Known primarily for his portrayal of the dimwitted Mr. Bean character on TV and in movies, British actor Rowan Atkinson may not seem like the world’s foremost expert on climate change and electric vehicles. But an op-ed he published over the weekend declaring that “our honeymoon with electric cars is coming to an end” has thrust him into the center of a global debate and sparked a backlash among environmentalists and politicians. electric vehicle experts.
“Electric vehicles may be a bit soulless, but they are wonderful mechanisms: fast, quiet and, until recently, very cheap to operate. But more and more, I feel a little cheated,” Atkinson wrote in his Guardian article. “When you start digging into the facts, electric motoring doesn’t seem quite the environmental panacea it claims. be.”
An early adopter of electric vehicles who also owns a collection of vintage gas-powered cars, Atkinson cites a number of common criticisms of electric vehicles, including that manufacturing them produces more emissions than the manufacture of gasoline vehicles. He also argues that, given the environmental damage caused by the mining of rare earth minerals for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, it would be better to wait for the development of hydrogen cars and trucks and move on. to use gasoline while waiting.
Atkinson’s article comes as the UK plans to ban the sale of petrol cars by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The European Union and California have also approved measures to phase out the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.
Genie out of the bottle
The speed at which the world is moving from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles is remarkable. In 2022, according to the International Energy Agency, 14% of new cars sold were electric vehicles, up 9% from 2021. In China, about 1,400 electric vehicles were sold in 2010, compared to 5 .9 million in 2022.
Automakers have seen the writing on the wall and plan to spend $1.2 trillion producing electric vehicles and batteries over the next seven years. This investment drives innovation, which, in turn, helps make EV battery manufacturing more environmentally friendly.
“The carbon footprint of electric vehicles is falling in the three major industrial areas of Europe, America and China. A comprehensive study by McKinsey concluded that emissions from major battery suppliers would fall by 75% over the next five to next seven years”, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Daily Telegraph’s global economics editor wrote on Tuesday about the rapidly changing landscape of electric car battery production. “Batteries are already being made that no longer require cobalt. By the end of the decade, we’ll start to see solid-state batteries that are four to six times more efficient, so efficient they can run on sodium instead of lithium for routine travel cars.”
On its website, the Environmental Protection Agency notes that “the greenhouse gas emissions associated with an electric vehicle over its lifetime are generally lower than those of an average gasoline-powered vehicle, even taking into account of manufacturing”.
Auke Hoekstra, a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands who has conducted research comparing the lifetime emissions of electric vehicles and gasoline-powered cars, was one of many experts to weigh in on the paper. ‘Atkinson.
British climate tech analyst Gniewomir Flis also refuted Atkinson’s claims.
“High embodied emissions mean that a battery-powered car is more carbon-intensive when leaving the factory than a gasoline-powered car. But with the distance traveled, gasoline-powered cars emit significantly more emissions. Reuters calculates that after 21,000 km, battery-powered cars begin to reduce CO2″, Flis wrote in a Twitter thread.
Leah Stokes, professor of climate and energy policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, summarized the views of many experts.