An online opinion piece penned by British film and TV star Rowan Atkinson has been cited in UK Parliament as one of the main reasons why electric vehicle (EV) sales in the UK haven’t taken off.
In June 2023, Mr Atkinson – the star of Mr Bean, Blackadder and Johnny English – criticised EVs in an opinion piece for The Guardian, stating he had been ‘duped’ by claims that battery-powered vehicles are more environmentally friendly than traditional petrol and diesel internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
Despite having received a degree in electrical and electronic engineering in the 1970s, Mr Atkinson presented his opinion as fact, with a number of his claims about EVs – such as doubting the lifespan of their batteries and overall emissions – later debunked by experts.
UK news outlet Sky News reports Mr Atkinson’s column was mentioned during a recent environment and climate change committee meeting in the House of Lords.
Environmental policy think tank Green Alliance cited Mr Atkinson’s column as one of the biggest hurdles for the UK to phase out new ICE cars from showrooms by 2035.
“One of the most damaging articles was a comment piece written by Rowan Atkinson in The Guardian which has been roundly debunked,” a Green Alliance letter to committee members read.
“Unfortunately, fact checks never reach the same breadth of audience as the original false claim, emphasising the need to ensure high editorial standards around the net zero transition.”
For context, almost 315,000 EVs were sold in the UK throughout 2023, representing an increase of 18 per cent on the year prior, with almost one million battery-powered cars now estimated to be British roads.
Mr Atkinson’s opinion piece also mentioned hydrogen as an alternative to EVs, both in fuel-cell form – which use hydrogen to charge a small battery powering an electric motor – and as a replacement for fossil fuels.
The actor and comedian later drove a Toyota GR Yaris prototype rally car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with its turbocharged three-cylinder engine running on hydrogen thanks to a bespoke injection system, rather than unleaded petrol.