Right now, automakers seem convinced that electric cars are the best option we have when it comes to cutting emissions from our travel. As such, they’re racing to unveil all-new electric models that are often billed as the savior of the daily drive. But do you know who’s not convinced by all this? Rowan Atkinson.
The Mr. Bean actor has written a column for British newspaper The Guardian discussing his hesitancy around the switch to EVs, despite being a self-confessed “early” adopter.
In the piece, Atkinson waxes lyrically about his initial love for electric vehicles. Sure, he calls EVs “soulless,” but he also praises their performance and explains that he’s “enjoyed” the past 18 years that saw him drive various plug-in hybrids and all-electric models.
But, he says that he started feeling “duped” over the environmental claims of EVs once he started to “drill into the facts,” which is always a slightly stressful sentence to read. However, instead of concocting conspiracy theories about how EVs cause COVID or some nonsense, the Johnny English star instead highlights the shortcomings of the current crop of EVs. He writes:
“Electric cars, of course, have zero exhaust emissions, which is a welcome development, particularly in respect of the air quality in city centers. But if you zoom out a bit and look at a bigger picture that includes the car’s manufacture, the situation is very different.
“In advance of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021, Volvo released figures claiming that greenhouse gas emissions during production of an electric car are nearly 70% higher than when manufacturing a petrol one.”
This problem, he says, is caused by the environmental impact of lithium mining, which is essential for EV battery production, and the sheer weight of EVs. This, he believes, makes them “a perverse choice of hardware with which to lead the automobile’s fight against the climate crisis.”
Instead, Atkinson looks to the developments that are still a few years off to save us from our impending climate doom. He talks about solid-state batteries, which could one day offer quicker charge times and longer ranges from a smaller power pack. But this technology is still at least 10 years away, according to some experts.
And, if we can’t use these batteries, Atkinson suggests hydrogen instead. The most abundant element in the universe, Atkinson says, would be much more suited to trucks and other heavy machines. He writes:
“JCB, the company that makes yellow diggers, has made huge strides with hydrogen engines and hopes to put them into production in the next couple of years. If hydrogen wins the race to power trucks – and as a result every filling station stocks it – it could be a popular and accessible choice for cars.”
But hydrogen has disadvantages of its own, namely what source will we use to provide the electricity that separates hydrogen atoms from water, as is the most common way to produce pure hydrogen today.
Because of these emerging technologies, Atkinson believes that the “honeymoon with electric cars” as we know them today could already be coming to an end. Instead, he says buyers are “realizing that a wider range of options need to be explored” if we want to keep driving ourselves around town while not slowly boiling the planet.
You can read Atkinson’s full opinion piece in The Guardian right here.