Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Aston Martin Lagonda is reviewing how a report was commissioned that researchers criticised for making inaccurate comparisons of the climate harm caused by cars powered by batteries and combustion engines.

Tobias Moers, Aston Martin’s CEO, said the report the carmaker compiled along with some of its peers predated him joining the company in August. One claim it made that was widely reported by UK media outlets in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 2030 ban on vehicles lacking a plug was that it takes 78,000km for EVs to be cleaner than conventional cars.

The figure is more like 25,000km, according to Auke Hoekstra, a researcher at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He said the report underestimated emissions from combustion-engine cars by roughly half and didn’t take into account fuel production. It also bases its approximation of the carbon footprint of EVs on one model built by Polestar, the carmaker jointly owned by Sweden’s Volvo Cars and China’s Geely Holding Group.

“I am concerned about the media coverage relating to the recently published Decarbonisation of Road Transport report,” Moers said in an e-mailed statement. He said he was not aware of the contents before it was published and that Aston Martin is “fully committed to the development of both hybrid and battery electric vehicles”.

The incident reflects the strain vehicle makers are under to meet government mandates that fundamentally reshape their industry. The UK and state of California have set targets to phase out combustion engines entirely by 2035, while China is drawing up plans for the majority of vehicles sold in the world’s biggest market to be electric by then.

“The momentum for EVs is being powered by governments and manufacturers investing billions in batteries, vehicles and associated infrastructure,” said David Watson, CEO of EV-charging company Ohme Technologies UK. “That’s a juggernaut that won’t be stopped by the odd piece of misinformation, especially when the claims as so easily disprovable.”

Aston Martin contributed to the report with the intention of exploring the best approach to achieving the UK government’s goals to reduce road-transport emissions, a spokesperson said earlier in an e-mail. Other companies listed on the report include Honda and McLaren Automotive.

Honda said it supports a multi-pathway approach to decarbonisation. McLaren contributed information pertaining to its expertise with regard to reducing vehicle weight.

Johnson’s petrol and diesel car ban poses a serious threat to Aston Martin. The Gaydon, England-based company put off the launch of an all-electric Lagonda marque by three years, to 2025, and paused work on its first battery-powered model, called Rapid E, in January. It announced a deal with Daimler in October to access the Mercedes-Benz maker’s electric and hybrid powertrains through 2027.

To meet stricter emissions standards for passenger cars in Europe this year, Honda has joined Fiat Chrysler  in pooling its fleet with Tesla’s EV line-up. While McLaren plans to start rolling out fuel-electric models in 2021, the company has said it won’t launch a fully electric car until the second half of this decade.

Michael Liebreich, a clean-energy and climate adviser and founder of the consultancy now known as BloombergNEF, which Bloomberg LP acquired in 2009, wrote in a blog post that Hoekstra had “comprehensively debunked” the carmakers’ report.

“Myths and misinformation” about EVs “slow down attempts to address climate change, they cause public money to be wasted and they destroy good investments,” Liebreich said.



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