Mr Bean accused of undermining EV market BUT he is correct in his criticisms

NEWS AND COMMENT: Rowan Atkinson is famous for playing the character he created, Mr Bean; the hapless and mute cartoon character who has entertained millions.

But Ron Atkinson is a very smart guy with an Oxbridge degree in electrical engineering as I recall. And he loves cars. He has a collection. I also recall that he crashed a very expensive supercar and pretty well wrote it off.

But he has now got into minor trouble with the manufacturers of EVs; electric vehicles. And in this instance, I’m referring to vehicles that are powered by electric motors and batteries only. These are pure EVs and not plug-in hybrids. I have a plug-in hybrid which I refer to below.

Rowan Atkinson has allegedly undermined the electric vehicle market with his criticisms but I would argue that he is correct
Rowan Atkinson has allegedly undermined the electric vehicle market with his criticisms but I would argue that he is correct. Image: MikeB. The credit for the picure of Atkinson is at the base of the page.

Atkinson feels duped by the EV. He thinks that it has not met with his expectations. His criticisms include much higher environmental costs than has been claimed and higher production costs than those of vehicles with combustion engines. Comment: I’m not sure he’s correct on that but it is a complicated assessment. That said, the batteries that power EVs require rare, precious metals which are hard to dig out of the ground and mining does damage the environment.

Also, EVs are often far too big because the batteries have to be big. These are SUVs on steroids and therefore there are very heavy. They damage the roads and they can damage the forecourt of a home over time.

The market in the EV is diminishing. Their resale price has crashed. I am, I stress, talking of battery cars only and not plug-in hybrids or hybrids.

Atkinson said that EVs are “a bit soulless”. He added:

Increasingly, I’m feeling that our honeymoon with electric cars is coming to an end: we’re realising that a wider range of options need to be explored if we are going to properly address the very serious environmental problems that our use of the motorcar has created.

His comments have prompted criticism from various sources including from Simon Evans, an EV advocate of the Carbon Brief website. He said: “Atkinson’s biggest mistake is his failure to recognise that electric vehicles already offer significant global environmental benefits, compared with combustion-engine cars.”

In the UK, the House of Lords’s think tank Green Alliance is debating the EV. They said that, “One of the most damaging articles was a comment piece written by Rowan Atkinson in The Guardian, which has been roundly debunked.”

But I think he is essentially correct. The manufacturers have to make the electric vehicle very large in order to house a battery big enough to carry the vehicle long enough distances to match the distances of petrol driven cars. And these electric vehicles are enormous. There are too wide and therefore difficult to park and when you compare them with cars of the 1970s, they look ridiculous.

There are still problems with charging the electric vehicle. There are very few electric vehicle charging points at petrol stations and it can take ages to charge one of these huge SUV electric vehicles. I’m told it takes 12 hours when charging at home which is a big problem. Unless you’ve got rapid charging which is very expensive when done at a public service point.

A big problem right now is that the second-hand market in electric vehicles has crashed. If you buy a Tesla today, as soon as you drive it off the forecourt you’ve blown £10,000. You’ve just torn it up.

The Mail Online has an Infographic about the eco-impact of electric cars. I don’t know whether what they say is true or not but they say that electric cars shed 20% more pollution from tyres than gas cars. This might be because in general they are much heavier and therefore there is more tyre wear. The tiny particles from tyre wear also pollute the environment by the way in a similar way to the 2.5 particulate matter in the environment which is so damaging to people as these particles are so small they get into the brain via the bloodstream.

The Mail Online also states that “Americans averaged 10 pounds of tire emissions per person each year”. And, they stress the point that I’ve made that electric cars are typically 33% heavier than gas models. The paper was talking about cars in America as you can tell.

Obviously, there are benefits in owning a battery car. But the downsides are becoming more apparent. Another point which had not seen in the newspapers is that the batteries need replacing after a while, perhaps 10 years. In the big electric vehicles, this is going to cost, as I guess, £10,000 or more. This might make the car unserviceable and valueless at the time this event happens.

These batteries have a lifespan and is relatively short compared to the lifespan of a petrol engine. It’s a point that needs to be made. It’s a factor which actually undermines the retail value of electric vehicles because the buyer has to look to the future when buying a second-hand electric vehicle which might be eight years old with the potential of a battery needing replacing in a few years.

My personal view is that manufacturers will develop different types of battery which are more efficient, longer lasting and which can carry the vehicle much longer distances. Thy will also be much quicker to charge. So, purchasing an existing vehicle might be foolhardy because once the new batteries come online existing vehicles will be almost valueless.

And then we have hydrogen powered cars. This is liquid hydrogen. These vehicles have actually been developed and manufactured already. They are completely clean from an environmental perspective. One day they may supersede battery cars. That prospect also undermines the battery car market and therefore the second-hand value of these vehicles.

I feel that in general therefore that Rowan Atkinson is correct in what he says but the government doesn’t like it because they want to promote the electric vehicle to help with their net zero carbon targets. I just think the government has got this wrong. I don’t think the electric vehicle as we know it today is going to survive very long.

That’s why I bought a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. It also has a solar power roof. The battery takes you locally and for long distances you can use the hybrid mode. It’s a compromise car which ticks all the boxes. And it’s not huge. This is the only kind of EV that I think is truly viable today.

Some more information from the Mail Online:

The newspaper says:

  • An electric vehicle has to travel twice around the equator of the earth to match the carbon footprint of a petrol model because of the massive amount of energy consumed during the production process.
  • The battery contains 8 kg of lithium, 35 kg of manganese and 6-12 kg of cobalt. They add that around 60-70% of the global supplier cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic Of The Congo where it is mined in difficult and dangerous conditions often by child labourers. This will also damage the environment and therefore damage wildlife.
  • During the manufacture of petrol and electric vehicles, the amount of CO2 produced is 14 tons for the former and 24 tons for the latter in reference to the Volvo XC40 petrol car and the Polestar 2 electric car
  • The tyres and brakes of electric vehicles produce 2,000 times as much particulate pollution as a car engine.
  • A typical electric car puts 2.24 times as much stress on the road surface as an equivalent petrol car meaning existing potholes face greater damage.
  • The newspaper states that there are reports of up to 2,000 deaths a year in the manufacture of electric vehicles.

Image credit: By Gerhard Heeke – Photo taken by Gerhard Heeke., CC BY-SA 3.0,

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