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Advertiser: Toyota Ireland
Medium: Online (3rd party)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
An advertisement on the advertisers’ YouTube channel stated:
“Never run out of energy with Toyota's powerful range of self-charging hybrid electric SUV's. Including the superb Rav-4, the refined SUV that's in a class of its own. And the eye-catching Toyota CHR, Ireland's best selling hybrid SUV. Now with incredible offers available and 2% VAT reduction, contact your dealer and start your electric journey today. Toyota, Built for a better world.”
The complainant considered that the claim “never run out of energy” was misleading. The complainant said that the claim meant that a user would never have to refuel the car as the car would be a perpetual motion machine, which they considered was impossible.
The complainant also said that the cars were required to be filled with petrol and they considered that all the car’s energy came from petrol, even the recovered energy from regenerative breaking which was only recoverable after petrol had been used to get the car up to speed. They said that it was not possible to recover all the energy as there were losses in any system and driving continuously at any speed would burn petrol and would not be recovering energy.
The advertisers stated that the claim ‘never run out of energy’ was very clearly in relation to the electric energy of the car. They said that five seconds into the advertisement, as ‘never run out of energy’ was spoken in the voiceover, they showed the EV mode option within the car recharging without the car being plugged in. They said that a Toyota Hybrid would never have to be plugged in due to their regenerative braking systems, which converted kinetic energy into electricity, thus reclaiming excess energy when driving at a sustained pace. They said that there was no range anxiety with a Toyota Hybrid as the car will continually charge itself and ‘never run out of energy’.
The advertisers provided information on how a hybrid engine works and said that a hybrid car could be driven by either the petrol engine, the hybrid battery, or a combination of both. They advised that the hybrid battery could be charged by both the car’s petrol engine and by using regenerative braking (i.e., by capturing the energy used in braking the vehicle and turning it into electricity) and that an external power source was never used to charge the hybrid battery. They said that a hybrid car has a hybrid system that intelligently splits the power produced between the engine and the electric motor, a process called the Hybrid Battery System Control and it monitored the ‘State of Charge’ (SOC) of the electric battery, to see how much power it can use from the battery and that this system controlled the charge to ensure it did not go above or below the Higher or Lower Control Limit. They said that when the state of charge was below the lower level, the hybrid vehicle control increases the power output which charges the hybrid battery.
In regard to the car being driven in pure electric mode, the advertisers said that this mode could be done in two ways:
a. Electricity is generated by the engine as the car is driving and whilst the engine efficiency is high.
b. Regenerative braking – during deceleration and while depressing the brake pedal, part of the energy that normally would be lost as heat is collected as electrical energy to be reused, such as for motor power. They said that it was important to note that energy regeneration to create electricity could be created even when the car is driving in pure electric mode. Therefore, electricity is generated without the direct usage of the engine, or fossil fuels.
In view of this, they said that the electric motor could exclusively drive the car without dependence on the petrol engine, which was why they said their hybrids were self-charging as the vehicle created its own electricity, in that it harnesses the energy that is lost in conventional vehicles.
The advertisers said that the battery’s charge was never allowed to go below a certain point, therefore, it was never allowed to be completely depleted as with a hybrid system you cannot deplete it fully, unlike a full electric vehicle and that it was for this reason why they could with absolute confidence and truthfully state, you’ll never run out of energy driving a Hybrid Electric car.
In addressing the complainant’s statement that ‘you must fill up with petrol and all the energy comes from petrol’, they said that this statement was incorrect on two accounts; primarily, if all the energy came from petrol, this would simply be a petrol car. They said that the car was a Hybrid car and therefore had two sources: petrol and electric and in no way did their advertisement deny that Toyota Hybrids would need to be refuelled, and nowhere did they claim, ‘never run out of petrol’. They said that while it was correct that petrol created the momentum to accelerate or climb a hill, in the deceleration or decent that follows, conventional vehicles waste the kinetic energy, whereas a Toyota hybrid harnesses this kinetic energy by self-charging the battery. They said that while the hybrid could operate in electric-only mode, the cars had not been designed to run without petrol at all. They said that their statement ‘Never run out of energy’ was simply in relation to a car that you will never have to plug in, which could not be mistaken in the advertisement either as again, their voiceover calls out immediately after ‘never run out of energy’ that this was because the cars are ‘self-charging’, not because they won’t need to be refuelled. They said that ‘Never run out of energy’ was about never having range anxiety, never having to worry about where they will charge their car, and simply being able to drive where they want to.
The advertisers referred to the need for advertisements to be allowed artistic license. They said that unless a car was fully electric, they trusted their audience to have the knowledge and common sense that the car would need to be fuelled and said that they clearly stated in the advertisement that this was a Hybrid car, and they considered that everyone knows that a Hybrid was powered by two sources. They said that if they were to specifically call out in their voiceover exactly how a Hybrid works, not only would they lose the creativity of the advertisement, but they would also insult the audience by insinuating they will not know cars need fuel. They considered that if they were to take the same literal approach to other advertisements that mention energy, advertisements all over the world were going to run into problems and they provided examples of other advertisements that used artistic licence to refer to ‘energy’:
A US company using the claim: “40 million reasons to go electric” campaign The advertisers said that the claim was meant to be every person in California (population 40m), however, if they were to be taken literally, the population includes children, babies and people who do not need a car. They said that they did not consider that the advertisers were to be taken literally and ask them for each of the 40 million reasons.
An energy drink company’s making a statement regarding their benefits; a company’s claim to provide energy “to the max”. They questioned whether this was something that could actually be quantified, what was maximum energy for the average human and the brand provide this.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted that the claim was intended to refer to the hybrid electric battery and that hybrid electric vehicles had two power sources, petrol and battery. They noted that the cars were not designed to run only on the electric battery and that the Hybrid Battery System Control monitored the ‘State of Charge’ (SOC) of the electric battery to ensure it did not go above or below the Higher or Lower Control Limit.
The Committee also noted that the hybrid electric battery was not allowed by the system to be completely depleted. The Committee understood therefore if the hybrid electric battery was at the level below which the system could not utilise its energy, and should the car have run out of petrol, there would be no energy available to the system to power the car.
While the Committee accepted that a level of energy may remain in the battery, if it was not available to the system to power the car, they considered that a reasonable understanding would be that the car had run out of energy.
In the circumstances, they considered the claim ‘never run out of energy’ to be likely to mislead and in breach of section 4.1 of the Code.
The advertisement must not reappear in its current form.