Rowan Atkinson has said he feels “a little duped” by electric cars and urged motorists to keep using older petrol vehicles to help save the planet.
The actor, who played Blackadder and Mr Bean and is a self-confessed “car person”, claims new advances in electric battery design will be of “great environmental benefit one day, but that day has yet to dawn”.
In a 1,100-word essay for The Guardian, he explains how despite owning his first hybrid car 18 years ago and then a “pure electric” nine years ago, he now thinks “electric motoring doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be.”
Describing them as “a bit soulless” but “wonderful mechanisms”, Mr Atkinson, 68, concludes that “our honeymoon with electric cars is coming to an end”.
The actor, who studied an electrical and electronic engineering degree, points out that although electric cars have zero emissions when on the road, their actual manufacture, according to research by Volvo, suggests greenhouse gas emissions during production are 70 per cent higher than petrol vehicles, in part due to the lithium-ion batteries which require “rare earth metals and huge amounts of energy” to create.
‘Perverse choice of hardware’
He adds: “It seems a perverse choice of hardware with which to lead the automobile’s fight against the climate crisis.”
He adds that CO2 emissions could be dramatically reduced if our current fleet of cars bought new were kept by the original owner for five years, rather than sold after an average of just three years.
He writes for the paper that “we’d be enjoying the same mobility, just driving slightly older cars” explaining how a “wider range of options need to be explored”, including hydrogen and synthetic fuels.
He adds: “In terms of manufacture, these cars have paid their environmental dues and, although it is sensible to reduce our reliance on them, it would seem right to look carefully at ways of retaining them while lowering their polluting effect.”
He concludes: “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.”