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Toyota Auris Ad Complains About Auto Emissions, Doesn't Mention Electric Cars

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By now, you've probably seen it: the new ad for the Toyota Auris Hybrid. But on the off chance you haven't,  here's the Cliffs Notes version:

Sometime in the future, a man and woman awake in their stylish apartment. It's got enough bells and whistles and Roombas to give Michio Kaku a heart attack (assuming that heart attacks are still a thing at that point.) Every wall, every surface is digitized, scanning the couple's bodies for imperfections as they prepare for a long day at the office. 

And that's our first tip-off that this commercial isn't quite what it appears to be. After all, in a civilization so advanced, couldn't these folks just telecommute?

Another tip is the technology itself: there's too much of it. It's everywhere, it's big, and it's very, very intrusive.

Then there's the couple themselves: not the well-groomed models we've come to expect in futureporn like this, but a fairly average man and woman, donning ridiculous get-ups as though they're en route to a party at Padmé Amidala's house. (N.B. If you get that reference, I'm so, so sorry.)

Then, the kicker: the couple's car, which is a crank-start jalopy. They pull out of their swanky garage, joining dozens of other olde-tyme motorists, goggles firmly in place, like cosplay fans putt-putting off to a steampunk convention.

Twenty-seven seconds in, we get a text overlay, which reads, "No world will be truly advanced until automotive technology changes." See what they did there? By contrasting this Buck Rogers fantasy world with filthy combustion engines...oh, never mind. You get it.

A few seconds later, we finally learn what the clip is advertising: the Toyota Auris Hybrid. Which runs partly on gas, but you know, only partly. So the skies of this hellish urban landscape would be 50 percent less smoggy if only those damned steampunks drove hybrids.

What makes this ad so weird is Toyota's own position on zero-emission vehicles. In the commercial, Toyota clearly says that auto emissions are a terrible thing, but in practice, the company has balked at producing zero-emission, fully electric cars, insisting that fuel-cell vehicles are the only viable zero-emission option. (Its own FCV is expected to debut at the Tokyo Motor Show this November.) Meanwhile, Tesla's Elon Musk insists on calling such vehicles "fool cells", arguing that battery technology has plenty of room to grow.

Our take? Once upon a time, it might've seemed that Toyota was right. Despite needing a vast hydrogen infrastructure, fuel-cell cars looked like the holy grail of zero-emission vehicles, with hybrids and plug-ins ungainly stepping stones along the way.

But now we see that Musk has a point, too: battery technology is evolving -- and fast. Not only are batteries able to hold charges longer, but charging options are improving, too. And of course, electric cars have an advantage over fuel-cells because (a) they're already on the road, (b) consumers largely understand how they work, and (c) electric cars don't rely on the complicated roll-out of a completely new fueling infrastructure to match America's 175,000 gas stations.

So who's right: Toyota or Tesla? Share your thoughts below.

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Comments (19)
  1. Correction: the Auris hybrid doesn't run "partly" on gas; it's not an electric car. It does have some fancy electric enhancements to improve efficiency but if you follow the energy chain you will find that all the energy comes from its gas tank just like all the oldtimers shown in the commercial.

    That's what's so clever about this commercial: it suggests next generation technology befitting a high-tech age but what's really on offer is pure steampunk: age old mechanical principles refined to absurd levels in a desperate attempt to keep up with the demands of a new era, all brought to you by a company that resists real next generation technology because the old ICE business model has always treated it so well.
     
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  2. Yes, I totally agree with you on this, Chris. Even in Japan, how many times have I heard people say, "Hybrid cars run partly on gas and partly on electricity."? Everytime I heard that, I have to explain that actually all energy comes from the combustion of the engine. It's a pity that Toyota quit producing RAV 4 EV in 2003 and hasn't produced any EVs since then. That makes me wonder who killed the electric car?
     
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  3. I mean "combustion of gasoline or diesel fuel".
     
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  4. So you agree that calling Prius a "hybrid" is a marketing scam by Toyota.
     
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  5. Hybrid: a streampunked ICE-age vehicle, powered by rotted dinosaur food, that can reduce energy waisted while breaking.

    btw: Great article!
     
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  6. Why should we even call it a "hybrid" when it ONLY has one source of energy input?

    It is a single source energy vehicle. It can only take gasoline as energy source.

    A PHEV/EREV is a true "hybrid" in the sense of dual energy sourced vehicle.

    Toyota is just keep on scamming the world with its "hybrid".
     
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  7. In all fairness: from a drivetrain perspective the Auris is a hybrid but you are right: from an energy perspective it's a thoroughbred gas muncher.

    The confusion is to do with the fact that there is two ways to define EVs. The definition the industry prefers is based on drivetrain: if there is an electric motor involved somewhere they like to suggest it's (partly)an EV.

    Problem with that definition is that EVs are not about solving drivetrain problems but energy problems. From an energy viewpoint a car is an EV to the extend it uses electrons from an external source.

    So basically if a car doesn't have a plug there is little point in calling it an EV.
     
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  8. I was surprised when I was in the US that people think their diesel trains are not pure diesel but hybrid and call them "diesel electric" because their drivetrains use electrric motors. (Am I right?) How can you expect a train to be run partly on electricity when there's no overhead line above the railroad track?
     
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  9. @Xiaolong: Dial it down a little, would you?

    The Prius and another 4 million or so "hybrid-electric vehicles" are hybrids not due to using two separate energy sources, but to powering the wheels with torque from both a gasoline engine and one (or more) electric motor-generators.

    You may not like this definition, but it is now accepted in the automotive community and has been for 15+ years.

    Can we perhaps agree to set this line of discussion aside to avoid confusion?
     
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  10. The term hybrid is well established and irrational ranting should be reserved for what to call the Chevy Volt which is really the new kid on the block.
     
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  11. If the hybrid term is used for the powertrain split, then all so called "series-hybrid", "fuel cell" and EREVs should be called EVs instead of hybrids..

    Try to explain that to the hardcore BEV fans...
     
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  12. I already said that Volt should be called either as "dual source" vehicle or EV+.
     
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  13. "but to powering the wheels with torque from both a gasoline engine and one (or more) electric motor-generators."

    Okay, if that is the case, then why bother with something called "series-hybrid" definition? Would the upcoming BMW i3 with extender called EV or "series-hybrid"?

    Is a Fuel Cell car a series-hybrid or an electric car?

    Automotive community is just a "community" of self/group acclaimed experts...

    I think we are at the edge of technology shift here. Lines of definition is getting blurry...
     
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  14. @Xiaolong: [sigh] A series hybrid is one whose engine only runs a generator that provides electricity to the motor that turns the wheels.

    Hence, a Fisker Karma is a series hybrid, but a Volt is not exclusively a series hybrid: It has a parallel mode in which, at highway speeds, the engine can feed output torque directly into the transmission (along with torque from the e-motor).

    As for the BMW i3, until we see whether the engine also has that ability or whether it has no mechanical connection at all to the drive wheels ... we don't know.

    As I understand it, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are series hybrids because fuel cells do NOT put out mechanical torque. The only output is electricity.
     
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  15. "As I understand it, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are series hybrids because fuel cells do NOT put out mechanical torque. The only output is electricity."

    Okay, by that definition, then a BEV (battery electric vehicle) is also a series-hybrid. Since the battery is there to provide electricity through chemical reaction. Doesn't that sound silly to call any "series-hybrid" as a hybrid?

    They should all be called EVs.
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  16. "You may not like this definition, but it is now accepted in the automotive community"

    That just proves that if you got money and keep pushing for something long enough, it will happen. Regardless how the truth works...
     
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  17. @Xialong: I trust you're not implying that I have money?
     
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  18. I was talking about Toyota and automotive expert community.

    The defintion of so called word "hybrid" has been muddy. If it is strictly used to classify the final powertrain configuration, then Prius is a hybrid and Fisker Karma is an EV and so are all the series-hybrid and fuel cell cars. But if the word is used to describe the "moving parts" of the car, then all the ICE cars are potentially hybrids as well. But if it is used to describe "energy" source, then Prius is nothing more than ICE. All plugins are either electric or electric plus gasoline as in dual source vehicles like the PHEV designation in 2011 by EPA/SAE.
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  19. Thank you for posting this tv ad. I've never seen it before because I'm living in Japan. And I've been a Nissan Leaf owner since March 2011. And I'm also one of the first commercial owners of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV since June 2010.
     
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