Toyota’s “Choices” Plug-in Prius Ad: Truthful, or Anti-EV?

With a tiny 4.4 kilowatt-hour on-board battery pack and a blended electric + gasoline range of just 11 miles on the EPA cycle before it resorts to using its high-efficiency 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle gasoline engine for propulsion, the 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is something of a lightweight among plug-in cars.

Is Toyota's latest Prius Plug-in Hybrid ad anti-EV?

Is Toyota’s latest Prius Plug-in Hybrid ad anti-EV?

It’s even been suggested that some Prius customers in California buy the Plug-in Prius Hybrid version simply to gain access to the coveted green HOV-lane decals in California without ever plugging their car in.

So it’s no surprise Toyota’s latest Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid commercial — called “Choices” — happens to advertise the fact that you don’t have to plug in to make use of it.

As a consequence, it  seems to have upset a fair number of people in the plug-in world.

In it, we see a father taking his young son to a friend’s birthday party. As they pull onto the drive, the father of his son’s friend invites him to pull into the garage and plug in if he wants to. But when the dad and his son try to find somewhere to plug in, all of the outlets are already being used.

The only potential outlets are being used by the family’s spare refrigerator and a fish tank. As the dad stares down the fish, his son shakes his head disapprovingly.

“What, I’d never?!” retorts the dad, gathering up his charge cable and muttering “good thing it’s also a hybrid” as he puts the cable back in the trunk.

The message is pretty clear: the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is a car which you can plug-in to extend its range — but it’s not a car you have to plug in.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve noticed a fair amount of hate levelled at the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid over the years, primarily from all-electric fans. And while the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid does have some pretty terrible all-electric range compared to other plug-in hybrids on the market, we suspect part of the anti-Toyota plug-in hatred comes from Toyota’s continuous attempts to dismiss electric cars as pointless and inferior to hybrid and hydrogen cars.

Take Toyota’s recent Nurburgring ‘record attempt’, for example, in which the Japanese automaker used some clever maths to try and prove it had carried out the world’s most fuel efficient circumnavigation of the world-famous track.

While it was designed to promote the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and its high fuel economy, the entire attempt was carried out at a mind-numbingly slow pace. In fact, it could almost be seen as a basic course on how not to drive a plug-in car, complete with range anxiety, super-slow acceleration and the kind of driving techniques which would get you arrested on any public highway.

Do plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid deserve criticism?

Do plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid deserve criticism?

For that, and some of Toyota’s previous comments on plug-in vehicles, we can understand the electric vehicle world having some anti-Toyota sentiment to share.

Yet on the other side of the coin we have to acknowledge that in its ad Toyota does allude to the fuel economy benefits of plugging in — not to mention the flexibility of the plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

Moreover, while many car buyers are happy to make the switch to electric, we’re curious to know how small a plug-in hybrid’s range can be before it is considered pointless or greenwash.

What of the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, The Porsche Cayenne Plug-in Hybrid, or perhaps even something with a longer plug-in range like the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid? Are they valid vehicles, or should they be shunned too?

Is Toyota’s advert overtly anti-EV, or honest about what is a versatile fuel vehicle? And what do you think of those who do criticise Toyota’s limited-range plug-in hybrid?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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