By on January 10, 2009

Top Gear presenter and Times carmudgeon Jeremy Clarkson is not one to walk away form a fight. In fact, you could say he never met a fist he didn’t lunge his towards. After Tesla and the MSM knocked Clarkson for pretending that a Roadster ran out of juice in an episode of the shark jumping car show, Clarkson mounted Ye Olde “Valid Yet Undeclared Fictional Recreation of Theoretical Facts” defense. And that, one presumed, was that. Only, of course, it wasn’t. In Clarkson’s Times column, the world’s most famous pistonhead attempts to disprove the English maxim “the first thing you do when you’re in a hole is stop digging.” “Tesla, when contacted by reporters, gave its account of what happened and it was exactly the same as ours. It explained that the brakes had stopped working because of a blown fuse and didn’t question at all our claim that the car would have run out of electricity after 55 miles.” Uh, yes it did. Anyway… “The problem is, though, that really and honestly, the US-made Tesla works only at dinner parties. Tell someone you have one and in minutes you will be having sex. But as a device for moving you and your things around, it is about as much use as a bag of muddy spinach.” Dodgy handling, high price, yada, yada, yada. And the Roadster’s greatest sin? 


It’s not the Honda Clarity.

“In the fullness of time, I have no doubt that the Tesla can be honed and chiselled and developed to a point where the problems are gone. But time is one thing a car such as this does not have.

“Because while Tesla fiddles about with batteries, Honda and Ford are surging onwards with hydrogen cars, which don’t need charging, can be fuelled normally and are completely green. The biggest problem, then, with the Tesla is not that it doesn’t work. It’s that even if it did, it would be driving down the wrong road.”

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43 Comments on “Clarkson Pisses All Over the Tesla Roadster, Again...”


  • avatar

    The Tesla DOESN’T make as much sense as the Hydrogen clarity – or Hydrogen fueled cars in general.

    If you were living on a small island that for whatever reason had a Nuclear reactor providing power to the whole island, and had a digital electrical grid, then and only then would plug -ins make sense.

    That’s why I feel GM is betting the wrong way with the Volt. GM and Ford should push Hydrogen as the fuel of the future because the delivery systems are so like what we have now with oil.

    Plug ins will never work for people with apartments, or those without property to plug their cars in. Its simple as that.

    I don’t give a shit how fast the Tesla is. I’m interested in its viability as a future car. It doesn’t have any. And that price?

    MY S-CLASS 550 COST LESS THAN THAT !

    • 0 avatar
      telaxu

      I’m sorry but I can’t let this go unanswered.

      Hydrogen is made by splitting water (H2o) with MASSIVE amounts of energy in the form of ELECTRICITY.

      It has been established that with every conversion of energy from one form to another NET energy is actually reduced. Read this for a quick layman’s intro : http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr/wcee/keep/Mod1/Rules/EnConversion.htm

      Therefore if you are producing massive amounts of energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen then why not cut that wasteful step out of the equation and put that energy straight to use.

      And if you live on an island without an electricity grid, lucky you, and what on earth do you need a car for?

      The future of energy will involve cities and large settlements, possibly even infrastructure conduits such as highways and train lines becoming massive battery banks in an intelligent energy network. The portability argument of liquid or solid fuels is redundant in all but the most remote situations.

      Petroleum itself is dangerous enough, imagine a collision in a hydrogen fuelled vehicle?

  • avatar

    My sources tell me that power from hydrogen fuel cells is far too expensive and unreliable at this point, that the fuel cells last only for several years worth of driving, and that in the quest to develop them, the low-hanging fruit has all been plucked. And that it is uncertain whether hydrogen fuel cells will ever be practical. I don’t know whether battery electrics will ever be practical either, but from what I do know–and I’ve looked into this a bit–I’m not yet betting on either over the other.

    As for the Tesla, I got a ride in it on a morning in early fall 2007 when a handful of buyers were granted a test drive. I didn’t think to estimate how far the car was being driven at the time, but I would estimate now that it went somewhere between 35-60 miles. When the test drive was over the car was put on the charger and left there for at least an hour and a half. (I left the vicinity after having lunch.)

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    I think Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear are wrong about hydrogen. Makes no sense to me. But I am a big fan of electric cars.

    That just does not extend to the Tesla Roadster. I don’t like Tesla as a company, for a lot of reasons I won’t go into here.

    But I do think Tesla should have left Jeremy Clarkson alone. Tesla toots their own horn loudly, and get offended when they get criticized. That’s not good.

    If someone like Jeremy Clarkson says something bad about you, don’t argue with him, for heaven’s sake. He’s an entertainer, not a reviewer. He gives opinion, not fact.

    So Clarkson did imply that the Tesla Roadster he was testing ran out of charge when it had not. I think Clarkson’s 55-mile range at hard testing is right — that matches Tesla’s own figures from its CTO. Even if it’s not, give the guy the right to be dramatic instead of accurate.

    Because Clarkson said a lot of things that were far from accurate. I remember one thing in particular. As he is driving the Tesla Roadster and raving about its performance, he puts a figure to his ear as it seems he listens to his earpiece, and says “Yes, I have just been informed, it is snowing in hell.”

    Do you really expect me to believe that Clarkson got a weather report from hell in his earpiece? Come on.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Before I downloaded and watched the episode of TopGear which contains the now infamous Tesla review, I knew what to expect of the car. Who was actually surprised that the car got a crap review by Clarkson?

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Ugh.

    Hydrogen is not practical. Almost all hydrogen is currently obtained cracking natural gas. Will be until we have enough extra electricity to do hydrolysis on an unlimited basis. Of course, if we have that much extra electricity…

    Let’s just forget about the global warming issues that would arise from even the tinyiest amount of hydrogen leaking from hundreds of thousands of refuelings everyday…

    Hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells remain a dog and pony show for the forseeable future.

    Like it or not, there are some practical applications for PEVs. They may not be for you or me. But there are scenarios where they are a completely satisfactory solution set.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Chevy has now started the Volt project for bailout purposes, but wasn’t there an industry-wide consensus among car makers that fuel cells are the future? Isn’t Clarkson simply stating what all car insiders know already?

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Hydrogen power – like ethanol – is a net negative energy source. That is, they both require more energy to prepare than they release as automotive propellants.

    Clarkson and AlGore should pair up and run for office somewhere where enviro- fascism fashion is more important than thermodynamic truth – like the UK.

  • avatar
    Rhiadon

    I have a question about something related to the original post but not hydrogen or the Tesla. Please note, this is not a rhetorical question but a genuine one that I’d like a real answer to.

    It was mentioned that Top Gear has jumped the shark. What makes you say that?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Oil is an amazingly good source of energy and incredibly easy to transport around (essentially you just pump it from place to place). And it’s incredibly cheap. What a deal!

    It’s all about compromises from now on and fairly shortly. What set of compromises are economic and technically achievable in the short term future?

    Using it more efficiently is a good start; hybrids. Switching some functions/commuters to PEVs and public transport is also another good start, but only in the context of increased renewable sources.

    Maybe that will buy enough time to perfect methanol fuel cells or some other amazing technology based on very simple compounds.

    Clarkson should be condemned for failing to understand the above, “entertainer” or not. There is no NEED to distort. He’s the sort of person that helps create dinosaurs that think hybrids are “golf carts” and make the problem of energy waste/oil-dependence just that little bit harder to solve into the future.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Hydrogen and ethanol are indeed net negative energy sources. But so too is electricity. As is gasoline from the Canadian tar sands. That these sources are net negative energy is not necessarily a death blow.

    As time goes on and technology improves, we may see hydrogen and ethanol do better and take a role in moving cars. Don’t count them out yet.

    Or on the other hand, we may see gasoline get so expensive that hydrogen and ethanol look good by comparison. The oil won’t last forever.

    Best in my mind to keep an open mind.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I think betting on electricity is better.

    Has anyone kept up with the developments on ultra-capacitors? Especially the new patent obtained by EEStor in Dallas?

    The answer may not be batteries, but capacitors. The EEStor ultra capacitor uses nano-tech to cram a lot more capacitor into the same size. Plus it has a lot of other nice features.

    I think in the long run, electricity is the better answer. I’d rather sink money into upgrading the nation’s electrical generation and transport grid and trying to install a hydrogen infrastructure. The flexibility and upgrade ability of electrical systems is the key.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    The problem with electricity is storage. Moving electrons just do not like to stop. Physics and chemistry make it hard to store electricity. You never know, but I don’t think that we will find an easy way around those laws. Talented people from Thomas Edison on down have been bested by batteries.

    While electricity powers almost everything that is stationary, and through batteries a lot of things that are not, my personal opinion is that portable electronics will always need to sip electricity rather than gulp it. We will always have a better alternative than electricity for the real energy hogs — our cars and our home heating.

    As for EEStor, I’m a patent attorney who has worked in Silicon Valley for the last 17 years. I’ve been following EEStor for the last couple of years, and I’ve read all their patents and published applications. If EEStor is not a scam, I’ll be very surprised.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    OK!

    You want a little planet-saving, ultra high-tech transportation designed in America?

    It has a carbon-fibre chassis molded under mega-tons of pressure and at 3,000 degrees Kelvin. And it weighs less than three pounds! High-tech carbon-fibre and stainless steel drivetrain and carbon-fibre and exotic alloy racing wheels with ceramic bearings. There’s even an option that continuously measures power output at the crankshaft. And it accelerates and carves turns like nobody’s business.

    Some say that a vehicle like this can only exist in the mind of Gordon Murray after a Moody Blues reunion concert in Phuket.

    All I know is that it’s called….A Cannondale! http://www.cannondale.com/bikes/09/cusa/model-9RSS00D_9RSS00C.html

  • avatar
    nonce

    Hydrogen is just dumb.

    If you have the extra electricity hanging around to manufacture H₂, you can just manufacture gasoline. And you don’t have to worry about how to ship or store it, because we have a lot of practice in that.

    H₂ has slightly better efficiency than gasoline, but only slightly. And if you are really clamoring for efficiency than you would be going for electricity.

  • avatar
    factotum

    Hydrogen power – like ethanol – is a net negative energy source. That is, they both require more energy to prepare than they release as automotive propellants.

    Don’t forget gasoline! It doesn’t just come out of the ground under the gas station ready to go.

  • avatar

    I see EVERYONE saying the same thing about Hydrogen…

    “net negative” etc, etc

    Thing is, HYDROGEN IS THE MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENT IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE and Earth has an ENDLESS SOURCE OF IT.

    OUR OCEANS and OUR ATMOSPHERE.

    Has anyone considered that if we designed a device that simply collected rain water and used solar power (or other pepetual Earth energy) to cause electrolysis that it might be possible to get Hydrogen prepared on the cheap???

    Why not combine Nuclear power with hydrogen production?

    SUBMARINES DO IT…they prepare drinking water and oxygen that way.

    The way I see it, there are only two, clean, efficient ways we can power the future.
    NUCLEAR FISSION and Solar power

    Unless someone figures out Nuclear fusion and then the Earth is saved !

  • avatar
    vassilis

    Clarkson is indeed an entertainer and Top Gear a nice show to watch. Nothing to base your car-buying or technology views upon. Most of the posters here surely know more than Clarkson about renewable sources of energy.

    Honda and Mercedes both agree that anything resembling mass production of hydrogen vehicles is at best 3 decades away. Among other things, the infrastructure needed for such vehicles is terribly expensive.

    About the Tesla, he “treats” it in classic Top Gear fashion.

    A possibly interesting solution is this year’s launch of Mercedes hybrid articulated city buses with powerful electric motors on the rear axle that are combined with a “normal” engine.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ flashpoint

    Why not combine Nuclear power with hydrogen production?

    Because there’s no point in exchanging one non-rewenable (oil) for another (nuclear). There is some evidence that unless breeder reactors are used (EXTREMELY dirty), there is likely between 50-100 years of uranium left, and that’s before China, India and Indonesia (!!) go hell-bent on nuclear reactors.

  • avatar
    charly

    Fuel cell cars are electric vehicles but instead of a battery they have a fuel cell, or more likely both as you can’t do regenerated braking with a fuel cell

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ charly

    Actually, there are fuel cells that are regenerative or “closed loop”.

    Fuel Cell Types

    There are a couple of companies that have been working on laptop sized methanol fuel cells that can be recharged “normally” or by exchanging the methanol from a canister.

    With a futuristic closed loop methanol fuel cell you could; i) recharge it regenerating from braking, ii) recharge it at night, or iii) refill it with methanol at “gas” station (with very few changes to the existing petrol infrastructure).

  • avatar
    shaker

    The best solution would be an EV “Hybrid” of batteries and “Ultra Capacitors”.

    Use the batteries for long-term storage from an overnight charge; use the Ultra Capacitors to capture/deliver regenerative braking energy for quick acceleration with less resistive loss. Proper computer selection of either storage medium could result in a lighter, quicker car, as the Amp-Hour rating of the batteries could be lower (thus, lighter batteries); thus increased range on pure electicity.

    Of course, such a car would be less than ideal for extended highway cruises; there a serial hybrid would serve better.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    Clarkson could not be more right in this column. What he’s pointing out is that the Tesla is not a car, it’s a religion. His test of the Tesla was the equivalent of going to a Star Trek convention and yelling “Both Picard and Kirk suck equally!”

    RF is unfair to the master in his post. Clarkson laid out a very careful critique pointing out that the Tesla is an Elise with: worse reliability, worse range, horrible handling (note the explanation of the suspension settings), and worse green credentials (unless your religion requires you to ignore whence your power comes). And all for 3x the price of an Elise. It’s a stupid car for Gaia worshipers.

    For the fanboys who fixate on the 3.9s 0-60 time, there are various ways to get a lot of power into an Elise engine bay — not least of which is that Lotus know how to get 272hp out of the 2zz. $100k buys a lot of speed.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    dgduris’s Cannondale weighs three pounds? I don’t think so. Our $9,000-apiece Serottas weigh maybe seven times that. Possibly the absolutely bare frame weighs that, which is sort of like saying a Lotus Exige weighs 150 pounds (which, as I remember, is what the naked platform weighs).

    And as for a hydrogen car’s ability to be “refueled normally,” my only question would be…”Where?”

  • avatar
    charly

    Closed loop fuel cells have a name. They are called batteries.

    RichardD:

    The same can be said about the Elise. IIRC it has a Honda engine so it has less reliability, less carrying capacity etc. than a Honda. etc. It is a stupid car for speed freaks.

    ps. You claim that it is less reliable than an Elise. Are you sure about is because Elise and reliable aren’t words that are often used together

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ charly

    Closed loop fuel cells have a name. They are called batteries.

    Typically a device that consumes it’s fuel to generate electricity is a fuel cell.

    I prefer to call my disposable alkaline Energizers “fuel cells” and my lead/acid batteries, err…. batteries.

    Closed loop fuel cells have to have a separate containment and process to reverse/charge back to fuel.

    But, whatever makes you happiest.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @Stephan Wilkinson,

    I meant, specifically the chassis (frame).

    Serotta are wonderful machines! But it is hard to get an Ottrott above 21, I would imagine. My synapse weighs less than 19 and some would argue I haven’t enough of them (synapses – as I have plenty of Cannondales and other breeds).

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @charly,

    YDRC!

    Not Honda. Toyota! Reliability unmatched!

    Goes through tires – does the Elise – like Clarkson goes through expletives, however.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    Call it a hunch, but I think Tesla and all electric cars are going to fade away.

    “Do you really expect me to believe that Clarkson got a weather report from hell in his earpiece? Come on.”

    Oh for Christ’s sake, NO.

    humor
    [hyumər]
    1. a comic, absurd, or incongruous quality causing amusement: the humor of a situation.
    2. the faculty of perceiving what is amusing or comical: He is completely without humor.
    3. an instance of being or attempting to be comical or amusing; something humorous: The humor in his joke eluded the audience.

  • avatar
    aggrazel

    When Mr. Fusion comes out in a few years and we are all powering our flying deloreans on beer cans and banana peels, this debate will all be moot.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    @ PeteMoran: There is already terminology in use for what you which to describe. “Primary” cells are non-rechargeable. “Secondary” cells can accept a charge for multiple uses.

    @ shaker: The architecture you propose (high-energy batteries in parallel with high-power ultracaps) is exactly what GM presented at the AABC last May. They hinted at the problem with trying to combine high-energy and high-power performance into the same battery cell; it just ain’t happening right now.

    Tesla gets the power they need from high-energy/low-power cells simply because there are so damn many cells in the pack, but that’s not yet proven to give acceptable performance over the life of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    PeteMoran:
    There is some evidence that unless breeder reactors are used (EXTREMELY dirty), there is likely between 50-100 years of uranium left, and that’s before China, India and Indonesia (!!) go hell-bent on nuclear reactors.

    I think your “some evidence” is based on accounting rules that say we’ll be out of oil in 20 years. There’s enough U235 for centuries of power.

    But more nuke generation won’t happen in this country with the hysterical Oprah, enviro and lawsuit lobbies. We’ll just do what we’ve done for the last 20 years – burn 2 percent more coal each year..

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    Imagine how exciting it would be to see a fully charged EEStor vehicle develop a short circuit, thus causing 30 farads to discharge instantly at 3.5kv.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    @ charly :

    There is no connection between an Elise and a Honda or Toyota beyond the engine and tranny which is found found in the old Celica GTS and Matrix. As dgduris mentioned, reliability is unlike any previous Lotus.

    Contrast this with the Tesla which is MADE by the same Norfolk turnip farmers that make the Elise, and on the same factory line. The chassis is from the Elise. The suspension bits are from the Elise. It is in every way an Elise with a brilliant carbon fiber body plus an obese drivetrain that is a sin against the memory of Saint Colin Chapman.

    As a car, there is nothing about the Tesla — NOTHING — that is superior to an Elise that has had a bit of money thrown in the engine bay. That is, unless your religion tells you that you are contributing to the planet’s doom by exhaling.

  • avatar
    nonce

    Thing is, HYDROGEN IS THE MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENT IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE and Earth has an ENDLESS SOURCE OF IT.

    Irrelevant. H₂ is not destroyed when a hydrogen car runs.

    It costs energy to get H₂ into a form usable by cars.

    You can manufacture gasoline from electricity the same way you can manufacture H₂ from electricity. What advantage does H₂ have?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ ihatetrees

    I think your “some evidence” is based on accounting rules that say we’ll be out of oil in 20 years. There’s enough U235 for centuries of power.

    Actually, no.

    The earliest reference I have to the 50-100 year figure is Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Ian D. MacGregor, “World Uranium Resources,” Scientific American Vol 242, No 1, January 1980, pp. 66-76.

    It’s been widely accepted for sometime.

    In another post you ask me to look at Wackypedia which has an even more silly “answer” of 85 years. No-one I deal with in energy planning talks in absolute terms like that. In any case 50-100 years places 85 years about right, or actually should Wackypedia have to say 75 years to get a tick? I’m not so sure now….

    People who understand these things don’t talk about Peak Oil as “running out” either.

    We’ll just do what we’ve done for the last 20 years – burn 2 percent more coal each year.

    Why would you do that? It isn’t even necessary RIGHT now. That’s the point.

    EDIT: Sorry, it was noone who asked me to refer to Wackypedia.

  • avatar
    SteveF

    To RichardD: There is AT LEAST one thing about the Tesla that is superior to an Elise. If you buy a Tesla, you cease to fund BOTH sides of the war on terrorism, as you do whenever you fill up with gas (oil) obtained from the Middle Eastern terrorist states.

  • avatar
    rdwd

    5 problems with hydrogen vehicles adapted from WKTWC:

    Current fuel cell cars cost an average of $1,000,000. This cost has gotta drop.

    Current materials cannot store enough hydrogen in a reasonable space to give you the range people want.

    Hydrogen fuel is wildly expensive. Even hydrogen from dirty fossil fuels is two or three times more expensive than gasoline.

    The need for an entire new fueling infrastructure. Someone’s gonna have to build at least ten or twenty thousand multi-million dollar hydrogen fueling stations, before anybody is going to be interested.

    Competing technologies will improve over time as well. You have to hope and pray that the competitors in the marketplace don’t get any better. Because right now the Tesla model and the hybrid vehicle are way ahead.

    Add the platinum parts costs, the cost of electricity to crack hydrogen off whatever it’s attached to (hydrogen molecules are never found alone in nature) and those molecules are so tiny it’s tough (read “expensive”) to make tanks underground and in cars that don’t leak.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Kovachian, of course I know Clarkson was joking when he said it was snowing in hell. He used humor, as you point out, to emphasize how he thought he would never praise an electric vehicle. He was praising the Tesla Roadster heavily, so of course it was snowing in hell.

    My point in using that example? Myself, I don’t think it is improper on a show like Top Gear to push a car into a garage to make a point about its battery. The battery was down to 20% charge, as Tesla acknowledged. But Tesla did not want it driven below that point. Pushing the car into the garage to emphasize that it was “out of gas” seems legitimate to me.

    There is a line there, though. Remember when Dateline NBC used explosives to illustrate the danger of a side impact collision to GM pickup truck fuel tanks? That was over the line.

    But pretending to get a message from hell? Pretending to push a powerless car into the garage? Doesn’t bother me. Legitimate ways to make a point, I think.

    Others may disagree, of course.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Hydrogen, even liquid hydrogen, is so light that any given volume of it carries very little energy.

    One liter of liquid hydrogen contains 71 grams of hydrogen. One liter of gasoline contains 118 grams of hydrogen, and one liter of diesel, 130 grams.

    Of course liquid hydrogen costs lots of energy to make, is difficult to store (it will leak out of any container in a matter of days), and is 423 degrees F below zero, so be careful when handling it.

    Compressed hydrogen is less dense than liquid, and kaboom.

  • avatar
    TheRealAutoGuy

    Clarkston, as the old line goes, is too clever by half. He’s be called out on a misleading story, so he’s playing defense and trying to change the subject.

    If I lived in Silicon Valley, an electric car for errands / weekend runs / fun, etc. would be neat. For many of us, the constraints posed by heavy heating and A/C loads, plus a large commute render a vehicle like this useless.

    Given the proper infrastructure (which Europe is capable of doing, the USA less so), hydrogen CAN be a player

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    If clarkson had praised the Tesla I would never had respected him again. Everybody who is not a stupid treehuger with no knowledge of engineering knows the Tesla is a gimmick with as much substance as penis enlargement pills.

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