Admittedly, readily available electric vehicles haven’t been around for long. But according to a Ford study, 42% of US Americans think that electric cars still need gasoline to run.
While Ted Cannis, Global Director of Electrification at Ford, writes in a Medium article that “Education is a critical missing piece to the electric vehicle puzzle,” – consumers primarily get their information about cars from advertising. Many people have seen Plug-in Hybrids advertised as electric vehicles (which, strictly speaking, they are). But carmakers are trying as hard as they can to convince people that plug-in hybrid or hybrid SUVs are the kinds of electric vehicles that will help mitigate climate change. This kind of green-washing has effects, not just on the climate, but on misconceptions about electric vehicles generally.
In January this year in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) dismissed complaints against a Mitsubishi television advert for misleading consumers by over-playing the electric aspect of its Outlander PHEV SUV. Although the ASA dismissed the claim, in their ruling they also said that they understood why the complaints were made – because of the repeated emphasis in the voice-over on the phrase: “it’s electric”, implying that the vehicle was fully electric rather than a hybrid vehicle. And this is not an exception. One of many such cases of this was seen recently when Volvo claimed they are “electrifying the entire fleet” with their latest PHEV SUV press release. The fact is, Volvo has failed to produce a single emissions-free car to date, but media outlets happily lapped up the claim anyway.
Not only that, but traditional car companies are spending very little on “education” about electric vehicles generally. Last year, an analysis of car advertising budgets showed that six of the biggest car manufacturers in the USA, namely General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler, are still spending next to nothing on the promotion of their electric vehicles – and even here, many of the electric vehicles advertised are large, hybrid vehicles, often even using diesel.
It’s not surprising that people think electric cars need gasoline – carmakers, in general, (and governments trying to decarbonise their transport sectors) might take a little look at where consumers get their information.