English comedy icon Rowan Atkinson, forever applauded for his on-screen creation Mr. Bean, has been blamed for “damaging” the reputation of electric vehicles (EVs) and contributing to slow sales simply by expressing his opinion on their future – or lack of it.
The actor was name-checked in the British House of Lords on Tuesday during its environment and climate change committee meeting, Sky News reports.
Thinktank Green Alliance outlined the main obstacles the government faces in its bid to push petrol and diesel cars to the kerb before 2035, pointing to a newspaper comment piece by the Johnny English star published in June 2023 as damaging to the cause.
The pressure group told peers in a letter an opinion piece by Atkinson damaged the cause of EV take-ups. The missive read in part:
One of the most damaging articles was a comment piece written by Rowan Atkinson in The Guardian which has been roundly debunked.
Unfortunately, fact checks never reach the same breadth of audience as the original false claim, emphasising the need to ensure high editorial standards around the net zero transition.
The 69-year-old actor’s piece was headlined: “I love electric vehicles – and was an early adopter. But increasingly I feel duped.”
Atkinson wrote EVs were “a bit soulless” and criticised the use of their lithium-ion batteries, as Breitbart News reported.
‘Mr. Bean’ Star Rowan Atkinson Feels ‘Duped’ by Electric Vehicles: Not the Environmental Panacea It Is Claimed to Be https://t.co/DjwfEcsM54
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 8, 2023
He suggested solutions like drivers keeping the same car for longer periods of time and increased use of synthetic fuel would negate the need for EVs, saying: “Increasingly, I’m feeling that our honeymoon with electric cars is coming to an end, and that’s no bad thing.”
Atkinson further noted greenhouse gas emissions created in the production of an electric car were 70 percent higher than in the manufacturing of a gas car due to the use of lithium ion batteries.
“They’re absurdly heavy, huge amounts of energy are required to make them, and they are estimated to last only upwards of 10 years. It seems a perverse choice of hardware with which to lead the automobile’s fight against the climate crisis,” Atkinson wrote.
The Guardian struck back a week later with comment from Simon Evans, deputy editor and senior policy editor of climate news site Carbon Brief, which looked to debunk Atkinson’s claims by taking on an actor who has always been a strong proponent of free speech.
Mr Bean Defends Free Speech: Rowan Atkinson Denounces Scottish Hate Crime Bill https://t.co/j0yvjEIGZN
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 12, 2020
Evans wrote: “Atkinson’s biggest mistake is his failure to recognise that electric vehicles already offer significant global environmental benefits, compared with combustion-engine cars.”
Atkinson’s views were used to make a wider point about allegedly “misleading” reports stunting EV sales.
Other challenges highlighted during the committee meeting included insufficient numbers of charging points, higher prices on EVs and “a lack of clear and consistent messaging from the government.”
Overall sales of EVs are defying the combined urging of green lobbyists and government diktat with just a quarter making up new purchases for 2023, UK data reveals.
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 7, 2024
Aside from a lack of electric charging stations and consumer nervousness over reliability, the unit cost of EVs coupled with rapid depreciation remain among the prime reasons consumers are giving for sticking to petrol-powered cars.
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