Rowan Atkinson says he feels ‘duped’ by electric cars

Actor and car nerd was early adopter of an electric vehicle

William Mata
Wednesday 07 June 2023 08:16 BST

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Car-obsessed actor Rowan Atkinson has said he feels “duped” by the electric vehicle trend, despite being an early adopter.

In a comment piece in The Guardian on Saturday, the 68-year-old wrote that he got his electric hybrid 18 years ago and his first all-electric car nine years later.

“Electric vehicles may be a bit soulless, but they’re wonderful mechanisms: fast, quiet and, until recently, very cheap to run,” he wrote.

“But increasingly, I feel a little duped. When you start to drill into the facts, electric motoring doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be.”

Atkinson is well-known for his love of cars and studied electrical and electronic engineering at university before gaining a subsequent master’s in control systems.

The star wrote in response to the government proposing a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. “The problem with the initiative is that it seems to be based on conclusions drawn from only one part of a car’s operating life: what comes out of the exhaust pipe,” Atkinson said.

“Electric cars, of course, have zero exhaust emissions, which is a welcome development, particularly in respect of the air quality in city centres. But if you zoom out a bit and look at a bigger picture that includes the car’s manufacture, the situation is very different.”

He said that in the lead-up to the Cop26 climate conference Volvo revealed alarming figures that greenhouse gas emissions in the production of an electric car were 70 per cent higher than in the manufacturing of a petrol one due to the resource-sapping lithium ion batteries.

‘Solid-state’ batteries are in the pipeline to revolutionise the game but are said to be “years away” from going on sale.

“Hydrogen is emerging as an interesting alternative fuel, even though we are slow in developing a truly green way of manufacturing it,” Atkinson added.

“The biggest problem we need to address in society’s relationship with the car is the ‘fast fashion’ sales culture that has been the commercial template of the car industry for decades,” he wrote.

“Friends with an environmental conscience often ask me, as a car person, whether they should buy an electric car. I tend to say that if their car is an old diesel and they do a lot of city centre motoring, they should consider a change. But otherwise, hold fire for now. Electric propulsion will be of real, global environmental benefit one day, but that day has yet to dawn.

“As an environmentalist once said to me, if you really need a car, buy an old one and use it as little as possible.”

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