‘Top Gear’ – Rush hour in Ethiopia
“Top Gear” co-host Chris Harris gets downright evangelical when it comes to the subject of electric cars.
In an upcoming episode of the BBC America series, which launches its 27th season Sunday, July 14, Harris and new co-hosts Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness were challenged with swapping out the internal combustion engines in conventional cars with electric motors, a task he says was surprisingly simple and “absolutely fascinating.”
“If you tried to transplant an internal combustion engine and gearbox into another car,” Harris explains, “you have to bring with it all the systems and everything else to communicate with each other. But in an electric car, it’s much simpler. You’ve got a battery pack that talks to a motor. As long as you can fit that in and you’ve got some pedals to go and stop, you’re there. … You suddenly end up with the vehicle being three times more powerful than it was ever intended to be. … So yeah, there’s an environmental message there but people don’t realize the next generation of cars are going to be preposterously fast.”
In the new season, Harris welcomes new cohorts Flintoff, a cricket star in the U.K., and McGuinness, an English stand-up comic, for more vehicular hijinks, be it driving blindfolded, track-testing a Tesla Model 3, a McLaren 600LT or a Ferrari 488 Pista or in Sunday’s opener, driving a representation of their first car in one of the hottest places on Earth, Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression.
“It’s directly comparable to your first love, I think,” says Harris, whose first auto was a MINI Cooper that wound up being stolen and totaled after less than a year of ownership. “There’s just a connection you have with that vehicle because it probably gave you a sense of liberty, it probably added something to your life that was probably freedom that you hadn’t had before. And so to go back and revisit that I think it’s poignant, it’s interesting and it means that through that you can tell stories and introduce people to who you are.”
And the backdrop of Ethiopia came as a total surprise to Harris and his co-hosts.
“It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” Harris says. “It’s green, it’s got gorgeous canyons, it’s got desert but it’s got so much more besides and this great sense of it being ancient. I mean, in Europe I think we’re very lucky to have architecture that’s thousands of years old but you go there and their stuff is tens of thousands of years old.
“And some amazing roads as well.”