From the prestigious Forbes, a cascade of media through The Times to the Daily Mail has published different versions of a new report these days that did not leave the electric car in a good place. After their knowledge, researchers and even the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) deny the study’s conclusions.
Both Forbes and the specialized portal Electrek have warned of the trap of reports that try to vilify the electric car’s green image at the cost of half-truths, unreliable data, and reports where there were no researchers.
During the past week, various media in the United Kingdom reacted to the restrictive measures for internal combustion vehicles proposed by a government that has set a date, 2030, to sell cars powered by gasoline or diesel.
Quickly, specific media echoed a ‘new’ study that stated that an electric vehicle had to travel 50,000 miles to equal an internal combustion car’s carbon footprint due to all the energy consumed during its manufacturing process.
The report entitled: “Decarbonising Road Transport: There Is No Silver Bullet” was commissioned by a group of car manufacturers.
Hidden behind the study are several major manufacturers, component companies, and luxury brands for niche markets. The best known and funders of the research are Honda, Aston Martin, McLaren, and Bosch.
Despite the self-proclaimed neutral report, it juggles not to appear inclined towards vehicles powered by fossil fuels. There is an impact on the “decarbonization of the fuel, not the vehicle.” This statement is a clear allusion to the survival of the concept of traditional mobility in the face of the rise of the electric car and the dreaded irruption that it is assuming in the automobile market.
But reality indicates that this ‘new’ report has been denied on multiple occasions. One of the best examples that detract from the report’s credibility comes from the work carried out by Carbon Brief, who verified the data of electric vehicles during 2019, concluding that a Nissan Leaf compensates for the extra emissions of its manufacture after only two years of use.
For its part, the Union of Concerned Scientists carries out a quarterly update of the best electric cars concerning CO2 emissions, including the energy consumed from a dirty network.
Following the publicity received for the report by media such as The Times, Auke Hoekstra, a researcher at the Eindhoven University of Technology (Eindhoven University of Technology), used his Twitter account to criticize a study where the researchers do not appear.
The researcher claims that more than a report looks like an “advertising pamphlet” from an anti-EV organization.
There were no ‘researchers’ involved in this ‘study’ as far as I can see and there are no original ‘recorded results’.https://t.co/8snUcbe6VK— AukeHoekstra (@AukeHoekstra) November 27, 2020
It looks like some lobbyists and a PR firm produced a brochure for their list of sponsors: a who’s who of anti-EV organisations. pic.twitter.com/Qkd3UF2XZN
The reality is that this new report is the same information published two months ago. The example of the comparison between the production of the Polestar 2 EV and the traditionally powered Volvo XC40 stated that the former produced 24 tonnes of CO2 in its manufacture versus 14 tolerated from the latter.
The figures should be true since both cars are produced in China by Geely. Even Polestar made this information public recently in surprising statements from its CEO.
The culmination of the controversy is revealed by Liebreich himself, showing in a tweet the screenshot corresponding to the contact company included in the report. Curiously, the “contact” company is a subsidiary of a company registered under the management of James Michael Stephens.
J. M. Stephens is a senior Aston Martin manager responsible for Aston Martin’s government and external affairs.
OMG. It’s Sat afternoon, nothing good on Netflix. So for £3, I ask the Land Registry who owns the registered address of @ClarendonComms‘s only director (redacted so I can’t be accused of doxing). It’s @jamesvsjaws Director of Government and External Affairs at @AstonMartin! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/ncYoUhgZOy— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) November 28, 2020
One of the biggest problems derived from the echo received by this is a dubious report comes from the effect created on public opinion.
Unfortunately, everyday life does not leave much time for people to delve into the news. For this reason, on a large number of occasions, the source of information is the headline and, at most, part of the lead of each news than its content.
The lack of deepening can lead to the perpetuation of certain stereotypes. Perhaps the strategy of the report by Honda, Bosch, and other promoters was precisely that. Reach the collective imagination without anyone reading the true conclusions or comparing them with other better-documented studies.