Essay by Eric Worrall
Comedy legend Rowan Atkinson, who plays Mr. Bean, Johnny English, Blackadder and many other comedy roles, isn’t happy with his electric vehicle.
I love electric vehicles – and was one of the first users. But I feel increasingly betrayed
Sat 3 Jun 2023 at 5pm AEST
Unfortunately, it may be better to keep your old gas car than to buy an electric vehicle. There are good environmental reasons not to just jump, yes
Electric motors are theoretically a topic I should know something about. My first university degree was Electrical Engineering and Electronics, followed by a Masters in Control Systems. Combine this perhaps surprising academic background with a lifelong passion for the automobile and you will understand why I was interested in the introduction of electric vehicles from an early age. I bought my first electric hybrid 18 years ago and my first pure electric car nine years ago and (despite our poor electric vehicle charging infrastructure) have thoroughly enjoyed the time with both. Electric vehicles may be a bit soulless, but they are wonderful machines: fast, quiet and, until recently, very cheap to run. But increasingly I feel a little betrayed. If you look at the facts more closely, the electric motor doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is being made out to be.
As you may know, the government has proposed a sales ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. The problem with the initiative is that it appears to be based on conclusions drawn from only one part of a car’s lifespan: what comes out of the tailpipe. Of course, electric cars are emission-free, which is a positive development, especially with regard to the air quality in inner cities. However, if you zoom out a bit and look at a larger picture that also includes the making of the car, the situation is very different. Ahead of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021, Volvo released figures showing greenhouse gas emissions from producing an electric car are 70% higher than producing a petrol one. How come? The problem lies with the lithium-ion batteries that are currently fitted to almost all electric vehicles: they are incredibly heavy, require a lot of rare earth metals and enormous amounts of energy to produce them, and they only last about ten years. It seems like a perverse choice of hardware, with which the automobile is supposed to lead the fight against the climate crisis.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jun/03/electric-vehicles-early-adopter-petrol-car-ev-environment-rowan-atkinson
Sadly, Rowan suggests that hydrogen might be the way to go. I suspect that hydrogen, which requires special handling skills in industry due to its hazardous nature, will die faster and more explosively than electric vehicles if there’s ever a serious attempt at mass adoption.
If only there were a compact and relatively stable way to conveniently and quickly add power to a vehicle. It would be even better if this energy product could be easily manufactured from a natural resource. Then we would have a winning vehicle with green energy!
Below, Rowan Atkinson plays Dr. Who for Comic Relief, a poverty alleviation charity. Unfortunately, Comic Relief is totally woken up about climate change, but they do some good work, so I usually give pennies.