Ten Million Electric Miles and Counting: By Jove, It Does Work in the Real World

Ricardo Reyes, Vice President of Communications, March 30, 2011

Tesla Roadsters in over thirty countries have driven more than ten million real-world miles. That's 500,000 gallons of fuel that didn't burn and over 5.3 million pounds of averted carbon dioxide emissions. The credit goes to approximately 1,500 Roadster owners around the world who drive their electric vehicles in all conditions; they’re an enthusiastic group who often talk and blog about their experiences.

Tesla is committed to building the best cars in the world. And in doing so, catalyzing change in a very traditional industry by convincing drivers that EVs can match and surpass automobiles run by combustion. That's not an easy task. But the Roadster has changed a lot of minds.

Of course, not everyone is enthusiastic. We also hear from vocal EV detractors. As with all new, disruptive technologies, there are plenty of misconceptions, rumors, and lies. We try to forcefully correct those before they get out of hand, and believe the industry is better for it. In that vein, with some reluctance, Tesla served the BBC's Top Gear with a lawsuit yesterday for libel and malicious falsehood. It is the only recourse we have; our repeated attempts to contact the BBC, over the course of months, were ignored.

About two years ago, Top Gear ran a segment containing false and exaggerated criticisms of the Roadster. In the episode, two Roadsters are depicted as suffering several critical "breakdowns" during track driving. The show’s script, written before the cars were tested, has host Jeremy Clarkson concluding the segment by saying, "in the real world, it doesn’t seem to work."

At the time, we were good sports. Tesla was a young start-up company, having delivered 140 cars to customers in the United States. Those early adopters knew what they were driving, and were not affected by the show’s lies. Tesla concentrated on building and delivering revolutionary cars.

Yet the show continues to air. According to Wikipedia, Top Gear has 350 million viewers worldwide. The programme's lies are repeatedly and consistently re-broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers on BBC channels and web sites, on other TV channels via syndication; the show is available on the Internet, and is for sale on DVD around the world.

Today, we continue to field questions and explain the serious misconceptions created by the show. Many of us have heard: I know this car, the one that broke down on Top Gear. Despite the show's buffoonery, Clarkson’s words are taken as truth, not only about the Roadster, but about EVs.

Over the last several months, we have written to the BBC, asking them to stop repeating the serious and damaging lies on the show. Specifically:

  • The Roadster's true range is only 55 miles per charge. Clarkson says: "Although Tesla say it will do 200 miles we worked out that on our track it would run out after just 55 miles."

    Fact: The Roadster has been certified under UN ECE R101, the EU regulation for measuring electric vehicle range, at 211 miles. All ECE R101 tests are witnessed and certified by a neutral third party approved by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, in Tesla's case, the Department of Road Transport – Netherlands. Of course, a car driven aggressively will get reduced mileage, regardless of whether its fueled by petrol or electricity, as Top Gear found. At the other end of the spectrum, through mindful driving, a Tesla owner achieved an astounding 313 miles on a single charge. To let either of these extremes represent real-world range is an incomplete analysis.

  • One of the Roadsters ran out of charge and had to be pushed into the Top Gear hangar by four men.

    Fact: Neither Roadster ran out of charge during Top Gear's tests, or even came close. We know because the Roadster records basic operating information. The show fails to mention that neither Roadster ever went below twenty-five percent charge. Why stage the stunt of pushing it into the hangar?

  • The Roadster's brakes broke, rendering the car not drivable.

    Fact: During Top Gear’s drive on the test track, the fuse for the braking system's electric vacuum pump failed. But the brakes were operational and safe. The result was like driving a car without the convenient power brakes to which we’ve grown accustomed. Tesla's brakes, both with and without the fuse, must pass all UN ECE safety tests, and they do.

  • Neither Roadster provided to Top Gear was available for test driving due to these problems.

    Fact: At all times, there was at least one Roadster at the ready.

If the episode had been broadcast in 2008, and not rebroadcast repeatedly to hundreds of millions of new viewers all over the globe, Tesla would not have sued. We’re not doing this for money. As the world leader in EV technology, Tesla owes it to the public to stop Top Gear’s disinformation campaign and provide the truth. Top Gear scripted how the show would end before they ever got into the car. Meanwhile, the show continues to seriously misinform its fans.

Despite the lies, we move forward with our commitment to building the best cars in the world. In two years, the Roadster has delighted early adopters and won over skeptics worldwide. It has demonstrated Tesla’s technology in spectacular fashion. Most importantly, as our owners will attest, it is a real world vehicle that has paved the way for EVs to come.

More information can be found here.