Jeremy Clarkson Has Dubious Reasons For Rejecting Electric Cars

If you were still wondering if The Grand Tour Jeremy Clarkson to be much different than Top Gear, the verdict is in now.

Worth a read today is a piece by John Voelcker at Green Car Reports, which uses quotes Clarkson recently gave to Business Insider.

In the interview, Clarkson gives a blanket dismissal to Tesla and to plug-in electric vehicles. His money, and likely that of his colleagues on The Grand Tour, is still on hydrogen.

The answer is hydrogen. But the more plug-in electric cars that come along, the less demand there is for carmakers to get off their asses and start making fuel cell cars — which is where we must go. We must have fuel cell cars. The world has to have them.

Hydrogen may show another route, but it’s currently backed by just a few automakers and a skeletal infrastructure. Public electric charging isn’t exactly plentiful everywhere, but it has a lead.

Worryingly, though, Clarkson uses outdated and false rhetoric, according to Voelcker, attributing brown-outs in New York City to people simply charging phones, ignoring that brown-outs tend to occur on summer days when the whole city is running an air conditioner to stop from melting.

Clarkson goes on to insist we’re going to need vastly more power plants in the U.S. and Britain if everyone starts plugging in their cars. This runs counter to what many EV owners have reported from their own experience plugging their cars in at their own homes at night – and ignores newer and more efficient technology for producing electricity.

All of this is also in spite of his begrudging praise for the BMW i8. I don’t know how much time Clarkson has spent trying to fuel a Toyota Mirai, either, but I somehow doubt he finds that car so much more exhilarating than an i8.

Clarkson’s facts and views on EVs haven’t appeared to have changed since his Top Gear days of mocking the G-Whiz and first Tesla Roadster, something that landed the BBC in court with Elon Musk. Electric cars don’t work for every household, but interest is clearly there. Infrastructure, education and initial cost hurdles still need to be addressed, but that hasn’t stopped Tesla from cornering not-insignificant parts of the market with their takes on the technology, and from more established brands from having to take notice with cars like the recently shown Jaguar I-Pace. We’re past the point of dismissing EVs.

Opinions are one thing, but spreading potentially dangerously wrong facts is another. The show may be scripted, but Clarkson can’t seem to ever stop being that character. I’m still giving The Grand Tour a chance, but can’t help but thinking it’s stale. It’s interviews like this that remind me why.


  • Dustin

    These guys that love gasoline engines as much as any of us – and experience them in a far greater capacity, even – are promoting hydrogen, what they feel is the FUTURE alternative fuel for vehicles… and you think that makes the show “stale?” (Also unlike most people giving opinions, they have actually driven both electric and fuel cell cars. James May called the FCX Clarity “the most important car in 100 years.”)

    Seems more like their stance for long-term alternative fuel vehicles is different from your stance for long-term alternative fuel vehicles, and that’s where your real issue lies. Out of curiosity, do you get up in arms when people give misleading thoughts on hydrogen (which, by the way, is a significantly more common occurrence), even going so far as to label them “potentially dangerous wrong facts?” I’m guessing not.

    “Currently backed by just a few automakers.” I corrected this sentiment in yesterday’s Carscoops article which also marginalized hydrogen cars. GM and Toyota (the two largest automakers in the world), along with Hyundai, Honda, and BMW are all serious proponents of hydrogen as a long-term alternative fuel solution.

    • smartacus

      i never understood why the tantrum prone BEV super-fans
      don’t realize they are NEVER gonna take down Jeremy Clarkson.

      Although it’s funny watching them repeatedly throwing their bodies
      at a granite wall expecting a different outcome each time :p

      • Paul Govan

        Tantrum-prone Clarkson and Clarkson Clones more like.
        FCV advocates rarely if ever talk about the absurd well-to-wheels energy inefficiency of FCVs compared to BEVs. Hydrogen has to be compressed/condensed, stored, transported, stored(safely) again at filling stations. FCV advocates also avoid talking about the refueling infrastructure.
        The focus is almost always only on the vehicles themselves – how wonderful they are.
        And it has to be said that the Clarksons of this world seem to desperately want or need to have a technology that keeps the word “fuel” in the mix and in the vocabulary. As if their very manhood depends on it…
        (But hydrogen ain’t a fuel guys – it’s just an energy-carrier)
        Paul G
        Electric Vehicles UK

        • smartacus

          nah, it’s pretty much tantrum-prone BEV super-fans

          good addition about needing the word fuel in the vocabulary as if their very manhood depends on it…
          couldn’t have proved the point better myself 🙂

        • pureworx

          gotta love the tunnel vision all the BEV fans suffer.. you talk about well to wheels efficiency, remember the world has been producing electric for consumption for hell of a long time.. and over time costs come down as more infrastructure and improvements are implemented as investment in research grows.

          if the same effort was put into hydrogen, the efficiency can be achieved and infrastructure can be in place. it would be much easier to work out ways to adapt current petrol stations into hydrogen stations than charging points.

          oh and what do you do when your car battery expires 7/8 years down the line? buy a new one? how is that replaced when the entire floor pan is filled with batteries? or do you just bin it and buy a new car?

          hydrogen is the future, its time effort was put into this and rather than the misdirection and trickery of the likes of musk, so he can satisfy he egotistical future plans. after all the man wants people on mars.. so he doesn’t really believe his little electric world will be sustainable.

  • theduck1980

    Its kinda like the race between HD DVD and Blu Ray. They both could have potentially been successful, but in the end the market only had room for one. And when you go to a dvd store, you still find a majority dvd line up and only a few blu rays per title. But here’s the thing I doubt Bluray will ever dominate given time. Technology keeps moving. Movies/TV shows are now streamed or kept on large at home media storage.

    Opinions aside, the reality at this stage seems to be batteries are winning the EV race. Perhaps one day hydrogen will crawl its way back… but I wouldn’t be surprised if technology makes another jump before even lithium-ion or NimH batteries get a chance to rule.

  • I think that Clarkson et al are scared that Tesla will sell so many cars that there will be less demand for the ICE cars that are his bread and butter.

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