They’ve been enemies for about as long as we can remember, caught in a never-ending fight to the death for supremacy in the automotive world.
But after years of ridiculing electric cars and green car technology, BBC’s Top Gear show — or rather its current incarnation with outspoken, gas-loving, oafish, middle-aged, greying front man Jeremy Clarkson — are no more.
Which means that while the electric car may very well have been the underdog for nearly a decade, the victim of countless poorly-conceived stunts aimed at entertaining millions of viewers around the world, it has survived the age of the slowly-balding dinosaur.
Or rather, Clarkson is no more at Top Gear, after a fight with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon last month over catering on set– a fight which landed Tymon in hospital with a bleeding lip and swelling to his face — saw him and the show receive an immediate suspension from the air, pending investigation.
Earlier today, that investigation and its conclusions saw Clarkson removed from the show permanently, a decision announced by BBC’s Director General, Tony Hall.
In an official statement made to the press, Mr. Hall said that the decision to sack Clarkson had not been taken lightly, but that “a line has been crossed [and I] cannot condone what has happened on this occasion.”
Clarkson, who during the past decade has become known for making politically-incorrect gaffe after politically-incorrect gaffe as much as his skills in front of the camera, has offended pretty much every minority thinkable.
In 2008, he joked about how truck drivers ‘murder prostitutes,’ referring to convicted truck driver and killer Steve Wright. A few months later, he was caught dismissing the then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a “one-eyed Scottish idiot”.
A few months later during a regular rant against politically-correct language, Clarkson moaned that the BBC was obsessed with hiring black, Muslim lesbians to ensure its cultural diversity.
Further gaffes and incidents have occurred in recent years, including an attempt to provoke an attack on camera in Alabama during a Top Gear U.S. special, in which Clarkson and fellow producers James May and Richard Hammond raced through the ultra-conservative deep south with pro-homosexual and other provocative slogans spray-painted on their vehicles.
In 2011, Clarkson even managed to spark a diplomatic incident in Mexico following a Mexican Top Gear special, something he repeated the following year in an Indian special. In a never-ending downward-spiral, Clarkson than landed himself in more trouble by using the ‘N-word’ during a not-to-be-aired alternative take of a segment, referring to a person of asian descent with racist slang, and then drove a car through the Falklands wearing a license plate which seemingly referred to the 1982 Falklands War.
For electric car owners however, Clarkson’s myriad of staged assassination attempts at plug-in vehicles will be the thing for which he is most remembered.
First, back in the deep dark past of BBC Top Gear’s history, we had the continued humiliation of the G-Wiz electric quadricycle, an Indian-made low-speed electric vehicle imported to London in large numbers to take advantage of its congestion-charge exemption for plug-in vehicles.
The car — which was blown up, smashed in two, and even lost a race to a table — soon became the show’s whipping boy for all things eco, leaving it a regular bit part in the show.
Then there was the much-publicised review of the Tesla Roadster, in which the BBC Top Gear production team claimed the Tesla Roadster had run out of charge on its test track in far less time than the official 245-mile range would suggest. While Top Gear and Clarkson initially maintained the Roadster had run flat, a leaked copy of the show script resulted in Tesla taking the BBC to court for libel. Sadly, the Californian automaker didn’t win.
In one 2009 episode, Clarkson, May and Hammond took the chance to paint electric cars as slow and boring yet again in a challenge in which they built the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust, a poorly-built, underpowered electric monstrosity built on the chassis of a TVR Chimera. Despite a tongue-in-cheek review from UK motoring magazine Autocar of the said vehicle, fans of plug-in vehicles weren’t happy.
By 2011, when cars like the Nissan LEAF had started to hit the UK market, many hoped that Top Gear would have changed its tune a little. But when the BBC was spotted in the rural city of Lincoln with a duo of electric cars — one of which appeared to be flat — we knew something was awry.
Yet again, electric cars had been used as the comedy element for the popular show — with the Nissan LEAF purposely ran flat by Top Gear to stage the infamous turtle mode and flat battery pack.
Since then, things have improved a little. One of the BBC Top Gear trio (James May) has even admitted to buying a BMW i3 REx since he likes the fun of driving electric.
For plug-in fans, the tide seemed to be turning on Top Gear. Clarkson even managed a generally positive review a few weeks back on the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, picking it to drive home at the end of the day over a conventional gasoline sports car.
But with Clarkson gone and the show’s future uncertain, we’ll never know if the transformation to plug-in owner would ever have happened.
What we do note, with a little smug self-assuredness, is that Clarkson’s Top Gear, like the fossils which power most of his favourite cars, is no more.
And that, in our book, is something of a little poetic justice, even if we’ll guiltily admit to enjoying the irrelevant schoolboy antics as much as the next person.
Are you happy to see Top Gear go? Are you happy to see Jeremy Clarkson leave the show? And if it continues, who would you get to fill his shoes?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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