Electric vehicles are a relatively new aspect of motoring advertising. Often easily misunderstood by consumers, there are several common issues that the Advertising Standards Authority receives complaints about. Here we point out the most common pitfalls of advertising the environmental benefits of electric vehicles to consumers and help you to avoid your ad driving complaints.

1) Be clear about the basis for MPG claims

Some ads that have prompted complaints were considered problematic by the ASA for confusing the consumer as to the basis for MPG calculations. Complaints were received and upheld about a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) ad, where the claimed fuel consumption figures in the ad did not take into account that the car battery had been fully charged from mains electricity before the fuel consumption testing began. This approach increased the MPG figure and made it likely to mislead consumers in the absence of explanatory text. Advertisers should always be clear about their calculations for MPG figure claims. If it is not very clear from information in the ad how the MPG figure was calculated additional information should be included to ensure clarity for consumers.

2) Explain the type of vehicle you are advertising

Extended-range electric vehicles or E-REV’s is a term used for a car generating electricity using a combustion engine. In light of the potential confusion between E-REV’s and Pure Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) using language like “compared to other electric cars” or “extended-range electric vehicle” is likely to be problematic unless the rest of the ad makes clear the difference between the two. If a consumer is likely to understand from the ad that what you are advertising is an electric vehicle rather than an E-REV the ad has the potential to mislead consumers as to the products environmental benefit.

3) Does the car really produce no emissions?

Advertisers often like to claim that electric cars are "zero emission" or that they create "no emissions". Obviously though, the electricity used to charge the battery of an electric car will have created emissions to generate; therefore only very limited claims about a car creating no emissions whilst driving, or similar, are likely to be acceptable. Any claims of this type must be expressed in a manner that explains the limited nature of the claim and avoids implying a total environmental benefit.

4) Are emissions reduction claims accurate for the country in which the ad will appear?

It might seem obvious but electricity generation in different countries generates different amounts of carbon. For example a country with a greater proportion of electricity generated by nuclear power stations is going to create less carbon than an equivalent amount of electricity generated in a country using coal fired power stations. If making claims about emission reductions as a result of driving an electric car advertisers should ensure their emission reduction calculations are based on the electricity mix of the UK to ensure their claims are factually correct.

Further information can be found in our Advice Online articles on Motoring: Electric vehicles and Environmental claims: Motoring.

If you have any further queries on the subject the Copy Advice team will be happy to help. Queries or ads on which you’d like advice can be submitted to us using our Copy Advice request form.

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