8 won't take a fast charge from that station. Half the people in this country don't seem to be able to work out not to put unleaded in their diesel cars, so I'm not sure this would be a deliberate attempt to undermine the vehicle, only the final broadcast edit will determine that. Maybe a better question is why the i8 won't take a fast charge ? Are there multiple standards ? Is the i8 not capable of fast-charging ? As long as there are complications, no matter how small, normal people will get confused, and those confusions will get exaggerated by the petrolheads.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTim

What a berk. I hope that rectangle in his super-tight pocket is an iPhone 6+. That would learn him.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Could have been another electric car in the left hand bay when the BMW pulled up. More than one electric car on the road I think, perhaps a Leaf? Not sure what point you are making about the fast charge, if the BMW does not have that option then why does it make a difference what you plug it in to. Just because the Clackson has problems with Electricity, means us that do not can enjoy him making a "Clackson" of himself. It was not that long ago that all things diesel where the work of the devil, electricity will get there, and when The Clarkson can use it without engaging his brain then we know it is truly idiot proof.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraige

So the programme hasn't aired yet, correct?

He may have had someone parked next to him meaning that he would have to park there and stretch the cable across.

Also, he may have needed to charge and this was the closest available charge point.

So, possibly, not awkward and trying to make everything difficult but living with realities of electric cars.

Not trying to argue, just point out other possible reasons for the points you put in your blog. The cable doesn't look any more ungainly than when I fill my diesel from the wrong side and, once I had parked, I wouldn't move just for the cable. Also, if slower charge is all you have available then I would take it over running out of electric.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

Although I'm continually disappointed by Top Gear's (The TV show rather than the magazine) attitude to electric vehicles I have to say that the whole VHS / Betamax situation regarding fast charging and multiple standards is even more disappointing.....

The fact that BMW are investing millions in electric vehicles is awesome. The fact that Ecotricity is rolling out charging points is also awesome. The fact that one does not work with the other is disappointing and surely it's valid for a TV programme to point this out

I am a fan of electric vehicles but the current situation with public chargers, their sometime patchy reliability, the fact that a lot of the time the spaces have ICE vehicles blocking them means that I would not consider a pure electric as my main car.......yet

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrobhwales

Ok, previous commenters: it could be that someone else was parked there before Jezza, or any number of reasons for his stretching the cable across the bonnet.

But let's be honest, not all of these explanations are equally likely. He is standing there with a camera. He has a track record of exaggerating problems with electric cars. It is very, very, very likely that the scene is staged.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is one thing, pretending Jeremy Clarkson will ever miss a trick when it comes to criticising electric cars is another.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob

He doesn't 'need' to charge at all. As Robert stated, the i8 charges the battery pack itself using a combination of the petrol engine and regenerative braking. This fact would indicate that the whole thing is staged to make electric vehicles look silly. Again.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIan

In the larger original image, If you look closely bottom right, they dug the Type 2-Type 2 cable out of the boot and it's now lying on the ground, either not knowing that Rapids have the cables attached for AC (apart from the older Electrobay units that have a Type 2 socket) or again it's another staged event where Jezza realises that he does not need it? However he could actually be totally confused like many first time EV users?

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterColin

I think the auto manufacturers, other than Tesla, have done a good job agreeing to standard socket on the cars for recharging. The charge points are easy to operate as well. If you can choose correctly between petrol and diesel and pay with your debit card at a station, you should have no problems with an electric car.

Charging with the petrol engine is the most expensive way to generate electricity. You are better off using the petrol engine to drive the car and recharge from another source the next time you have the chance.

September 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen Brown

That's the AC Rapid charger with a mennekes plug right? I don't think it's a bad thing that they're highlighting how ridiculous the whole charging standard war is.

I don't think it can even take 32A (household sockets are 13 of course). The BMW site isn't clear, but it seems to have 5kwh usable battery, and they say it'll charge to 80% in 2 hours, I make that roughly 2KW. That's not 32A, more like 10,

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob H

I'm sure if the i8 is powerful and 'quick' he'll love it.

I'm also sure that if it is possible to cock it up, he will, - both to make a point, and to make good 'telly'.

However, he's not a total dinosaur, as his reviews of the McLaren P1 & Porsche 918 have shown, he can see the advantages of hybrid systems for the performance benefits that they bring.

He has often said himself that he has no idea of how a ICE engine works, and that he changes his opinion about things all the time.

So with some Clarkson-esque positive PR for supercar hybrids at one end, and a similar positive spin for the 'normal' i3 REx from James May at the other, Top Gear WILL change it's attitude over time, but in a way that will be carefully designed to avoid upsetting the mouth-breathing petrol-heads among its audience.

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Have to guiltily admit I really like Topgear so happy to give the benefit of the doubt until we see it. I definitely think the way to change people's minds is to engage and encourage rather than to set up a them-and-us type thing. They'll definitely be on board before long.

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDoug
October 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbossglobal

A lot of time driving into spaces is the better option. It allows access to the boot to load/unload things. Reversing in often prevents this.

January 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterOliver

Suspect this episode is airing very soon. Will be interesting but suspect it has been staged, love to get tracking info from BMW to hear what/where/how it was really driven.

February 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTassieEV

I wouldn't be surprised if it was deliberate. I refuse to watch that program since Mr C, in an article in a Sunday paper (along time ago admittedly) advocated stretching a wire across the road to stop "noisy motorcycles" from passing near his house.
I tried again watching it here in France, thinking maybe the translation might remove the moron attitude, non starter.

The electric car side of the industry does need to get it's standards in order quickly and also make concentrate on cars we can all afford.
Flash sporty jobs are good show cases but we the great unwashed (= poor sods in the grips of the banks) need alternatives to petrol/diesel.

February 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNeil Livewire

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