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Fact-Checking Rowan Atkinson’s Misconceptions about Electric Vehicles


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In a recent opinion piece for The Guardian, comedian Rowan Atkinson expressed skepticism about the environmental benefits of electric vehicles (EVs). However, a response by Simon Evans from Carbon Brief counters Atkinson’s claims, highlighting their inaccuracies and presenting evidence that supports the advantages of EVs.

Atkinson relies on debunked arguments often used to delay climate action. He fails to acknowledge that EVs already provide significant global environmental benefits when compared to combustion-engine cars. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated with confidence that EVs have lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cars. The IPCC also emphasized that EVs offer the greatest potential for low-carbon land-based transport and can lead to cost savings.

EVs play a vital role in addressing the climate emergency, although they cannot solve all problems associated with car use. Carbon Brief previously reported that EVs in the UK already reduce planet-warming emissions by two-thirds throughout their life cycle when compared to combustion engine cars. Furthermore, the emissions produced during battery manufacturing are outweighed by the CO2 emissions resulting from fueling traditional cars.

Contrary to Atkinson’s assertion, the UK government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 considers life cycle emissions. According to government-commissioned research, EVs offer a substantial and increasing emissions benefit. On the other hand, hydrogen vehicles, another alternative mentioned by Atkinson, would only achieve a fraction of the emissions reductions seen with EVs. Additionally, the number of hydrogen-fueled vehicles on the road is extremely limited compared to the growing popularity of EVs.

Atkinson also inaccurately claims that electrifying trucks is unfeasible due to battery weight. However, electric truck sales are increasing, and they are becoming more cost-effective to own and operate. As Auke Hoekstra from the Eindhoven University of Technology argues, electric trucks will not have a significant weight disadvantage compared to diesel trucks.

Atkinson’s other claims are also refuted. Modern lithium-ion EV batteries are designed to last the lifetime of the car, and British people are keeping their cars for longer. Moreover, replacing old petrol cars with new EVs can lead to climate benefits in less than four years.

Atkinson’s skepticism towards EVs overlooks the substantial emissions savings they already provide. Widespread adoption of EVs is crucial for achieving climate goals in the UK and globally. The alternatives suggested by Atkinson are not widely available, offer lesser environmental benefits, and are economically inefficient.

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