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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  • dm33

    Anti-EV. I guess there’s no Toyota in my future.

    • vdiv

      Toyota is demonstratively against EVs. nnRemember the anti-EV Lexus ad that Toyota allegedly apologized for? It’s back in the current (September) US issue of Wired magazine, page 076 (the one with Ed Snowden on the cover).nn, let’s go places, like Hell.

    • offib

      It’s not the same Toyota that we used to see as the frontrunner of green and advanced technology.

  • Esl1999 .

    This is Toyota being measured with the cars they sell. They are trying to keep the price down while giving their hybrid buyers the option of more electrified driving. The ad is being humorous while showing the flexibility of the cars energy options. Let’s face it, a Mitsubishi iMiev owner, desperate for power, would have sacrificed the fish for some range.

    • I don’t live so far away from my friends that I need to plug in. Frankly, I’ve only ever plugged in twice outside of my garage, and one of those times was just to see “if it works”. Hundreds of days and many hundreds of trips later, never needed gas. That’s what works for me.

    • lee colleton

      As an i-MiEV owner, I take offense. The little fishy would have been fine on the inverter I carry around for such things. Could even have kept it alive during a black-out and also prevented the refrigerator’s food from spoiling.

      • Esl1999 .

        Technically, I’m sure the fish would have survived if he needed a “little” charge for the way home. Why keep a small fish and tank in the garage in the first place? They don’t have room in their house? The iMiEV is my punching bag because it has not made EVs appealing to the general consumer. Sorry for the offense, but the iMiEV continues the negative stereotypes of EVs to most people, hence their poor sales.

        • lee colleton

          If it had been a VW commercial they could have thrown Spock in there with “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one”.nnnMy i-MiEV has been a rock-solid performer. It does what I need it to do. The general consumer prefers a big SUV and that’s exactly what Mitsubishi has made with their PHEV Outlander (using technology developed with the i-MiEV)

  • allannde

    As an owner of a Prius plug in hybrid, I say it is clearly a good thing to have the choice. My two year “lifetime” average mpg is 115 counting the electric only driving which is virtually free here in the Pacific Northwest. This absolute a great car for me. nHow can anyone read the minds of Toyota or anyone else?

  • lad76

    The Prius has been a successful money-maker for Toyota and they are milking it. As with most car companies, they are driven by profits, not greenness, and have chosen to follow the market rather than lead, with one exception; the Government funded FCV. But, you can bet Toyota has the technology to produce any form of driveline waiting in the backroom. It’s a matter of where the market goes and when is it profitable to produce a particular type car.

  • Subhash Chander

    Distance to commute is an important parameter to evaluate the Prius. I still believe, Toyota has to upgrade the battery sooner than late

  • Ad van der Meer

    Toyota management will do whatever it needs to do to please the shareholders and secure the annual bonus. It will get harder and harder to get government subidies for EV’s, so now the focus shifts to FCEV’s. It basically the same the German OEM’s are doing.