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Tesla Roadster vs Top Gear

Wed, 17 Dec 2008

As I’m sure many of you will have seen at the weekend, Clarkson got to play with the Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise. Made for interesting viewing.

It was obvious that the weight of the batteries would compromise the handling, but its actual straight-line speed was a real revelation. It trounced a standard Elise on the drag race, and posted an incredible time at the hands of the Stig. But, Top Gear being Top Gear, there were a number of issues raised, some of which have been addressed by a spokesperson from Teslar.

First, the out-of-charge issue and the pushing to the garage shot: According to Rachel Konrad of Tesla, neither of the cars Top Gear had ever fell below 20% charge. She claims the ‘pushing’ footage was a ruse to make a point. I’m not that sceptical, and with all the grief the BBC has had of late I doubt they would sanction it. Still, it’s a point.

Second, the brake failure: Rachel states that the brakes didn’t fail, but that a fuse (presumably on the regeneration system) failed. Well, I’m sorry, but if a fuse goes in anything it stops working. Your wipers may not be broken if their fuse goes, but you still won’t be able to see where you’re going in the rain. Same with the brakes fuse.

Third, the re-charge time: Clarkson stated that it would take 16 hours to recharge. Rachel states that is a worse-case scenario, and under normal circumstances a full charge shouldn’t take more than 3.5 hours. Fair point, but what use is a 3.5 hour charge time when you’ve run out of juice half way up the M6 on a rainy Friday evening. Not much, I would venture to suggest.

Any new technology has problems and compromises. The Tesla is no different. But, and this is a point we raised a while ago, and to which May referred in his piece on the Hydrogen Honda, the electricity still has to be produced, and no one seems to take that in to account when they claim these sorts of cars to be emission free. It’s just plain wrong to say so.

It’s great to see technological barriers being broken, and advances that should make cars cleaner and cheaper to run. But electric vehicles per se, unless the electricity is produced on-board by hydrogen, are a road to nowhere.

By Cars UK