Skip to main content

Lexus apologizes for misleading and inaccurate anti-EV, pro-hydrogen ads

It is no secret that Toyota believes the future of zero-emission transportation lies with hydrogen fuel, not batteries. The company’s Lexus brand went a bit too far attempting to force their opinion upon visitors to their website.

The debate between hydrogen and electric vehicle proponents has been raging for quite some time, and adherents to either side know that both technologies have their pros and cons. Toyota is one automaker that has perhaps come down most strongly on the hydrogen side, and recent ads on their Lexus website made this abundantly clear. The company went so far as to provide blatant factual inaccuracies, forcing it to apologize and remove the offending videos.

The advertisements in question take a dig at electric vehicle charge times and make a curious case for hydrogen infrastructure. One video ad for Lexus hybrids bashes electric vehicles by showing a driver plugging in a Nissan LEAF, triggering a timer that begins counting down from 4 hours.

Two problems with this representation: the charger pictured appears to be an Aerovironment DC fast charger, which is capable of charging a battery to 80% in a half hour; and most charging is done at home while the driver sleeps, while public charging at Level II stations is intended to extend effective range rather than take a battery from 0% to a full charge.

Lexus is aware of this, but chose to portray electric vehicles in a very negative light in an effort to promote their hybrids. Granted, the success of Lexus hybrids deserves to be celebrated and we certainly hope they continue to save millions of gallons of gasoline.

However, the bias gets worse with a second advertisement on the Lexus website about future alternative power technologies.

In this particular video ad, it is claimed that “established infrastructure” for hydrogen exists in 20 states while the equivalent for electric vehicles totals just 37 states. We’re not sure where Lexus found these numbers, but we suspect they may have just made them up; in fact, there are exactly 11 hydrogen refueling stations in 2 states (10 in California and 1 in South Carolina) and firmly established electric vehicle public charging infrastructure exists in every state except Alaska. The ad also questions the CO2 emissions involved in electricity production but neglects to mention the emissions required to produce hydrogen.

In response to the appropriate outrage expressed at the misrepresentation of hydrogen infrastructure and electric vehicle charging, Lexus has apologized for causing offense and taken down the videos.

The damage was done, however; as electric vehicles fight an uphill battle to mass adoption, muddling of the facts by one of the world’s largest and most influential automakers does not help their cause. Toyota has every right to place their faith in hydrogen rather than battery electric technology, but they ought to be ashamed of their ad agency’s factually inaccurate attempt to promote hydrogen at the expense of electric vehicles.


Charlotte Omoto (not verified)    May 13, 2014 - 6:22PM

Interesting. I hadn't seen this. Another article on this site mentions the lack of residence charging for people living in condos or apartments as hindrance to EV adoption, I wonder what the total lack of home fuel cell recharging will do for fuel cell cars.

mike w (not verified)    May 13, 2014 - 7:06PM

A LEAF plugged into a DCFC and counting down to 4 hours? Doesn't look like the boys at Toyota know very much about EVs. Maybe next time they can have their buddies at Tesla Review their work.