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Sunday
Aug072011

What is it with ZZZZZZZ?

The most unexpected experience I've had since I first had a ride in a 21st century car 10 years ago was that this new branch of technology would cause such distress and anger among a small section of the global population.

Take for example, this comment from the previous posting on this blog. It is from someone who is sadly too scared to leave their name, so they refer to themselves as zzzz. Other than that rather glaring admission of bullying cowardice, this individual is full of righteous anger and finger pointing hatred.

“I love it when eco-berks such as yourself and the gorgeous George Monbiot throw a wobbly on their favourite issue of smoke, mirrors and conjecture, which easily fits in with their main objectives, the destruction of Western consumer capitalism and private transport (hey, that's not my opinion, that's what Caroline Lucas wants). Of course, you neglect to mention the other issues brought up like recharge time, unpredictability of range (you touch upon it, alas in a very naive and optimistic way), increasing electricity costs (which will happen as the country and the world transitions to ETS ponzi schemes and inefficient wind turbines) and having to rip up existing transport infrastructure in order to make way for the Clean Green Utopia. I regret buying the Red Dwarf DVDs. Should have just downloaded them and not given any of the money I would have spent to someone like you.”

(ETS stands for Emissions Trading Schemes, I had to Google it. This indicates that the writer is American but I may be wrong)

We’re talking about cars here ladies and gentlemen, we’re not talking nuclear weapons or communism, we’re not talking racial politics or gay marriage, we’re talking cars. Machines made in factories by big, multi national corporations.

As I stood looking at the T-Zero electric prototype in 2001, I could not have thought to myself ‘Blimey, this is a left wing car, the right wing nutters are going to go apeshit when this hits the streets.'

The notion of politics would not have entered my head for a moment. And yet, the extreme right, and let’s face it, as the developed world has lurched so far to the right it’s resulted in angry white men have lurching ever further right to differentiate themselves from the mass, this distressed minority have leveled their fury at electric cars. Oh yes, and inefficient wind turbines, they really hate wind turbines, although interestingly they never mention inefficient solar panels.

But the right wing white men (and let’s face it, they all are white men) are mightily upset by any criticism of their beloved leader. Mr Clarkson has had a right old duffing up this week. Bish bash bosh, the press have had a field day. Indeed Mr Monbiot (a passionate pro-nuclear advocate) did have a bit of a pop at the BBC and Mr C for the silly pranks. But he was not alone, just about every paper mentioned that yet again they ‘obfuscated the truth’ and went to great lengths to paint as bleak a picture as was possible of any form of alternative to good old petrol and diesel, (I include hydrogen in that mix as fossil fuel is where hydrogen will come from)

Three years ago when I was critical of Top Gear’s truth obfuscated review of the Tesla, the majority of comments I received were very pro the series and very anti my analysis.

This time, the tide has indeed turned.

There are reams of comments all over the internet finally questioning Top Gear, and by default, the BBC’s bizarrely biased reporting on this subject. I don’t for one moment think the noise will affect the show or the BBC’s stout defense of it. I don’t want Top Gear to change, I desperately want them to continue their ill informed criticism of electric vehicles. It’s one of the best things that can happen to encourage the uptake of this technology.

I heard a very interesting fact from a high ranking employee of an international car manufacturer. Top Gear did a scathing review of one of their economy diesel models and In the weeks that followed the sales of the car went off the charts, they could not keep up with the demand. Counter intuitively when, on another episode TG gave a glowing review of one of their high-end sports models, the sales of this car collapsed, they even had some existing orders cancelled.

By the way, I’m thrilled zzzzzz bought Red Dwarf DVD’s, I’m going out to waste the money on more renewableinfrastructure :-)

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Reader Comments (36)

Steve Smith

Your righteous anger is noted Mr Smith, I can almost hear your clenched fists as you pound the keys.
Have to take my hat off to your dogged determination, I surmise you might work for or in the legal profession and you are acting as a rather crude agent provocateur, you are, it would appear, fishing for a slander.
You won't get one from me.
I am as you say sponsored by large multi national corporations (Toyota and Nissan).
Similarly to Top Gear this is public and acknowledged, also, like Top Gear I don't depend on this sponsorship for my entire income but some of the shows I work on do.
I am perfectly happy to admit that it is doubtful I would be openly critical of Nissan or Toyota, even in sectors of those companies that make cars which I might otherwise be critical of (The Land Cruiser and the Nissan GT-R for example)
I therefore think the term 'don't bite the hand that feeds you' is appropriate here, it's doubtful, for example on Fully Charged, that I am going to drive a petrol burning supercar and say something like, 'this makes the Nissan Leaf look pants, you'd be an idiot to buy one, this is so much better.'
I suppose in a similar vien it is unlikely that presenters on Top Gear are going to say, 'this powerful V12 is outdated, noisy, smoke belching rubbish. It uses too much petrol and the company that supplies that fuel supports despotic regimes in the Middle East.'
It's not going to happen is it.
Your accusation that I am "a man knowingly given free EVs to drive. Not even a pretence of "impartiality" there. Stone cold funded by the EV makers" says it all really. Just replace 'EV's' with 'Oil' and myself with Top Gear and you've made the argument perfectly.

August 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobert Llewellyn

I think there are some very worried companies, investors, share holders who have financial interests in oil and will do all they can to see the demise of the electric revolution. I have attended many events at the House of Lords where you see sponsorship form Shell with their dolly birds floating round offering free champagne etc etc. Where are the guys flying the flag for the EV's?

I think we all know the first car produced was electric. Back then when they introduced the combustion engine it was very slow, noisy and extremely inefficient. Now its much faster and refined, but still inefficient, lucky to be above 60% whereas electric motors are in the 90% bracket.

Can you imagine if electric cars had developed ahead of combustion engines and engineers were proposing this: "Well, lets get an aluminum can put in a flammable fuel and blow it up to make vehicles move! We could then built millions of them and put them on the roads next to each other . Then we could refine fuel in refining factories that use as much energy as a town and transport this highly flammable liquid around the world. Then store it under ground at stations where the public can fill their own cars up?"

Somehow I think we would of stuck with electric......there are many arguments for why, that have been touched on in previous posts, but seriously the electric revolution is happening now, it makes sense and embrace rather than try to exclude.

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Loveridge

It appears to me that Top Gear has a certain similarity with Fox News.

Those who have watched Jon Stewart on the Daily Show will know that to cover itself from claims on lack of impartial coverage (never!) Fox News claim their schedule is divided up news sections which are (allegedly) impartial and opinion/editorial sections which need not be. Of course their viewers are never informed how the current section they are watching is classified. Obviously many can identify which is which but the presentation of opinion interspersed within factual sections is almost certain to affect the opinions held by many of their viewers.

I think it would be easy to replace Fox News in the above paragraph with Top Gear

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

wish I could get free Electric cars or free Petrol cars to test... obviously just not famous enough... unlike JC for oil and RL for leccy... Lol

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjames

I quite like Top Gear, but only 'cos it's funny. I wouldn't take seriously its 'review' of EVs any more than I took seriously their 'review' of the Ford Fiesta (the car I drive) which as I recall involved armed forces and beach landings - not much of a link to normal driving! It's an entertainment show that does funny things with cars, not a serious car review show.

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Kaye

Robert, I hope you do realize not everyone who reads your blogs, watches Fully Charged and follows you on Twitter is a Oil Proponent and that some of us are massive supporters of what you are doing and hope you continue doing the fantastic job in educating us about both EV's and related technologies such as alternative energy and better battery technology.

Although I am in a part of the world that doesn't have the huge populations of the UK or the US and therefore seeing these technologies arrive will be farther away with potentially initial higher prices and no government incentives I am very much looking forward to when they do arrive.

I would just like to say keep up the fantastic work you are doing as I am one of I assume many that truly believe in this future technology that is just in it's infancy, at least from a mass market perspective. Don't let the naysayers and skeptics that seem to believe there is a unlimited supply of last centuries 'black gold' get to you.

Keep up your great work!

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTassieEV

Do you think that all this rhetoric is starting to become detrimental to the acceptance of EVs by the general public? It would seem, in my personal opinion, that the BBC as an organisation seems heavily biased against electric cars.

It is difficult to put effectively put forward corrections to inaccurate details portrayed as fact by programs including Top Gear. I love Top Gear, its very entertaining, but I would not trust anything they say about cars as gospel. As they are an entertainment show they seem unburdened by journalistic morals (if that is not too contradictory a term) regarding addressing inaccuracies in any story.

Perhaps a better tack is to simply set out the factual corrections to their inaccuracies. As Nissan says no one is going to beat them in a shouting match, but those viewers with a modicum of normal brain activity will be looking for further information of the articles presented. If the facts are there and they are presented in an unbiased and simple way and are readily available, then perhaps a more gentle revolution could ensue. I think this is the sort of tac @evchels takes and it seems very effective.

Finally I have to say I would love an electric car and I have researched the pros and cons. They would suit our family perfectly. However they are just not financially viable to buy at the moment. Lets hope that changes soon or companies lease them at say £200 a month so they are the same cost as fuelling our old car.

Keep the faith!

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Millard

I include hydrogen in that mix as fossil fuel is where hydrogen will come from

I'm not a hydrogen advocate, but surely hydrogen can be derived from water using electrolysis powered by any electrical source?

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam McBrine

Before I start, I feel obliged to declare that I am a huge supporter of EVs and believe that as a species we urgently need to live a lot more greenly. The technology for EVS is far from perfect atm, and yes there are arguments that maybe EVs aren't yet quite as green or as practical as they could/should be. However, just a brief pause to consider how fast development of them has progressed suggests that such generalised criticisms are premature as regards the future end result.

My main point is simple. It seems to me that anyone who busies themselves putting down EVs, regardless of power source (cells/batteries) in favour of petrol based is running a pointless argument. It really doesn't matter how superior current vehicles are, fossil fuels (in particular oil) is going to run out, and probably alarmingly soon. Thus practical alternatives are essential and urgent, whether we like it or not. Electricity is indeed muchly generated by burning said same fuels atm, but again, that's gonna have to change too (and the pros and cons of those alternatives is a whole different discussion. I've little doubt that there will be companies offering electricity for charging only from renewable, or only from nonnuclear sources, just as you can get for household supply. You pays your money and takes your choice.)

Infrastructure will come - we've already got a magic grid of electricity all over the country; its just a case of making charging stations and putting them in, (slowed mainly by the inevitable arguments about pricing, suppliers and control). Other transport innovations started with a lack of infrastructure - we built it. Planes didn't get shelved cos there weren't any airports. Trains didn't get shelved cos there wasn't track anywhere.

My biggest complaint against Top Gear is that they should make up their minds what they are trying to be. Are they just a bunch of guys dicking around in cars being 'lads' for entertainment (yes)? Or are they an informative car review show (no)? The way the show is presented and styled, the former works, the later just looks ridiculous. Maybe the BBC should hurry up and classify Top Gear as 'Entertainment' not 'Factual' and it would be less of an issue.

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPipsissiwa

@Steve Smith

> ...I read your amazing claims (under Monbiot's piece) which amount to saying that Top Gear are in the pay of Shell.

That's a strawman fallacious argument, suggesting that Shell dictate everything Top Gear produces. The big clue is the weasel words you used - "amount to saying". You needed that because Robert did not say it - only you did.

Shell sponsor Top Gear: statement of fact.

Top Gear say things to keep their Sugar Daddy happy: speculation... but highly likely to anyone who is not really, really determined to believe that Top Gear is beyond reproach.

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlueRock

Mark Loveridge

> I think there are some very worried companies, investors, share holders who have financial interests in oil and will do all they can to see the demise of the electric revolution.

Sweating bullets, shitting bricks. There are cataclysmic changes on the way for the energy dinosaurs - and short of green-washing re-branding exercises (BP = Beyond Petroleum - haa!), they don't seem to be doing much to prepare for it. Although, Areva have been buying up renewable energy companies - big clue there!

And unlike GM + others likely killing EVs in the '90s (see 'Who Killed the Electric Car?'), this time the revolution is global with big hitters solidly in the game.

Fun times ahead!

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlueRock

A little off topic I know but I have just been watching the news. What happens to an electric car when it is set on fire? No petrol but tyres, seats plastics etc. Does cleanup mean a man with a brush or a full Hazchem unit? Not being provocative but wanting to know.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony Taylor

Tony Taylor
That is a very good point and I simply don't know, but I will try to find out. I'm fairly certain they won't 'explode' as a fossil fuelled car will, but they could release fairly nasty smokey stuff from the battery pack while they burn. I will investigate and report back.

August 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobert Llewellyn

Just park it in Hackney tonight and you'll find out. Yes yes I know the riots are over ;-)

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM

Just discovered your Fully Charged show, and I never thought that I'd like a car show before it. It's helped me understand the changes and costs of petrol vs. electric. It's not feasible for me yet but at least now I've got a rough idea of when I'll make the move.

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Holloway

Hi, re spending your share of the royalties from his DVD purchase

maybe I am way off in my understanding of the profit distribution on these things but on my current understanding of this.

Surely you already did so, after receiving your royalty cheque, you probably already spent their contribution to that cheque the first time you purchased a handful of mixed lollies for your kids,

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Forrester

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