Rowan Atkinson has been blamed for helping cause a slump in EV sales.
The Mr Bean and Blackadder actor was singled out in evidence to a House of Lords report into the UK’s electric vehicle strategy.
The environment and climate change committee heard that an opinion piece by Atkinson had had a “damaging” impact on public perceptions of EVs.
A written submission from the Green Alliance campaign group said: “One of the most damaging articles was a comment piece written by Rowan Atkinson in the Guardian, which has been roundly 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.”
In the June 2023 piece Atkinson said he felt “duped” by EVs. He questioned the longevity of lithium-ion batteries and said he felt the UK’s “honeymoon” with EVs was coming to an end. The title was subsequently forced to make a number of corrections to the piece and a week later published a counter argument to the column by climate journalist Simon Evans.
Private EV sales have declined for the past three months prompting fears of a drop in buyer interest. New private EV registrations fell 25% in January compared with January 2023. However, fleet registrations were up more than 40%.
While Atkinson was singled out for his opinion piece, the report highlighted a broader pattern of “alarming” negative coverage around EVs. It warned that poorly researched and misleading media coverage, especially around range, safety and longevity, threatened to affect public perceptions of electric vehicles.
The DfT’s own representative to the committee, Richard Bruce, warned of a concerted campaign of misinformation and said: “Sometimes there are many stories, almost all of which are based on misconceptions and mistruths.”
The Lords’ report also criticised “mixed messaging” from the government in the wake of the 2030 ban being pushed back. It called for political leaders to take a more proactive approach in highlighting the positives of electric vehicles.
Alongside negative messaging, the report said that concerns around costs remained a barrier to many drivers. It called for new subsidies to help reduce the price of new and used EVs and for a 15% cut in VAT on public charging.