Top Gear Presenter James May to Buy Electric Car
James May has revealed that he is set to buy an electric car. The Top Gear presenter made the surprising announcement as he featured on the ‘You and Yours Bank Holiday’ show on BBC Radio 4, on Monday 26th May.
James May has revealed that he is set to buy an electric car. The Top Gear presenter made the surprising announcement as he featured on the ‘You and Yours Bank Holiday’ show on BBC Radio 4, on Monday 26th May. On the Top Gear programmee, May is known as ‘Captain Slow’ and is sure to face some ribbing from his co-presenters, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. Top Gear has not been slow in the past to air its views on the limitations of electric cars. Listeners to the show heard May say that he ‘quite liked’ electric cars but was still a little concerned about the limitations of the recharging infrastructure. This, he said, was the reason he selected the BMW i3 extended range version, which is a hybrid rather than a purely electric car, a decision he admitted was ‘pure cowardice’.
The lacking in Britain’s recharging infrastructure was aptly demonstrated during the same programme, when BBC journalist, Samantha Fenwick, reported on her attempt to drive a Nissan Leaf from the company’s plant in Sunderland to the firm’s Cranfield technical centre. That journey was meant to investigate how usable electric cars are over longer distances and was planned around green energy firm, Ecotricity’s, celebrated Electric Highway, a network of rapid charging centres across the country. Sadly, the Electric Highway let the reporter down as her RFID card, required to use the recharging stations, was rejected. This occurred at the very first recharging stop on her ambitious trip, at Scotch Corner, and she was only able to continue many hours later after another Leaf driver appeared with a functioning RFID card.
Putting these issues to one side, May went on to praise some features of electric cars, pointing out that in some respects they are much like another BBC programme, ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. He suggested that the industry has known for some time that electricity is the best way to power a car, highlighting that the cars are quiet and smooth in their driving characteristics. They also have no need for the motors to idle when not in motion. The construction of electric cars is also simpler than that of the internal combustion engine and they don’t have to have a gearbox. Acceleration is smooth and rapid and maintenance is less complex than with petrol and diesel cars.
May went on to heap more praise on electric cars in general and the BMW i3 in particular but stopped short of claiming that the electric car represented the answer to our future motoring needs. He said: “I sort of want to be part of the experiment. I don’t know what the answer is or if a car like the i3 is the long term future of the car.”
The news of a famous petrol head buying an electric car will come as a shot in the arm to an industry that has not had the impact on car buying patterns that many, including the Government, had expected. In January 2011 the Government set aside a fund of £400 million to provide £5,000 subsidies to anyone who bought an electric car. It seemed a generous scheme but in the three years to December 2014, only 6,709 of these grants were handed out. This has resulted in the Government scaling down the scheme to £230 million in advance of it ending in 2015. Thereafter, the Government has said that it will continue to support used car buyers but has not specified the mechanism by which this will take place.
Some car executives have also questioned the long term value of electric cars. Alain Uytenhoven, for example, the vice president of Lexus Europe, has pointed out that electric cars are most suited to short city driving routes but these are the environments where most motorists have to park on the street and have no garage or driveway where they can install recharging equipment. Uytenhoven then championed the hydrogen fuel cell car, which can be refuelled in seconds and has a range much like that of a conventionally fuelled car. Lexus is planning to launch a production hydrogen fuel cell car in the next year.