Monday, April 22, 2024
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Hard to find the funny side

The older I get, the less inclined I am to pay much notice to what certain people say.

I mainly refer to the likes of politicians [that’s an easy one], self-labelled “experts” in any given field, and those who want to sell you something, be it an object or an idea.

Perhaps I’m getting increasingly cynical [most likely], and perhaps I’ve had enough of listening to someone trying to convince me of something I don’t want to be convinced of.

Lessons in this area started very early for me. My older, supposedly more responsible brother, often convinced me that it would be ‘so much easier’ for me to climb the tree and retrieve the ball that had become stuck between two branches. It took me years to eventually cotton on that I could say ‘no’ to my brother’s suggestions. Not that he has stopped trying to get me to do things on his behalf.

At the other end of the scale, I am much more comfortable taking time out of my day to absorb the musings of … comedians.

With a rapier-like wit and an eagle eye keen enough to spot a load of fraudulent behaviour from a mile away, comics can say the things we would like to say but we can’t phrase in either a polite or humorous way.

This is why I sat up and took notice of some comments recently made by Rowan Atkinson.

The man who gave us Blackadder, Mr Bean, and Johnny English, among many others, has waded into the minefield [or should that be lithium mine] that is the transition from petrol to electric vehicles.

The self-confessed car-lover says he feels “duped” by the electric vehicle trend, despite being an early adopter.

Atkinson got an electric hybrid 18 years ago and his first all-electric car nine years later. The relationship has hit a few speed bumps.

“When you start to drill into the facts, electric motoring doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be.”

Atkinson studied electrical and electronic engineering at university before gaining a subsequent master’s in control systems. He’s no dummy.

His comments were in response to a proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

“The problem with the initiative is that it seems to be based on conclusions drawn from only one part of a car’s operating life: What comes out of the exhaust pipe,” Atkinson said.

“Electric cars … have zero exhaust emissions, which is a welcome development, particularly in respect of the air quality in city centres. But if you look at a bigger picture that includes the car’s manufacture, the situation is very different.”

Atkinson makes a valid point. Figures from car manufacturers show that greenhouse gas emissions in the production of an electric car are about 70 per cent higher than in the production of a petrol car, due to the resource-sapping lithium-ion batteries. That figure may well reduce as production technology improves, but for the moment, it will hardly inspire drivers to make the switch.

I was waiting for Atkinson to make light of the situation. Not this time.


  1. Sure. What matters is whole of life emissions – build, operate and dispose – and there the life time emissions of EVs are assessed to be significantly lower than ICEs. And yes – we need better batteries with less rare earth metals.

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Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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