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Advertising watchdog takes down Hyundai and Toyota's electric car ads over misleading claims

Advertising watchdog takes down Hyundai and Toyota's electric car ads over misleading claims

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The Advertising Standards Authority UK (ASA) have banned campaigns by both Toyota and Hyundai for exaggerating the charging speed of its electric cars and mislead consumers about how many rapid-charging points were available in the region. 

In the affected Toyota ad, which was seen on its website in March 2022, the car brand features its bZ4X model, an electric vehicle. One section of text stated, “Making electric easy…Three charging options offer flexibility – use rapid public charging to reach 80% charge in around 30 minutes* with a 150 kW fast-charging system, charge through a fast-charging wallbox which can be installed at home or plug into a socket at home”, said ASA.

Further down the page in a section headed “Rapid charging”, text stated, “You can easily find rapid charging points in a number of public locations. These highly efficient units are able to recharge 80% of your Toyota bZ4X batter in approximately 30 minutes”.

There was also a FAQ section that included the text, “How long does charging take? Vehicle charging time depends on the power supply. At rapid public charge points, you can charge in as little as 30 mins. Wallbox charging takes between 6.5 to 10 hours”.

Don't miss: Advertising Standards Authority takes down Shell ads over misleading claims

"The complainant, who believed that there were significant limitations to achieving the advertised charging rate, challenged whether the claim 'use rapid public charging to reach 80% charge in around 30 minutes with a 150 kW fast-charging system', was misleading and could be substantiated," said ASA in a statement. 

Toyota responded by saying that they are focused on developing its range of electrified vehicles to achieve their goal of a clean and zero emissions future. They said the electrified vehicle market in the UK was expanding at a rapid rate but, while hybrid and battery electric vehicles were now familiar on British roads, there were still barriers to adoption by consumers. "They understood one of these factors to be consumer concerns about charging," said ASA. 

Toyota said they wished to help consumers make a more informed choice, and that the claim that was the subject of the complaint was intended to alert consumers to the advances in battery and charging technology. 

"Toyota said the ad explicitly stated the claim related to using a 150 kW fast charging system, and they said they used conservative, rather than absolute language when stating it would achieve an 80% charge 'in around 30 minutes'," wrote ASA.

"They believed that this conveyed to the average consumer that their local circumstances might affect their individual charging time and so the charge time in particular circumstances might differ from that stated on the website. They said the ad also set out the "fast-charging system" in the context of other charging options such as a home wall box and plugging into a socket at home," it continued. 

In its final assessment, ASAA considered that consumers would interpret the claim “use rapid public charging to reach 80% charge in around 30 minutes with a 150 kW fast-charging system” in the ad to mean that the Toyota bZ4X would always achieve a battery charge from 0% to 80% in around 30 minutes when using a 150 kW charger. 

"However, we understood that various real-world factors such as battery temperature, ambient temperature and age and condition of the battery, might affect the time it would take for a battery to charge to 80%," it said, adding that if any of those conditions were less than optimal, then charging times would likely take longer than 30 minutes. 

ASA concluded that because the ad omitted material information about factors that could significantly affect the advertised charging time and the limitations in relation to the availability of 150 kW chargers in Northern Ireland and across the UK, the claim 'use rapid public charging to reach 80% charge in around 30 minutes with a 150 kW fast-charging system' had not been substantiated and was "misleading". It was then banned.

Hyundai's IONIQ 5 ads

When it came to Hyundai, the issue was three ads for its IONIQ 5 model, an electric vehicle, seen in January 2022. The first ad was a digital billboard, displayed in Piccadilly Circus, London, that featured text that stated, “10% to 80% charge in 18 minutes using 350kw charger.”

The second ad was a video on the brand's YouTube account and featured footballers from Chelsea FC, a brand partner of Hyundai, undertaking a series of challenges. It said: “Both teams must complete the challenges within 18 minutes. That’s the time that it takes the IONIQ 5 to charge from 10-80%”.

The final ad was a marketing brochure on its website that stated that the IONIQ 5 charges from 10% to 80% in less than 18 minutes when connected to a 350 kw ultra-fast charger. 

The ads were reported because it was believed that there were significant limitations to achieving the advertised charging rates including low temperatures. It also challenged whether the claim that the vehicle could charge from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes using a 350 kW charger could be substantiated and if it was misleading, said ASA. 

Hyundai said they were investing heavily in the development and promotion of electric vehicles to encourage take-up among UK consumers. However, they said barriers still existed and they were aware that concerns around charge time were an important factor to consumers. They said the ads were looking to inform consumers about a fundamental feature of electric vehicles in general, making use of key performance data relating to the IONIQ 5 model specifically. They added that this was intended to help address consumer concerns about charge times affecting longer journeys.

"Hyundai said they considered that it was essential that manufacturers were able to promote charge times in connection with electric vehicles so that consumers could compare different electric vehicles and to address key barriers to electric vehicle take-up, such as range and charging anxiety and a lack of awareness of the rollout of charging infrastructure," said ASA. 

To support its claims provided the ASA with results of its internal factory testing of the charging times for both IONIQ 5 battery options. They stated that testing established a time of 17 minutes and 16 seconds to charge the battery from 10% to 80% when using a 350 kW ultra-fast charger, and with the battery at temperatures of 22 and 25 degrees centigrade. "They expressed that as 18 minutes for the purposes of the claims in the ads, to take a conservative approach," reported ASA. 

It also added that in its YouTube ad, there was an oversight and references to ultra-fast charging were omitted from the YouTube film. It added that it has now removed the film. 

In its decision, ASA noted that Hyundai's claims about battery charging speed in its various ads suggested that the Hyundai IONIQ 5 would always achieve a battery charge from 10% to 80% in around 18 minutes or less when using a 350 kW charge.

"We acknowledged that the evidence provided by Hyundai showed that, under standardised testing conditions (with a new battery and in a temperature-controlled environment with ambient temperatures of 22 and 25 degrees centigrade) the battery could be charged from 10% to 80% in under 18 minutes using a 350 kW charger," it said. 

"However, we understood that various real-world factors such as battery temperature, ambient temperature and age and condition of the battery, might affect the time it would take for a battery to charge to 80%. If any of those conditions were less than optimal, then charging times would likely take longer than 18 minutes."

It concluded that because the ads omitted material information about the factors that could significantly affect the advertised charging time and the limitations in relation to the availability of 350 kW chargers, that the ads were indeed misleading and that they should be banned. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out for more information. 

Recently, oil and gas company Shell has had some of its advertisements banned after ASA ruled that it held misleading claims about how clean its energy production actually is, according to a statement by ASA. 

The affected ads included a poster, television ad and a YouTube ad. Adfree Cities, a network of groups in the UK who take interest with the impact of corporate advertising on people, noted the ads were misleading because it omitted "significant information" about the overall environmental impact of Shell’s business activities in 2022. It also took issue with the claim with two sentences in particular, namely that in the South West 78,000 homes use 100% renewable electricity from Shell Energy and that in the UK, 1.4 million households use 100% renewable electricity from Shell.

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