Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A website for Tesla Motors, www.teslamotors.com/en_GB/, seen on 6 October 2015, for an electric car. A page headed “Supercharger” included the claim “The World’s Fastest Charging Station”. A page linked from the home page via text which stated “ORDER YOUR MODEL S” included the claims “£48,500 After Incentives & Petrol Savings … -£6,500 Estimated petrol & tax savings over 5 years (learn more)”. The text “(learn more)” was linked to small print further down the web page which stated “Petrol Savings … The average person drives approximately 12,000 miles and spends around £1,600 on petrol per year. In comparison, the cost of electricity to power Model S over the same distance is ten times lower. Over the five year average length of car ownership, that’s approximately £6,000 in petrol savings. We’ve assumed a fuel economy of 39.2 miles per gallon for a comparable petrol powered car. We’ve also assumed the national average of £0.14 per kilowatt hour for electricity, 10% charging on Tesla’s Supercharger network enabling free long distance travel, and £1.17 per liter [sic] for premium petrol over the next five years”.
Ecotricity Group Ltd challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. “The World’s Fastest Charging Station”; and
2. “Over the five year average length of car ownership, that’s approximately £6,000 in petrol savings”.
1. Tesla Motors Ltd said that apart from their own ‘Superchargers’, the only personal electric vehicle (EV) charging stations used in the world connected to EVs via one of three standard connectors developed by car manufacturers to be used with their cars: the “CHAdeMo” charger, from Japanese EV car manufacturers; the “SAE Combo” charger from German car manufacturers; and the “GB/T” charger from the Chinese manufacturer GuoBiao. Those chargers were all capable of delivering direct current (DC), which delivered charge faster than alternating current (AC). Other chargers used worldwide delivered AC only and therefore were significantly slower than DC technologies (e.g., the Tesla Supercharger delivered 120 kW (kilowatt) of charge through DC but only 22 kW through AC).
Tesla Motors said that to compare charging speeds, they evaluated the maximum power that fast-charging connectors could deliver to the EV batteries they were intended to charge. Higher power correlated to faster charging times.
They provided detailed information on the specifications of the Supercharger and the three compared DC chargers. They said the Supercharger was theoretically capable of delivering 145 kW of power, although the maximum power that could be delivered to the batteries in Tesla vehicles was 120 kW. The maximum theoretical delivery of the CHAdeMO charger was 62.5 kW of power, whereas the maximum power that could be delivered to the batteries of compatible EVs was 50 kW. The maximum theoretical delivery of the SAE Combo charger was 100 kW of power, whereas the maximum power that could be delivered to the batteries of compatible EVs was 60 kW. The GB/T charger was theoretically capable of delivering 180 kW, but the maximum power that could be delivered to the batteries of compatible EVs was 50 kW.
2. Tesla Motors said the web page on which the claim appeared stated the assumptions they made to support the claim, including assumptions regarding the number of miles travelled, use of the free Supercharger network, cost of electricity, cost of petrol, and fuel economy. They said that consumers therefore could not be misled as they were told exactly how the savings were calculated. They added that the web page also included a calculation tool into which consumers could input their own annual mileage and petrol costs so they could see the petrol savings calculation based on their own particular usage patterns. Tesla understood that Ecotricity had specifically challenged the claim in relation to whether the following figures used in the savings calculation were misleading: the 10% of charging that would be carried out via the Supercharger network; the price of £0.14 per kWh for electricity; and the price of £1.17 per litre of petrol.
With regard to the assumption that Model S owners would use Tesla’s Supercharger network approximately 10% of the time, Tesla said that because their cars were ‘connected vehicles’ they received data from each vehicle that had been sold, including the total amount of energy charged into each vehicle. They also held data relating to the total amount of power that was delivered via the Supercharger network, and were therefore able to calculate the average percentage of charge which was delivered to Tesla vehicles via the Supercharger network. By the end of 2015, the percentage of energy delivered to their vehicles via the Supercharger network worldwide was 11%. They had rounded that figure down to 10% to use in the savings calculation. They added that the figure for use of the Supercharger network within the UK was even higher: 19% of energy delivered to Tesla vehicles in the UK was delivered via their Supercharger network. They considered that the 10% figure used as the basis for the savings calculation was therefore conservative.
Tesla Motors said their figure for the national average cost for electricity was based on data taken from the European Commission’s Quarterly Report on Electricity Markets, from the first quarter of 2015. This was the most up-to-date report available at the time the claim was published. The Report estimated that the price of electricity for UK households during the first quarter of 2015 was 0.1911 Euros per kWh (including taxes) on average, which at the time the claim was published equated to £0.14 per kWh. Tesla also provided the EC half-year figures for 2012–2014 inclusive which showed that the average price of electricity increased from 0.179 to 0.201 Euros per kWh between 2012 and 2014, before falling in the first quarter of 2015.
The figure for the price of petrol was an average calculated from the average price of petrol each month between October 2014 and February 2015, as reported on the website petrolprices.com, which sourced price data from around 8,500 UK petrol stations. Tesla said those were the most recent figures available when the average was calculated and published on their website. They added that this figure was lower than the average price of petrol each year between 2011 and 2014; the average price they had used was therefore a conservative figure.
Tesla also assumed a fuel economy of 39.2 miles per gallon for a comparable petrol powered car. That comparison was based on a BMW 535i Saloon, which was a luxury, high-performance mid-size sedan. They considered the BMW 535i had a lower price point, fewer performance features, and significantly higher fuel economy than other luxury vehicles that were closer to the Tesla Model S price point and performance features. They said higher price luxury petrol vehicles with more features, such as the BMW 7-series, Porsche Panamera and the Mercedes S-Class, typically had a lower fuel economy. They therefore considered that using the BMW 535i’s fuel economy figure as a comparison was conservative.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered that, in the context of advertising about the Tesla Model S, consumers would understand the claim “The World’s Fastest Charging Station” to mean that Tesla Superchargers were the fastest at charging currently available compatible EVs when compared to the charging speeds delivered to currently available compatible EVs by all other chargers used worldwide.
We understood that the higher the power that could be delivered to a battery, the faster it charged. We noted that the GB/T charger, developed for use with GuoBiao cars, was theoretically capable of delivering more power than the Tesla Supercharger. However, because we considered consumers would understand the claim to relate to actual charging speeds of currently available EVs, we considered the theoretical power delivery capabilities of the chargers were not relevant. We noted that the Tesla Model S could accept 120 kW of power, whereas the maximum that other EVs could accept was 60 kW. We therefore understood that the Tesla Supercharger was faster at charging compatible EVs than any charger used worldwide. On that basis, we concluded the claim had been substantiated and was not misleading.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We considered consumers would understand that the calculation behind the claim “Over the five year average length of car ownership, that’s approximately £6,000 in petrol savings” was based on a number of factors including the price of petrol and electricity. We considered most consumers would be aware that the price of petrol and electricity was likely to fluctuate over a five-year period, that this could affect the total savings achievable, and that therefore the claim was an approximate calculation. However, we considered consumers would nevertheless expect that the calculation would be based on relevant, moderate estimates of the future costs of the different contributing elements, based on the recent costs of those elements as stated by robust sources.
We understood that Tesla had based the assumption that Tesla Model S drivers would charge their vehicles using the free Supercharger network 10% of the time on the amount that Tesla drivers did so worldwide. We considered it was likely that UK drivers might have different driving and usage patterns of their EVs compared with drivers in other countries. Consequently we considered that such a calculation should be based specifically on the amount that UK drivers charged their vehicles using the Supercharger network. However, we noted that the figure for the UK was 19% and that the 10% figure used in the calculation therefore significantly underestimated how much Tesla drivers were likely to use the Supercharger network. We therefore considered the use of the 10% figure as part of the calculation of the approximate savings on petrol was unlikely to mislead consumers.
We considered that the source of the £0.14 per kWh figure, the EC’s Quarterly Report on Electricity Markets, was robust, and noted that Tesla had used the figure from the most up-to-date Report available at the time the claim was published. We similarly considered that the source of the £1.17 per litre petrol price was robust, and noted that Tesla had calculated that price as an average from the published monthly prices of the five months leading up to when the claim was published. Because Tesla had used robust sources for the relevant data, and had used relevant, recent figures, we considered the use of the £0.14 per kWh figure for electricity and the £1.17 per litre figure for petrol as part of the calculation of the approximate savings on petrol were unlikely to mislead consumers.
Because we understood that the figure for the amount of charging that would be conducted on the Supercharger network, and the figures for the costs of electricity and petrol were based on robust sources and relevant calculations, we concluded the claim “Over the five year average length of car ownership, that’s approximately £6,000 in petrol savings” was unlikely to mislead.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.