For most of my life, I’ve been a fan of the BBC’s Top Gear. I used to love Old Top Gear, as it is often called, which featured our own legend, Sue Baker, among others, and I was always glued to the Clarkson-era New Top Gear as well. But apart from a few bright spots, I’ve never been able to get on with what followed – call it New New Top Gear, if you like – which somehow just seems to have lost its way.
I first sought out alternatives to Top Gear a few years back when I was confined to quarters with a heart problem. Exploring the higher Sky channel numbers in search of fresh motoring content, I discovered Mike Brewer’s Wheeler Dealers, a pioneer of the now widely copied doing-up-interesting-old-cars genre. I also became a devotee of Fast N’ Loud, a series about a Dallas-based restomod shop, and Highway Thru Hell, which covers the exploits of recovery truck drivers in Canada’s wintery wastes. This consists mostly of men in lumberjack shirts working out how to get smashed up artics that have skidded off the road back up on their wheels and away from the scene. You might think that sounds a bit repetitive, but there’s always a new angle to the same basic problem.
And I’ve increasingly turned to YouTube for nerdy motoring content as well. One YouTuber who really stands out for me is Tyler Hoover of Hoovies Garage, with his constantly changing “Hooptie Fleet”. A hooptie is what we Brits call a banger, but Hoovie specialises in buying the cheapest and most problematical examples he can find of very expensive cars – recently he has featured a Maybach, Lambos and old Bentleys – and getting them done up. The talented Hoovie has attracted over 1.2 million subscribers, but he has also made an unlikely star of his mechanic sidekick, the quietly spoken Car Wizard, an automotive genius who now has his own channel with 465,000 subscribers.
Another favourite of mine is the German Clever Campen channel, which reviews the latest caravans. I love the way the Clever Campen guys explain the pros and cons of different caravan layouts and demonstrate the ingenious stowage and bed-folding solutions. I’ll probably never buy a caravan myself, but I rarely miss an episode.
But the main reason I’ve turned to YouTube is the complete lack of decent content about electric cars on mainstream television. By contrast, EV-ers are very well served on YouTube, most notably by Robert Llewellyn’s popular Fully Charged, which covers all sorts of other greenery as well, such as solar panels. Another YouTube channel that covers electric car subjects very well is Engineering Explained. Although it is not a dedicated EV channel, this shows very clearly how different, mainly car-related technologies work, so it’s well worth a look even if you aren’t interested in going electric.
But if I had to single out a YouTuber who addresses all of the geeky technical detail to do with electric cars, it would be Bjørn Nyland, a Thai-born Norwegian EV enthusiast. He posts vast amounts of content related to his own cars, mainly Teslas, and tests all the latest models. I don’t think there’s a single aspect of EV performance that TeslaBjørn, as he is also known, doesn’t measure. Any data that can be tapped from a car’s systems, he’ll be analysing it, usually based on extreme long-distance range tests in cold Norwegian conditions. Along the way, he also lets you know about subjects like what he is eating at the wheel, and how easy it is to sleep in the cars on trips.
And just recently, some decent electric car programming has finally made it onto mainstream television, in the form of the excellent Quest/Discovery series Vintage Voltage, which features the work of the Welsh specialists Electric Classic Cars as they convert old motors into plug-ins. It’s slightly depressing that electric vehicles have only made it onto TV via the back door with a variation on the established doing-up-old-cars theme. What’s still lacking is decent coverage of all the exciting new EVs that are coming along – and with millions of motorists now looking to make the switch, hungry for information and advice, that’s a pretty big gap in the market.