• Dec 16th 2008 at 1:37PM
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Now that we've all had some time to digest the review that Jeremy Clarkson gave the Tesla Roadster, perhaps some of the points made therein should be analyzed a bit further. One memorable scene had Clarkson and the Top Gear crew pushing their first Roadster (they had two for testing) into the garage after apparently running out of juice. Or did they? According to Rachel Konrad, Senior Communications Manager at Tesla Motors, the car was most definitely not out of juice. Although she chooses not to speculate herself, consider yourself free to discuss why the scene was filmed this way in the comments. Our guess would be that it made for good television. If so, that seems a bit like open deception.

A second issue that Clarkson had with the Roadster is with the brakes. Apparently, all of that race track flinging managed to blow a fuse in what we're assuming must be the regenerative braking system. After the fuse was replaced, there were no more problems. Our take on this is that a blown fuse, while not a big problem and easy to fix, is still an issue and all that the average driver would know is that the brakes aren't working properly. Surely, though, Clarkson isn't the average driver, so perhaps he should have reported on the cause of the brake failure, but whatever.

The last point Konrad makes is that the 16-hour recharge time quoted by Top Gear is an absolute worst-case scenario - sort of like filling your gas tank using a thousand Dixie Cups full of petrol. Anyone looking to purchase a Tesla should be aware that the car can take a much faster charge and that the appropriate equipment is available to do just that right from the factory. In any case, it was fun watching the Roadster being flung around by The Stig and listening to Clarkson's comments, proving once again that Top Gear is the most entertaining auto show on TV. Read Rachel's entire comment, made on a blog posting over at Dvorak.org, after the break.

[Source: Dvorak.org]

Blog Post by Rachel Konrad:

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. ;)

Rachel Konrad
Senior Communications Manager
Tesla Motors Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      While I don't necessarily agree with the review, Tesla clearly markets the vehicle as a "sports car". Sure, we can blame Clarkson for making it sound like there was a genuine brake failure, but do we know if Clarkson knew all that needed to be done was replace the fuse? No. But the idea of a "sports car" is to be able to do what the manufacturer says right off the showroom floor. If it can't, it can't. This was Porsche's arguement against the NSX. They took it out and the brakes caught fire because of the pads Honda used from the factory (which weren't in the original design). Does that mean it's not a great sports car? Of course not. The car was praised universally and to this day is still considered the foundation for many of our modern supercars.

      But if you have to replace a fuse or brake pads, what's the difference? The car didn't necessarily do what you said it was going to do without modification without incident. Of course, most owners will never do this with the car, but does that mean Porsche or Ferrari shouldn't make F430 Scuderias or GT3 RS'? Because they'll only end up in someone's garage, never driven, only turned on to load them on the trailer? Of course not.

      But come on, you're upset about how Top Gear, of all people, are testing a vehicle? Imagine that...

      Tesla isn't the savior of the world. Having driven one, it's okay, but it's most certainly not perfect. Elon has you folks sippin' his ego-flavored Kool-Aid. I can't speculate how Europe would charge their vehicles, so I dunno whether it would take 3.5 hours or 16, but just the same, since she didn't actually qualify Tesla's arguement against Clarkson, perhaps she should've issued something when she had facts, instead of a "PR" statement. Not wanting to speculate is one thing, but not providing facts...why should I believe her over Clarkson? Because she said so? Yeah...okay. Again, I don't necessarily agree with the review, however, that doesn't mean there's not another side to the story.
        • 8 Months Ago
        People aren't upset about Top Gear testing the car - finding shortcomings is what the programme is about - they are complaining that they had to throw some untruths in there just to make it look a bit worse.

        Emptying the "tank" in 55 miles (real or calculated) is not "real world". It's like getting 1.7mpg in the 599, I'd be surprised if any real 599 driver ever saw that. Yet blogs all over the place are saying "great commuter car - if you live 27.5 miles from work". It's not accurate and it is highly damaging - made even worse by the utterly rose-tinted report on the FCX. It's not just on TV either - they have run glowing articles on the FCX in the past two (yes *two) Top Gear magazines in the UK.

        The lasting image will be a car stuck on the track or being pushed in to the garage. Yet if you know the Roadster, you will know that it doesn't just die like that, you get a lot of warning that the juice is low. That is the kind of embellishment that comes with somebody's agenda and nothing else.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't think TG did right with their Tesla review (and the FCX
      Clarity segment was even worse -- I'm so disappointed in James May). However, this statement by Rachel Konrad doesn't add up:

      "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."

      If the problem was only a blown fuse, why did a service technician have to replace a pump?
        • 6 Years Ago
        What's the diff?

        There is a reason you don't send a girl to get the car fixed!
        Chris Barron
        • 6 Years Ago
        If a fuse blows it is usually diue to a component drawing too much current causing the fuse to do what it is designed to do and that is to blow.
        There would be little point in replacing the fuse if it is only going to blow again due to the pump (for whatever reason) drawing too much current.
        The right course of action when a fuse blows is to investigate if it blew because something drew too much current and presumably the pump drew too much current, possibly because it had an internal fault.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, that fuse and pump thing doesn't make sense to me either. Maybe they decided to replace the whole pump rather than just the fuse to be extra safe.

        But really the damage had already been done in that segment, especially with the Clarity segment following (also disappointed at May, for that kind of segment).
      • 6 Years Ago
      She actually posted on OnElectricCars.com too, where she also gave her two cents on the Honda FSX Clarity Hydrogen Top Gear Review.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Something that everyone still seems to miss out with EV's is that you normally charge the car EVERY night. Even if you drive like the Stig everywhere that gives you 50M per DAY or 350M per week. I'd like to see how long the average person keeps their license driving like the Stig everywhere they go. If you take a more realistic value as drive fairly heavily you should get at least 100M per day or 700M per week. Hands up how many people do more that 700M a week.

      As to the charge time, you get home, you plug it in, you wake up in the morning and you drive off. It actually takes you less time that going to the petrol station, filling up and paying for the petrol. Who cares if it take all night to charge as long as it doesn't run out half way to work.

      PS I'm biased, I'm 95% through making my own EV (www.evaustralia.com.au)
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Top Gear crew pushing their first Roadster.... into the garage after apparently running out of juice"

      They were dramatising what *would* happen if they had run the car to its reduced 55 mile predicted range at track speeds. It's clear given Ms. Konrad's comments what their voice-over and footage was suggesting, but unless you know they didn't actually run it to empty, it is misleading.

        • 8 Months Ago
        What they should have "dramatized" was the truth. At 20% charge you get a Warning, and then you should BACK OFF the Race-This-Thing-Into-The-Ground mode, and drive at a reasonable speed into the garage.
      • 6 Years Ago
      FYI, Road and Track has a new article about the Roadster:

      A better journalistic effort than TG did, imo.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Well, first off, you must understand that Top Gear is entertainment first. Top Gear reviewed the Peel P50 - car abut 39 inches wide and tall, and maybe 5 feet long, as the "car of the future". Search on YouTube for "Top Gear Peel P50" and you'll find a hilarious review that seems much more positive than the Tesla review.

      Regarding the brake problem, I can empathize. I got my Tesla on a Thursday night and returned it the next day due to a brake issue. They replaced the pump and had it back to me the next day, so it would seem to be a legitimate complaint. Having said that, I've driven it 3500 miles since then, and have not had any other problems.

      Regarding charging, I think Tesla makes a mistake saying it takes 3.5 hours to charge on a 220V, 70A socket, and 32 hours on a 110V, 15A connection. Because no one drives it till the batteries are dead. The Tesla is not a long-distance car; it's more of a daily-driver, commute vehicle. For me, for example, I drive 15 miles to work and the Tesla recharges at work, over the superslow 110V 15A plug, in 2 hours. Then I drive it home and the high-power charger in the garage recharges it in under 20 minutes. So when people ask me how long it takes to charge, I don't tell them 3.5 hours, that just makes no sense. I say: "60mph if you have a high-power charger, and 7mph on a standard outlet. By 60mph I mean, if you drive 30 miles, you can fill up in half an hour."

      But the reality, frankly, is much better than even that describes. My day-to-day experience is simply that I plug in when I get home, and the next day, in the morning, it's always ready to go, no matter how far I've driven. If anything, the 70A charger is overkill.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The normal connecting for family houses is 3 phase 380 V in west german. The main connection of my house has 63 A. All the small stuff is running on 220V 16A, heaters and dryers are possible to run on 380V 25A. Enough for fast charging...220 V with 70 A is not effectiv.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think you are all focusing on the wrong issue. The performance of the tesla is a moot point, and let Clarkson tear through it. You don't bring him a malfunctioning car and expect a good review.
      No, the bigger issue is their take on Electric vehicles vs. hydrogen cars. They fully supported the latter and balk at EVs. They clearly did not do their homework. If they applied the same vigorus tests to teh Hydrogen car they were glowing over, they'd quickly realize that it has all of the same shortcomings. (i.e. how do you refill a hydrogen car if you're stuck on a lonely road far from a hydrogen station?)
      Clarkson's comment that EVs get their source from powerplants shows that he doesn't understand the well-to-wheel concept. Powerplants can generate power from ANY source, and EVs are fully adaptable to change. Hydrogen cars are not.
      And finally, as far as recharge times are concerned, the lithium titanite batteries are slowly being adopted by companies like phoenix motors and Lightning Cars. The performance and reliability are improved at a fraction of the recharge time: 10 minutes for a full recharge on an estimated 188 mi. range.
      Don't think of these cars as just automobiles, as that is just an application of the technology. As the battery pack improves over time, we will see drastic changes in application. This is the foresight Top Gear lacks.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I do agree Jeremy Clarkson tests are far from objective. Remember he managed to make a horse faster than a Ford Mustang.

      And about the range: well, remember that when he was testing the Ford GT he ran out of fuel while in the track, but that didn't stop him to go buy himself one.
      • 6 Years Ago
      more hydrogen pushing crap. if they could find a way to bottle electricity as an exclusive 'product' then they'd be promoting electric cars.

      pity about the
      • 6 Years Ago
      Brake failure, whether due to pads, pumps, or fuse, is still a brake failure. If a supposed sports car can't make it around a track for several laps without requiring a technician to fix the brakes, then there is a problem.
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