A report endorsed by Aston Martin questioning the green credentials of electric cars (EVs) has been widely discredited after it emerged it was based on doctored data and written by a public relations company set up by the wife of an Aston Martin executive.
Aston Martin’s new chief executive, Tobias Moers, said before the Christmas break that he was “deeply concerned” at the luxury carmaker’s involvement and would be conducting an internal investigation into the commissioning and publication of the report.
The PR firm, Clarendon Communications, was registered last February in the UK under the name of sole director Rebecca Stephens. Stephens is married to Aston Martin’s global government affairs director James Stephens. The address of the company is a property jointly owned by the couple.
Moers, the former CEO of Mercedes-AMG, joined Aston Martin last August. He is pictured below. The report was commissioned before he took the reins at the luxury British marque.
Rebecca Stephens confirmed to UK news outlets that the same companies that commissioned the study collaborated to write the report themselves. The other companies named were Honda, supercar maker McLaren, and German tech giant Bosch.
Concerns over the report were first raised by Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg’s clean energy research arm BNEF, in a Twitter thread which has become known within the industry as “Astongate”.
“We need to have a proper discussion about how we are going to get to net zero,” he said. “What we can’t have is the auto industry and fossil fuel incumbents twisting the discussion to their own advantage using sockpuppet PR companies and underhand tactics. The time for that is over.”
The dictionary definition of sockpuppet is a ‘false online identity typically created by a person or group in order to promote their own opinions or views’.
The report was presented as a “ground-breaking” independent analysis of the carbon emissions associated with EVs. It came after the British Government’s decision last year to ban the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles after 2030.
It claimed that EVs are only greener than petrol after 80,000km, a widely debunked finding based loosely on data produced by Polestar, an EV arm of Volvo.
Polestar has walked away from the report, warning that Clarendon left out data about ‘embedded emissions’, those from the factory that makes EVs. Had Clarendon included the embedded emissions, the C02 advantage EVs have over a conventional petrol car would be after 25,000km, not 80,000km.
Moers said Aston Martin is “fully committed to the development of both hybrid and battery electric vehicles.” It does not yet make any EVs. Instead, in an effort to adjust to a low-carbon future, it struck a deal earlier last year to hand over 20 per cent of the company to Mercedes-Benz in exchange for access to the German company’s EV technology.
Aston Martin’s share price has fallen by almost two-thirds in the past year to value the company at just over NZ$2.45 billion. The company sacked its former boss, Andy Palmer, in May last year.