Matthew BeedhamEditor, SHIFT by TNW
Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.
Strap yourselves in folks, because we’ve got a wild one for you. It’s perhaps the wildest story since General Motors decided it would be a good idea to acquire hydrogen truck startup Nikola — the deal has since fallen through, though — so this is bigger.
Reports are surfacing that British sports car maker and James Bond’s ride of choice, Aston Martin, were behind a study that tried to cast doubt on the green credentials of electric vehicles.
The study, which was presented as “groundbreaking,” has since been debunked by EV researcher Auke Hoekstra. It alleged that electric cars need to travel as far as 50,000 miles before they can match the carbon footprint of petrol models.
New 'study' claims it takes 48k miles for electric vehicles to emit less CO2 than gasoline cars.
But it's just a misleading brochure.
Reality is closer 16k miles.
UK media including @thetimes where mislead by this carmaker-paid attack on @BorisJohnson's green plans. (thread) pic.twitter.com/ozuhbX8NXU
— AukeHoekstra (@AukeHoekstra) November 27, 2020
This kind of argument has been debunked countless times, and generally it goes something like this: anti-EV campaigners claim that the increased CO2 of producing electric cars means they have to be driven for many miles until they make good sense. Sometimes anti-EV campaigners claim that energy production can also create CO2 — if it’s not renewable — and so adds to an EV’s footprint.
[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]
As it turns out, the report published last Thursday, was commissioned by companies including Aston Martin, Bosch, and Honda not long after the UK’s prime minster announced that gasoline vehicles would be banned from 2030.
The report was published by a PR company going by the name Clarendon Communications and was presented as its own work.
However, Bloomberg’s Michael Liebreich found the companies that commissioned the study were also those that wrote the study.
What’s more, Clarendon Communications appears to be nothing more than a “sock-puppet” PR firm, which was set up in February this year and its registered owners are James Michael Stephens, Aston Martin’s government affairs director, and his spouse Rebecca Caroline Stephens.
The registered address (redacted from the tweet) is a propertyowned by the couple.
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
Rebecca Stephens, who is a Nurse, told The Guardian that the report was compiled by the same companies that commissioned the study. Adding that Bosch contacted Clarendon Communications “to provide public affairs and stakeholder support” so its logo and contact details appear on the back of the report “for this purpose.”
Bosch says that it fully supports the report, which was built upon independent and referenced data.
The debacle is already being referred to as “Astongate.”
Aston Martin is yet to comment on the situation, but it has a lot of explaining to do and there are lots of questions to answer. As CleanTechnica asks: is Aston Martin intentionally spreading misinformation? Is it behind Clarendon Communications? Or in other words, what on earth is going?
We’ll be following up on this story in the coming weeks, there’s no doubt we haven’t seen the end yet.
Update, December 4, 0735UTC: McLaren contacted SHIFT to clarify their involvement in the report published by Clarendon Communications. The original article said that McLaren was one of the carmakers that commissioned the study.
McLaren has said that it was not one of the commissioning manufacturers, but instead contributed its expertise in making cars lighter and more energy efficient.
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