Why Rowan Atkinson is far from only driver voicing concerns about electric cars

An actor best known for playing bumbling Mr Bean wasn’t the most obvious target for electric vehicle evangelists.

But according to a recent House of Lords report, Green Alliance told peers that a comment piece written by Rowan Atkinson, which has been roundly debunked, was in no small part to blame for damaging the public's perception of electric cars.

While the actor professed to love EVs, in the article he wrote that he felt “duped” by them, claiming (disputedly) that they had much higher environmental costs to make than petrol or diesel cars.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While his analysis of the EV market may have been flawed, Mr Atkinson isn’t alone in voicing concerns.

Rowan Atkinson has sparked a debate about electric cars. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images)Rowan Atkinson has sparked a debate about electric cars. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images)
Rowan Atkinson has sparked a debate about electric cars. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images)

The reality is that, despite being a more environmentally friendly way of driving, many consumers are wary about the transition to EVs - and face several barriers to purchasing them. Our research found that the number of people who would not consider one has risen 14 percentage points, from one in five (20 per cent) in 2021 to one in three (34 per cent) in 2023.

First, one of the reasons why the Prime Minister delayed a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars (from 2030 until 2035) was due to the upfront cost still being too high - especially at a time when households were struggling with the cost of living.

Although upfront costs can be prohibitive, the overall cost of EV ownership, according to the government’s Climate Change Committee, can end up being significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel cars (if you’re able to charge from home). Increasing competition in the EV market and the growth of the second hand market for EVs should also start to give consumers more choice and make EVs more affordable.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Second, changes and improvements to the public charging networks are badly needed. A recent Which? survey found that a quarter of respondents cited the cost of using public charge points as the primary reason for stopping using them. Prices at public charge points vary but one of the reasons that charges are higher for public charging is that it incurs a 20 per cent VAT rate whereas the VAT rate for home charging is 5 per cent. This double standard will become an increasingly important issue as more of the nearly 25 per cent of UK households that don’t have off street parking switch to EVs.

Then there’s reliability. Three quarters of respondents said they had experienced a faulty charger at least once in the past 12 months, while nearly four in 10 said it was difficult to find a working charger at all. When EV drivers do eventually find a working charger, they can often find them difficult to use, with the payment methods on offer inconvenient, too.

Encouragingly, the government has recently passed new rules which should lead to improvements in EV drivers’ experience of the public charging network. But there is clearly more to do to give more motorists the confidence they need to rely on them, both for those that can’t charge from home and for those on longer journeys.

Ultimately if the UK is to achieve its necessarily ambitious environmental targets, more people will need to make changes to their lifestyles, including changing the vehicles they drive.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With an election looming this year, all political parties should be thinking about the longer-term ways to ensure chargepoint provision meets demand, specifically by finally freeing up the cash for a proper Rapid Charging Fund and mandating minimum charge point numbers at specific sites.

There is underlying demand for electric cars. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, a record 119,000 used battery electric cars changed hands in the UK last year. It’s up to the government to ensure the road to transitioning to them is smooth.

Get it right and we may yet see Mr Bean strapping an armchair to an electric version of his famous green Mini.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.