Electric cars are “clean and polite”, but James May thinks combustion engines aren’t going anywhere

The ex-Top Gear host claimed that EV battery technology is “nowhere near as good enough”, while also airing doubts about EV uptake due to charging barriers

James May, one of the three musketeers from Top Gear, has expressed his concerns about electric cars and the underlying battery technology, in particular, while also saying that he thinks that internal combustion engines are “going to be around for a very long time”.

Speaking to journalist Katja Hoyer on her podcast Zeitgeist, the television star was asked about if Germany should be worried about falling behind in the electric car industry, the answer to which took him on a detour about his thoughts on EVs.

May, who served as co-presenter, alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, of the BBC show Top Gear from 2003 until 2015 and then for the Amazon Prime Video show The Grand Tour, also said that there is not much to get excited about with electric cars, and that they can get a bit boring.

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“I have electric cars, several of them, and I like them. But I’m slightly conflicted about it because I don’t think it’s anywhere near good enough yet as an idea,” he told Hoyer during the interview. “The battery technology isn’t good enough, there needs to be another breakthrough. I don’t know what that is, it’s one of those things that you just don’t know.”

May, is said to own three electric cars, a Tesla Model S, a BMW i3 and a Toyota Mirai. All very chic and worthy choices for Mr May, we believe. Just last month, he was testing the the BYD’s sleek all-electric hatchback Dolphin, and he wrote on Twitter that it was “very pleasant”. He did seem a bit confounded by the car’s drive-selector switch, although the design seems quite logical to us.

He continued: “Electric motors have a totally uniform personality whether you have a small one or a very powerful one that gives you the high-performance Tesla which is faster than a supercar. But it has exactly the same mechanical character as a Nissan Leaf, it hums and it has an electric motor.

“There is nothing to get particularly excited about there apart from efficiency and range which is one of the things which makes electric cars seem a bit boring.”

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May also talked about the electric car market and the future of automobiles in general, saying: “ Electric car market is in a difficult place because I’m not convinced by the demise of the internal combustion engine. I think it’s going to be around for a very long time. There are interesting things happening in things like synthetic fuels.

“So it’s not quite as clear cut. And the technology in electric cars, they’re fantastic. I like driving them, they’re clean and quite and polite and all the rest of it, but the battery technology isn’t quite good enough. They still take too long to recharge, even on Superchargers.

“For it to be universally adopted, we’d need tens of millions of charging points, or certainly millions. Or battery swap technology, but that’s just pushing the charging issue somewhere further down the line. It’s a lot trickier than people think, and people forget that electricity isn’t a resource, it’s simply a means of energy transfer. So it’s all a big energy generation question.

We think these claims are certain to prove controversial amongst many people, especially those quite sure of electric cars to be the future, but others might say there’s some truth to May’s words.

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But most will be intrigued to discover that there’s something May detests a lot more than the “boring electric cars”, and maybe even his co-hosts Clarkson and Hammond, and that’s self-driving cars.

He said: “All car manufacturers are looking very carefully at electric cars, and I’d far rather they did that than waste billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of man-hours on autonomous cars, because I think that’s a total myth.

“This dream that in a few years, cars are going to drive themselves and come and pick you up from the pub is just non-sense. It’s simply not going to happen.”

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