Lexus CT200h Hybrid Ad Takes Aim at Electric Cars, But Serves as a How-Not-To Drive an EV

Remember the controversial Lexus CT200h ad in which Lexus drew on every single stereotype to portray electric cars as a slow, boring, pointless step backwards in automotive design while portraying its own hybrid technology as an evolved, superior successor to the gasoline engine? The same ad which riled up electric car advocacy group Plug In America?

UPDATE: Turns out the car used in this ad was a BMW i3 REx — and the production team gave it a REx Swap… Read the update here. 

At the time, Lexus apologised for any misinformation it may have spread as a consequence of the advert and promised to revise the advert to remove any incorrect information from it — although we note that never happened. Now however, a new Lexus CT200h ad has debuted which makes the previous ad look like tame by comparison. An ad which takes on a specific car in particular — the BMW i3 EV — and makes some pretty dumb claims about plug-in vehicle ownership.

The ad

Produced by popular Internet producers Funny or Die!, the five-minute long ad features a group of thirty-something fathers heading out on one final wild road trip to Las Vegas to celebrate the impending birth of their friend’s first baby. Travelling from Van Nuys, California to Las Vegas for their “dad-chelor party,” the guys take two cars: a brand new Lexus CT200h, and a BMW i3 EV, which one of the men claims belongs to his brother.

Excited about the fun they’re going to have, the guys head off in the two cars, ready for their final weekend of freedom before the responsibility of parenthood kicks in.

As they leave on their journey, the script takes a predictable turn. The BMW i3, complete with one of the guys who is excited about riding in an electric car, quickly discover they need to stop after just 78 miles. Despite the car having a CCS DC quick charge port, they plug in to a regular public charging station for a recharge, something the driver promises won’t take too long.

A few hours later, they carry on, well behind their buddies, who are already on the outskirts of Las Vegas and enjoying a round of novel golf.

Nobody we know would drive a BMW i3 the 280 miles from LA to Las Vegas.

Nobody we know would drive a BMW i3 the 280 miles from LA to Las Vegas.

The trip from hell

As the day turns into afternoon and evening, the ad cuts between those who travelled in the CT200h — who are soaking up everything Las Vegas has to offer — and those who are stuck in the BMW i3. The i3 occupants, devoid of climate control to improve their range and forced to drive at super-slow speeds, are having less and less fun. And they stop three more times to charge before arriving in Las Vegas.

Each time of course, the BMW i3 is charged using the slowest possible charger, rather than the CCS quick charge standard their car has.

Result? The BMW i3 pulls into Las Vegas super late, with very little joy in the hearts of its occupants. Thos in the hybrid of course, are having the time of their lives.

The message? Drive a Lexus CT200h hybrid if you want to have fun. Drive a BMW i3 or other electric car if you like wasting your life.

How not to drive an EV

The ad neglected to mention the CCS DC charging socket included on the car.

The ad neglected to mention the CCS DC charging socket included on the car.

Of course, the ad itself is designed to make fun of electric cars and reinforce the opinion — one held by Lexus and its parent company Toyota — that electric cars are pointless, slow, and boring. And we’re pretty sure that there are plenty of EV owners and advocates out there right now who are livid about the ad.

But actually, the ad — which we’ll remind you is directed and produced by Funny or Die!, the site where nothing is off-bounds — serves as a 101 on how not to drive an electric car long-distance. And it shows how the joke is actually on the folks behind the ad, not plug-in cars.

We’re going to list the mistakes one by one, and show you how it wasn’t the car, but the ad which failed.

  • Lexus took aim at the wrong car. The BMW i3, as well as having DC CCS quick charging capability as an optional extra — enabling it to recharge its battery pack from empty to 80 percent full in 30 minutes from a compatible CCS station — is available as a range-extended model. That model, the BMW i3 REx, can travel between 160 and 180 miles on a full charge plus a full tank of gasoline, and can extend its range indefinitely on gasoline alone, even if performance is limited on mountain passes.
  • No-one in the ad seems to have planned ahead. Even if the car belonged to someone else, we think it’s inconceivable that anyone would actually plan to drive that far without at least looking at the route first to see if they could refuel en-route. And when it became obvious that they couldn’t, we’d assume they would have found an alternative method of transportation.
There's also the BMW i3 REx, which could have made this particular trip with ease.

There’s also the BMW i3 REx, which could have made this particular trip with ease.

  • No-one understands how the car charges. In making fun of the length of time the BMW i3 seems to take to charge, Lexus completely ignores the CCS DC quick charging standard that is visible on the BMW i3 used in the ad. Capable of recharging the car from empty to 80 percent full in 30 minutes or so from a compatible CCS station, the ad brushes over the very feature that makes the BMW i3 EV — like many other EVs on the market today — capable of mid-distance trips. And in reference to the point above, no-one seems to have bothered to check for CCS charging between Van Nuys and Las Vegas. (For reference, there aren’t any, because we checked, so even if they knew about CCS, they would have realised they couldn’t’ use it on this particular trip and would have left the car at home.)
  • The ad glosses over the fact that BMW offers a complimentary gas-powered loaner car to any BMW i3 owners who want to make longer-distance trips where there’s no public infrastructure or stopping to recharge would be inconvenient. While there is a limit to the number of times a year the gas-loaner feature can be used, we’re guessing this particular trip would have been covered in the real world, unless the guy’s brother really had purchased the ‘wrong car’. In other words, the guys in the BMW i3 wouldn’t have been in an i3: they’d have been in a BMW 5-series. And while most BMW i3 owners seem to be shunning BMW’s gas-car loaner program, we’re sure anyone making that trip for real would have left their i3 at home.

Comedy or tragedy?

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re aware that Lexus’ ad has rubbed salt into an already sore wound in the plug-in community, but we can’t help but laugh at Lexus and the ad itself for getting so many basic facts about life with an electric car so tragically wrong.

As a consequence, we’re finding it very hard to take the ad seriously, and we’re also going to set a small challenge to the BMW i3 owners of Los Angeles a little task instead.

If you’re making a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas — and you happen to own a BMW i3 — why not video your experiences to show us how it should have been done?


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  • Dennis Pascual

    Nikki. I don’t think that there are currently any CCS between Vegas and LA for that drive on I-15. I would and have used the Model S… There are Superchargers in Barstow and in Vegas.nnnAn i3 REX would have been better for that trip, currently

    • Esl1999 .

      Yeah, that drive is brutal for EVs except for the Model S. Trying to drive a Nissan Leaf up and down those mountains with A/C running with big gaps of nothing, not thanks. And that Supercharger location in Barstow might need more stalls in the future. I can see a queue forming once the Model X and 3 are on the road.

      • Dennis Pascual

        The Barstow SC has doubled about two months ago from four to eight and an SC has been planned along the way at the Nevada-California State Line (Primm. NV) and at Rancho Cucomonga. I know of some 85 kWh Model S that have arrived at Barstow (about a 160 miles drive with some noticeable elevation changes) with less than 10 miles of range because of high winds in that drive.nnnThen again, before the removal of the high amp Roadster charger in Barstow, Roadster drivers used to do that drive from LA to Barstow with a stop in Barstow as well. (though charging at 70A 240V is not as fast as a SC.)

        • Esl1999 .

          My last trip to Vegas was in June. I’m glad they doubled SC at Barstow. I assumed they would have a SC at the 210/I-15 area. It makes sense for San Diego drivers going to Vegas. Primm is another good spot to charge your car. The headwinds could be a bitch in that area. I think I got 2 MPG with my RV.

    • Dennis, nnnExactly my point. I hope someone will film this, and show them swapping cars for something more appropriate 😉

  • Esl1999 .

    “The proven way forward”, WHAT? Some climatologists may have a few things to say about that. There needs to be a commercial from Tesla were every passenger flees the CT200H and grabs a ride in a P85D. Then will see who’s laughing, Lexus.

    • offib

      Someone should definitely do that! They guy who made that cute Nozzie ad definitely have the ability to do that!

  • dm33

    There are practically no CCS charge stations in the US so that is of little benefit to BMW. If BMW had instead included the much more common CHAdeMO they might have a chance.

  • Michael Thwaite

    Well done Tom, check this screen grab of the fuel flap on the REX model… bottom right, just in view…

  • Michael Thwaite

    Also, whilst I’m thinking about it, this brother that leant the car, did he know his brother was planning on driving to Vegas? If so, what a [email protected]$$er landing him his city run-about, if not, does he know his brother is planning on taking all his mates on a drunken weekend trip in his car?

  • heltonja

    I read that the i3 they used in the commercial was actually an i3 REX and they photoshoped the gas port cover out.