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Top Gear ‘deliberately flattened electric car battery’ before test

Nissan use an electronic tracker to reveal how BBC producers flattened a car battery so that it would run out of charge.

Nissan's chief engineer Hidetoshi Kadota demonstrates how a Nissan Leaf electric car is recharged. The manufacturer has accused Top Gear of deliberately trying to make its car run out of power.
Nissan's chief engineer Hidetoshi Kadota demonstrates how a Nissan Leaf electric car is recharged. The manufacturer has accused Top Gear of deliberately trying to make its car run out of power.
Image: Koji Sasahara/AP

THE PRODUCER OF BBC’s hugely popular motoring show Top Gear have been accused of deliberately running down the battery on a electronic car – just so it would run out of charge during filming for the show.

The final episode of the show’s 17th series, broadcast eight days ago, included a feature on the Nissan Leaf which was being used to bring presenter Jeremy Clarkson on a 60-mile journey.

The car unexpectedly ran out of electricity midway through the trip, however, forcing fellow presenter James May to push it manually in a bid to revive its battery. As the Guardian recounts, the presenters concluded that electric cars were “not the future”.

But The Times reports (behind a paywall) that Nissan had fitted the Top Gear car with a telematics device which sent it constant updates on its location and usage – and which suggests that the show’s producers deliberately flattened the battery before setting off.

Clarkson had apparently set off for his 60-mile journey with the batter only 40 per cent charged, fully knowing that the battery did not have enough charge to reach his destination in Lincolnshire, Nissan has claimed.

Not only that, but the producers seemed to have deliberately diverted Clarkson to the town of Lincoln, which has no electric car charging points – meaning the car would have effectively been stranded there.

Nissan also claims that the car’s electronic dashboard would have notified any driver about its potential mileage – meaning that even if the battery hadn’t been deliberately run down, Clarkson would have been notified about its 30-mile charge as soon as he turned the ignition.

It further claims that the car’s “eco mode”, which would extend its mileage by limiting its acceleration, was not used.

Producer Andy Wilman has defended the broadcast by saying the point of the feature was “to show how bad the charging infrastructure is in the UK. The car needed to run out of charge so that could be demonstrated.”

He spokesman added that the purpose of the feature was not to test the car’s mileage claims, and that its feature was therefore no different to a scene involving a traditional car, which could have been refuelled without a problem.

The Independent adds that Top Gear is currently being sued by electric car maker Tesla, after a 2008 feature showed a Roadster car running out of electricity and breaking down during a drag race against a ‘traditional’ supercar.

Nissan, in the meantime, has installed two electric car chargepoints in Lincoln – and dedicated them to Clarkson and May.

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