Some of Britain’s most well-known carmakers are facing questions over their role in a report which pours doubt over the green credentials of electric vehicles.
The paper, released on Thursday, claimed an electric vehicle would need to be driven for almost 50,000 miles before it gained a CO2 advantage over a conventional petrol car – a figure dismissed as “misleading propaganda” by EV experts.
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Backed by industry associations and auto firms including McLaren, Aston Martin and Honda, the study argued there is no “silver bullet” for decarbonising transport. It promoted the role of biofuels and synthetic fuels alongside battery electric cars.
Questions have been raised over the relationship between Aston Martin and PR firm Clarendon Communications, which was hired to distribute the report.
Clean energy entrepreneur Michael Liebreich spent the weekend investigating Clarendon. According to Companies House, Rebecca Stephens is Clarendon’s sole director. Land Registry information confirms the firm’s registered address is co-owned by Ms Stephens alongside James Stephens, a senior executive at Aston Martin.
Mr Liebreich called for more transparency over how the report was produced and distributed, and how Clarendon came to be the contracted PR firm.
Response from carmakers
Aston Martin said it did not contract Clarendon Communications to distribute the report. It claimed it has “no formal links” with the PR firm but refused to comment further on whether governance rules had been breached.
In a statement on behalf of itself and McLaren, Aston Martin added it supports the government’s plans to decarbonise road transport and said the report was drawn up to consider “how best to achieve” the goal.
Honda said it “provided input” to the study but did not provide any financial support for the work. In a statement it said it supports a “multi pathway approach to decarbonisation that makes use of a range of technologies and energy sources”.
Compared to their industry rivals, the carmakers backing the report have been sluggish in developing electric models. Earlier this year Aston Martin said it won’t have an electric car on the market until 2026. Honda released its first fully electric car earlier this year.
Questions over the study’s claims
The study itself has been described as a “misleading brochure” by Auke Hoekstra, an electric vehicle expert at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The 50,000 miles figure was based on one study of one electric car, released in September by Polestar, pointed out. He criticized the report for underestimating combustion engine emissions and cherry picking data to make other solutions like biofuels look better than electric vehicles.
In reality, an EV would need to be driven for about 16,000 miles before it starts to make emissions gains on a petrol car, Dr Hoekstra said.
Dr James Morris, editor of the website WhichEV, also cast doubt on the study’s conclusions. “Batteries won’t replace every transportation type – they are best suited to personal cars, bikes, and scooters – but they are much, much greener than fossil fuel cars,” he wrote in an article for Forbes.