Tesla Sues Top Gear for "Libel and Malicious Falsehood" Tesla Sues Top Gear for "Libel and Malicious Falsehood"
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Tesla Sues Top Gear for "Libel and Malicious Falsehood"

by Andrew Price

April 1, 2011

In a 2008 episode, the popular BBC car show Top Gear took two $100,000 all-electric Tesla Roadster sports cars for a handful of test drives. After praising the Roadster's quick acceleration and the economic advantages of filling up with electricity instead of gas, host Jeremy Clarkson (he's the droopy one) quickly soured on the car. He claimed that the Tesla's charge only lasted for 55 miles, causing it to die on the track, and complained that it would take 16 hours to fill it up from a wall outlet. He also griped about an overheating motor that rendered one of the Tesla's useless and faulty brakes in the other.

Tesla has set up a whole "Tesla vs. Top Gear" website to address the BBC dispute, and the folks at Engadget think it's little more than a PR move.

That may be, but problems with the Tesla were clearly exaggerated on the show. To mention that its battery was depleted after 55 miles without acknowledging it would last a lot longer during normal driving is misleading at best. As is complaining about the 16-hour charge time without noting that many owners opt for a fast-charge outlet.

This isn't entirely surprising. Jeremey Clarkson has a well-documented antipathy towards alternative-fuel vehicles. One almost wonders if the show doesn't go overboard in its criticism of hybrids and electrics to preserve credibility with the motorheads who make up its core audience. Anyway, in libel cases in England, the burden of proof rests on the defendent, and I'd give Tesla good odds of winning this one. I'd kind of love to see an on-air correction from Clarkson.

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Tesla Sues Top Gear for "Libel and Malicious Falsehood"