Rowan Atkinson, renowned actor and comedian, finds himself embroiled in controversy following accusations that his commentary on electric vehicles (EVs) has contributed to sluggish sales in the UK. The allegations surfaced during a meeting of the UK’s House of Lords, where the environment and climate change committee discussed obstacles to the government’s plan to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2035.
According to reports, the committee singled out Atkinson, citing a piece he authored in The Guardian in June 2023 as a significant factor in the downturn of EV sales. The think tank Green Alliance, presenting its findings during the session, labelled Atkinson’s article as detrimental to the cause and claimed it had been thoroughly debunked.
“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,” remarked the Green Alliance during the parliamentary session.
Atkinson’s controversial article, titled ‘I love electric vehicles – and was an early adopter. But increasingly I feel duped,’ drew criticism for its characterisation of EVs as “a bit soulless” and its critique of lithium-ion batteries. The 69-year-old actor’s sentiments sparked a backlash from EV advocates, including Simon Evans of the Carbon Brief website.
“Mr. Atkinson’s biggest mistake is his failure to recognise that electric vehicles already offer significant global environmental benefits compared with combustion-engine cars,” remarked Evans.
Despite holding degrees in electrical engineering and control systems, Atkinson has yet to respond to the accusations levelled against him.
While Atkinson’s critique takes centre stage, Tuesday’s report before the UK’s Parliament identified additional deterrents to EV adoption, including higher purchase costs, insufficient charging infrastructure, and mixed messaging. These challenges underscore the urgency of addressing various barriers to successfully achieve the government’s ambitious transition away from traditional fuel-powered vehicles by 2035.