Chevy Volt (Opel Ampera) Ad Banned In U.K. On Range Claims

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Since the Chevrolet Volt first launched in the U.S., we’ve seen a variety of quirky, funny, and downright weird ads designed to get people driving General Motors’ first plug-in hybrid. 

But over in Europe, where the Chevrolet Volt and the Opel Ampera -- its European sibling -- are relatively new to market, GM is already getting into trouble over its ad campaign. 

The claim? That it mislead viewers about how the extended range electric car works. 

According to the Daily Mail, Vauxhall, the U.K. branch of GM, had its Ampera TV ad banned by the British Advertising Standards Authority because it wasn’t clear enough about the car’s all-electric range. 

The ad, which aired earlier this year, displayed on-screen text that described the Ampera as having “up to 360 mile [sic] range”, while veteran Shakespearian and former Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart simply provided a simple voice-over: “Only true pioneers go further than others. Vauxhall Ampera. Driving electricity further.”

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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The ASA investigated the ad after receiving complaints from viewers who said that the ad was misleading. 

In its ruling, the UK ad industry watchdog said “We considered that throughout the ad the emphasis was on the fact that the car was being driving electrically, and that most viewers would not understand that the car was in some circumstances being powered by electricity generated with a petrol engine.”

Although a small line of text in the ad acknowledged the “Comparison based on electric vehicles and extended-range electric vehicles driven electrically at all times, even when an additional power source is generating electricity,” the ASA wasn’t satisfied. 

“An average viewer, unfamiliar with the use of petrol engines in electric vehicles would not necessarily understand what the additional power source was,” it concluded. 

Admittedly, the ASA is known in the U.K. for being particularly tough on ads over what they can and cannot say, but was it correct in telling GM off for its unclear claims over range? 

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (19)
  1. I agree it can be "misleading" to people who don't understand EREVs.

    But I would assume that GM is claiming the total range of the car, NOT just electric.

    But I agree the ads could have broken the range up to two seperate ranges (EV + Hybrid)...

  2. Chevy should make it clear, first 40 miles on electricity and 360 miles on electricity and gasoline combined.

  3. @John - I agree. Why did Chevy try to convolute things is beyond me. It's like as if Chevy had something to hide by not making the details clear.

  4. Yes, ASA was right. The small print in the ad says it all. This is GM trying to sell us an irrelevant definition of electric cars that's based on the fact that it's an electric motor that drives the wheels. But these cars are about solving an energy problem not a drive train problem. From an energy viewpoint these plug-in hybrids are only electric cars for the part they are powered by electrons from an outside source. Once that runs out and the generator kicks in it's just another gasoline powered vehicle, so suggesting this has a 360 miles electric range when most of these miles are actually gasoline powered is completely disingenuous and misleading.

  5. Even for battery powered EV (which Volt is within the battery range), the electrons all have to come from some sources, whether it is fossil fuel or green energy. BEV still depends on the source of the electricity which is dominated by the fossil fuels. But you do have the choice and option to offset your own source of energy thru solar. AS far as UK is concerned, solar energy aren't very practical there. Maybe wind/hydro would be its main source of energy.

    I don't want to start the long discussion again on the difference between EREV and Plug-in hybrids.

    Oh, didn't the London Olympic had to truck the Hydrogen cars in from outside the city through diesel trucks?

    If BEV runs out of range, doesn't it also depend on diesel trucks?

  6. AS far as UK is concerned, solar energy aren't very practical there.
    Is that why I am seeing more and more roof top panels on a dailey basis.

  7. Well it all depends on what you do with the car. If all your trips are long (250 miles) the Volt is more like a gasoline car.

    If you are like most people with shorter trips (

  8. the volt will be an electric car.

    Fortunately, we now have number and the Volt is used like an electric car 60-70% of the time, which is pretty cool IMHO.

  9. An energy based definition of an electric car doesn't depend on how you use the car (nor is it relevant to follow the energy conversion chain beyond the vehicle as someone else suggested). All that matters is in what form the energy enters the vehicle. That's what defines the possibilities and challenges of a vehicle concept from an energy viewpoint.

    Obviously cars that use multiple external energy sources confuse the discussion, but that's exactly why it's important to have a relevant definition of electric vehicles. It's really a shame how GM has consistently tried to exploit the confusion that seems to exist about what really constitutes an electric vehicle to promote the Volt as an all electric vehicle.

  10. So, don't put gas in your Volt, then it is an EV..

    Owner controls what their car is. If you consistently drive out of your range in your BEV, then your EV is no different than a terrible diesel hybrid.

    GM is NOT there to confuse you. It designed something "better" than your conventional EV concept.

    EREV is a perfect term for it.

  11. I prefer calling the Volt an EV+H over EREV, but concede the car and term are Chevy's babies...a rose by any other name...

    To point, the Volt can do all EV 70+ miles round trip commutes with ease, using just regular outlets and home and work...or 120+ round "leisure" trips into the city and back with 1 hour "opportunity charges" while having breakfast and dinner.

  12. Its important to remember that the volts main mission in life is to break the EV ice,to show what is possible so that others can follow in its footsteps. This add pushs this point very well.

    To boldly go where no car has gone before...

  13. Disgraceful, clearly impling that the Ampera can go 360 miles on electricty. Vauxhall has given the whole EV industry a black eye and now statements made by other manufacturers will be questioned and believed to be untruthful.

  14. Just not acceptable and I'm a Volt driver. Misleading, to say the least, since it very clearly implies that the entire range is based on EV mode. Yet another poor marketing attempt for GM.

  15. Agreed. Obviously they are trying to marketi the Leaf-killing range. And all they had to do was come clean with the the numbers on that last slide below the 360 miles add something in slightly smaller font like "(40 electric + 320 hybrid)".

  16. Exactly, Mark. Hyundai has gotten into trouble recently for doing a similar thing, showing highway mileage only and making it seem as if the mileage is really overall. Both companies have done a good job, so there's no need to muddy the waters with a dishonest ad campaign at all.

  17. Did Opel remove the clutch so the gas engine doesn't get mechanically connected to the wheels?

  18. Dennis, my understanding is that the system is the same in this sense, although I certainly could be wrong. I don't think GM was about to make a modification to the system that early in production despite the initial criticism of the linkage.

  19. At last, GM does something really smart with Volt advertising. Not one person out of 20 in the general public understands the difference between pure electric cars that have large batteries and range anxiety, ordinary ICE hybrids that have small batteries, and excellent plug-in medium size battery hybrids. The Volt is head and shoulders the best plug-in hybrid because of its larger battery, superior electric motors, and ingenious driveline strategy. It solves most of the limitations common to electric drive-train cars, except for costs.

    The net effect of the UK government's problematic "banning" of GM's Ampera ad will be tens of millions of dollars worth of free public discussion and media advertising that will help explain Volt's merits

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