back to article Toyota Prius is not so green, says ads watchdog

A TV advert for the Toyota Prius has been banned for misleading viewers about the car's green credentials. The Saatchi and Saatchi-produced ad has been taken off air by regulators over its misleading claim to emit one tonne less CO2 than other cars. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint made about the ad' …


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  1. Matt

    Not really a fair comparison.....

    The Prius may not be all it's cracked up to be, but the ASA seem to have missed the point. The Prius has got a 1.5 engine and an electric engine. The idea is that the two, combined, give you the performance of a 2.0l car. So the argument would be that it does emit a lot less CO2 than an ordinary 2.0l car.

    It then gets a bit more complicated as performance of the average 2l car has gone up during the lifetime of the model, but it still seems to me that the ASA have been a bit harsh. They'd be a lot better of learning the meaning of the word "unlimited" :-)

  2. Glenn Gilbert

    And how much more to make?

    So the running pollution isn't as low as Toyota would like us to think.

    What about the additional pollution costs to build the car with it's additional batteries, electronics, motors, etc.

    One wonders if the car shouldn't be equipped with a very small but efficient engine, e.g. 500cc but extremely efficient.

    We've a long way to go!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit daft

    From reading the ruling it seems like it would never be possible to advertise a hybrid car as greener. The point of a Prius is that it has an efficient 1.5 litre driving a car that would normally have a 2.0 (or more) litre engine. Comparing it with 1.5 litre emissions is just silly. If someone managed to make a 50cc engine capable of powering a medium sized estate car it sounds like the ASA would insist on comparing it's emissions with a scooter?

  4. cor

    Robbing Peter to pay Paul

    The Prius is of course one big misleading 'article'.

    Don't get me wrong, I am pro green transport (I have driven the last 100,000 km on 100% carbon-neutral biofuel [linseed oil] ).

    But let's examine the Prius:

    The Dutch government gives a 7,000 euro rebate on the purchase of this 'hybrid'.

    It weighs in at 1275 kg (empty), which is not inconsiderable for a car in that class. As a whole it uses/needs quite a bit of energy to shift its lethargic arse around. Now, I hear the Alpha-students screaming that this is not a problem because the Prius uses electricity as well as its traditional C02 pumping engine. Well.... unless the power supplied to the battery-charging household is 100% green (i.e. wind turbine/solar/..etc) then all the Prius does is displace the pollution to another location. Add to this some extra losses through the inherent inefficiency of converting 110/240 v AC to 12v DC to kinetic energy, not to mention having to drag this around in the form of batteries+motor, and overall it starts to not look so good as in the ads.

    Again, I am not advocating the "aw, fookit, lets just keep on burning fossils" attitude. I would like to see a genuine effort to remove the whole fossil/carbon fuel factor from our energy needs.

    And I worked in oil & gas exploration for 10 years...


  5. davcefai

    Shot themselves in the foot

    The article implies that Toyota themselves supplied the data.

  6. John Miles

    A case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    Toyota would have you believe the Prius is greener because it emits less CO2, though they would rather you compare it to a 3 litre as opposed say a PSA 1.6 diesel which will give similar performance and economy (60mpg in a C4 a similar sized car). And they really don't want you asking about the environmental cost of mining the metals required for the batteries etc.

    Isn't it about time we started looking at the larger picture as opposed to being blinkered by a subset of figures?

  7. Miguel

    "Up to" 16meg?

    Wonder if they'll be moving on to ISPs next. Somehow I doubt it.....

  8. /\/\j17

    Seems like a logical ruling to me

    The Prius has a hybrid power source with a 1.5 litre petrol engine. This gives the car a 0-60 time of 10.6 seconds, a top speed of 106 MPH and 76 BHP.

    A vehicle offering similar performance (0-60 in 10.5 seconds, 118 MPH top speed and 113 BHP) is the Ford Focus 1.6 (115ps), NOT the 2.0 litre model who's performance is 8.9 seconds 0-60, 128 MPH top speed and 142 BHP.

    Clearly comparing the emissions of the Prius against much larger engined cars is not a clear, accurate representation of how it rates for CO2 emissions and so the ASA have ruled against this advertisment.

    Had they used a fairer comparison and not just gone hunting for a big number the ASA would probably have ruled the other way.

  9. Mad Mike

    ASA Right - The Prius is not green

    To fairly compare the Prius to other cars, you must compare everything, not just what comes out of the exhaust. Therefore, environmental costs of making and then disposing of everything counts. e.g. lead acid batteries!! If you look at the car as a total over its entire lifespan, it actually isn't that green at all. Electric cars will never be truly green until they can do without lead acid batteries which are an environmental nightmare.

  10. Andy Turner

    So where does the electricity that power the electric engine come from then?

    "The Prius has got a 1.5 engine and an electric engine. The idea is that the two, combined, give you the performance of a 2.0l car. So the argument would be that it does emit a lot less CO2 than an ordinary 2.0l car."

    Perhaps at the back of the Prius itself it does, but when you're plugging your car into the mains at night to charge the batteries, the power you're sucking causes CO2 emissions elsewhere. They're just not in your face so you like to pretend it's not happening...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Up to no good

    "They'd be a lot better of learning the meaning of the word "unlimited""

    They'd be better off banning phrases like "Up To" altogether.

    If there's an upper, then there's also a lower and most adverts would be more truthfully if they said "saving at least xx" rather than "saving up to yyy". At the very least those adverts should state "saving between xx and yyy" where in many cases, xx would have to be a NEGATIVE number.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not so Green

    The things shipped from Japan anyway,

    very green.

  13. Matthew

    Over a tonne more CO2 before it arrives...

    The BBC's Top Gear magazine calculated that just to ship a Prius from Japan would (at a conservative estimate) create over one tonne of CO2.

    Buy a locally-produced car and you've saved 5% of your car's total lifetime CO2 in one go!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As with all hybrids, the Prius is a sop. It's designed floor-up to enable rich folk who can afford a new car to capitalise on tax breaks for "eco-friendliness".

    1) The most CO2 a car produces in its life it does so during its manufacture. Buying a new car is on a par with burning down a few square kilometers of Rain Forest.

    2) The most expensive cars to manufacture in terms of eco-footprint are Hybrids having, as they do, two engines, a rack of batteries full of rare metals and a bog-load of complex electronics to make it all work.

    Wanna be *really* eco-friendly rather than just getting the nuLabour badge to prove it? Buy a fifteen year old Escort and run it 'til it falls apart.

    NB: The car industry does not want you to do this and you will find that you'll get ripped off right left and centre trying to service / insure / look after your older car unless you shop around.


  15. Tim

    What's all this plugging-in nonsense?

    The Prius charges its batteries exclusively via its own gasoline engine. You cannot plug it in to recharge. (This is at least true for U.S. market versions, though I'd be astonished if it were different elsewhere.)

    As such, the _only_ benefit the Prius provides is recapturing energy during braking. That is why they have no real benefit in limited access highway driving.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: So where does the electricity that power the electric engine come from then?

    It doesn't have a plug -- at least not in the US. All the electricity is generated by the car itself either from the gas engine or through technologies such as regenerative braking.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

    I hate to tell you but your linseed biofuel isn't 100% carbon nuetral if you look at the overall picture. I'll bet money that machinery used to harvest, transport, and otherwise process the linseed burned some fossils in the process.

    Another problem with your linseed biofuel is that it won't scale up enough to run every vehicle.

    Does any of this mean that you shouldn't use biofuel? No.

    What people do need to realise is that there is no magic bullet. Like all problems, there are advantages and disadvantages to all solutions. People should concentrate on at least doing something that nets out some sort of improvement.

  18. Franklin

    More green than you might think, actually...

    The Prius doesn't use lead-acid batteries; it uses NiMH batteries. At the moment, many critics complain, these batteries are environmentally destructive; the manufacturing process is quite dirty.

    However, conventional lead-acid batteries have a very high recycle rate (well over 90% in the US); they're just plain too valuable not to reuse. NiMH batteries are almost certainly heading in the same direction--there's no well-established recycling infrastructure yet because the Prius is new enough that very few of them have been junked, but you can bet that when they start reaching the end of their lives, that the infrastructure will be there. NiMH batteries are just plain too valuable and too easy to recycle to let 'em go into a landfill.

    First-gen tech is always more about promise and potential than about execution. Current hybrid cars are first-gen tech. Dismissing them now is a bit like saying data processing is a fad that won't last out the year back in 1957.

  19. Scott

    Some folks need to get a clue...

    Seriously, it seems to be a pastime here to comment on things you know nothing about. So a few corrections:

    -- The current Prius is NOT an electric car. While there may be an outlet somewhere to plug it in if it's sat for several months and the batts are dead, it's not part of routine use. When the batteries get low, the generator runs and charges them. The pre-2004 Prius may have been plug-in, I've never seen one up-close.

    -- I'm not even sure what an "electric engine" is-- the Prius is basically a generator with battery storage on wheels. The generator head is basically a motor winding, a rather small one at that. There are electric traction motors attached to the front wheels. As far as weight goes, the car doesn't have "two engines", it has one engine, a generator head, and two electric motors, and they're all fairly small ones at that.

    -- The 2004 and later Prius has regenerative braking, which means that rather than wearing out the brakes turning momentum into heat energy when slowing down, it's able to recharge the batteries. The implementation could be better, but every little bit helps.

    -- ALL "green" energy is just a shell game, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Whining about batteries or manufacturing pollution while using anything other than your own to legs to walk or bicycle everywhere you go is disingenuous. Why? Being defeatist and rationalizing to dismiss alternatives to justify continuance of bad behavior unabated is inherently disingenuous. Roughly just as much so as driving a Prius and subsequently indulging in the magical thinking that one's carbon footprint has magically gone away so it's okay to drive unnecessarily and stop minding one's consumption.

    Cars like the Prius seem to be engineered to enjoy far longer lifespans than others. For example, a "15-year-old Escort" likely has an engine and transmission that are going to be in imminent need of replacement, but is it worth it for most folks to sink that sort of money into overhauls? Most likely not, so they drive around said relic spilling oil onto the streets (and vicariously the storm sewers that drain into rivers), belching out exorbitant amounts of pollution for a car that size because the engine is worn out of its tolerances. At 15 years, a Prius theoretically should just need new batteries and maybe some odd suspension parts replaced. Genset engines generally last an extremely long time since they run at a constant speed and load on-demand, which dramatically reduces wear and tear.

    No, the Prius' technology isn't the answer to everything, but it's a step in the right direction. What it basically is, is a car with the interior room of a mid-size car (if you look at the specs, it's comparable to a Camry), that has comparable durability to and is almost as responsive as a mid-size car, but which gets fuel mileage comparable to a disposable economy car. It also give yuppie retards who feel naked without a status symbol to drive around town a viable alternative to a Caddilac Escalade or Hummer...even though it's a different set of bragging rights, it seems to work to get some of that demographic out of being the worst offenders.

  20. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Clarkson said this years ago

    He pointed out that not only was the diesel Golf a better car to drive, it was better built and was greener, not only in terms of fuel burned, but in that it didn't contain several hundred kilos of toxic waste.

  21. K`Tetch Dureek

    those in real need of a clue

    scott says "For example, a "15-year-old Escort" likely has an engine and transmission that are going to be in imminent need of replacement, but is it worth it for most folks to sink that sort of money into overhauls? Most likely not, so they drive around said relic spilling oil onto the streets"

    I havea 20 year old civic. it has 230,000 miles on it, and still gets 40mpg. It also has a 1.5l engine, and since I'm in the good old US of A, its an automatic. The transmission, still fine, engine likewise. Ok, it needs a new drivers seat, but thats about all. It performs like a new prius, I, my wife and my 3 kids (including one in a car seat) can fit in nicely, and even belting around the backroads and interstates of Georgia, with the AC on, we still averaged 40mpg. Thats close to what real-world figures are for a prius.

  22. Jill in CA

    I own a Prius

    Let me preface this by saying I own a 2004 Prius. It does not have the ability to plug-in to an electric socket of any kind.

    The Prius does indeed have regenerative breaking. But what most people do not realize is that the Prius can generate electricity WITHOUT USING GASOLINE! Electricity is created by turbines turning at a great speed. Wheels on automobiles also turn at a great speed. Toyota has set up the Prius to make use of turning wheels so they act like turbines. If the car is coasting, it is using neither gas nor electricity. Rather, it is using its momentum to add more power to the electric battery. Every time I remove my foot from the gas pedal, the gasoline engine stops using gas and the battery does not put out any electricity. Period.

    If I am going uphill, depending on the number of passengers and the steepness of the hill, I will get anywhere from 12 mpg to 30mpg. But on the downhill side... no matter how many passengers, if I can coast down (and usually I can because I was just pressing the gas pedal to get to the top and I have significant momentum) I will get 100 mpg AND refill the electric battery while I do so (also without using any gasoline!)... until I need to press the accelerator again.

    My Prius will sometimes use the gas engine to fill up the electric battery if it is low, but I find that the majority of the time the electric battery gets filled up just by me taking my foot off the accelerator for a few seconds at a time on my commute home.

    The Prius' gas tank only holds 11.5 gallons of gas. I find that if I run it until the "low gas" light is flashing at me and screaming for me to fill it up, the tank will take a little over 9 gallons to fill and my odometer will show that I have gone approx 425-450 miles on those 9 gallons. If we take the low number and divide it by 9 gallons, that would be 47.22 mpg for a tank. The high number gives us 50 mpg for a tank. Those numbers are consistent with my average gas consumption in the 3 years that I have driven this car. Some tanks averaged as high as 54 mpg. It all depends on how often I was stuck in traffic. Interestingly enough, the Prius gets BETTER mileage in congested traffice than in open freeway driving without congestion.

    By the way, my commute is 33 miles each way, so I do a LOT of driving. My commute consists of both clear freeway driving where I often zoom along at 85+ mph (yes, it is a very zippy car!!) and very congested freeway driving at 1-10 mph. During the 85+mph driving I will generally get 47 mpg because it will use a combination of gas and electricity depending on how full the electric battery is at the time. During the 0-10mph driving I get 100 mpg because at that speed it will only use the electric battery. If traffic comes to a complete stop, my car uses no gas whatsoever and the only electricity it uses is to keep the dashboard illuminated and my CD player going (plus whatever it needs so that when I do eventually press the accelerator it will go forward).

    At this stage in our availability of car types, if my Prius were to be totaled and I had to get another car, I would definitely buy another Prius. The only other kind of car I would consider right now, today, would be a fully plug-in electric car.

  23. David Bernofsky

    Eco-Baloney etc

    Want to actually be eco-friendly? Arrange your lifestyle so that you don't need to own a car period. Obviously not a simple proposition, but your mothers should have explained that life is sometimes fraught with difficulties...

  24. pondscum

    Not green at all.

    Consider how the batteries are made. The nickel is mined in Canada (at a minesite that has caused so much environmental damage it looks like a moonscape). It is then shipped to Europe for processing, then to Russia for further processing, then onto Japan to be fitted to the car.

    Then at 100,000km (or thereabouts), the whole lot has to be replaced. Definately green. The Prius and its ilk are purely designed to make people feel as though they are helping the environment.

    Considering that 'climate change' is a purely natural occurence (global warming now, global cooling in a few decades), I can see a lot of people getting their fingers burnt (pun intended) rushing to get 'green'.

    Simply put, you could shut every factory in the world and take every car off the road, and we will still have 'global warming', because we cannot control that large nuclear reactor in the sky.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Prius is not a perpetual motion machine

    > If the car is coasting, it is using neither gas nor electricity. Rather, it is using its

    > momentum to add more power to the electric battery.


    That is called a perpetual motion machine.

    Sadly, it is not real, otherwise how do you suppose our power plants would work?

    Perpetual motion violates the first law of thermodynamics (the conservation of energy). The Prius would have to magically remove friction and air resistance from the equation. Furthermore, you would never need to refuel, because you just need enough charge originally in the batteries to get to full speed.

    Momentum can be used to charge the battery, but doing so decreases the amount of momentum (ie, you slow down). This is a good idea when you want to brake, rather than converting momentum to heat and noise in a brake pad, use (part of) the energy to charge the battery. This is called 'regenerative braking'.


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking of not knowing what they talk about

    I wonder if Scott could point me out any 6yr old Toyota's on the road - no thought not (or at least in the like for like numbers compared to say Ford) as anyone who has an old one will tell you - they make be built to last, but getting spares for old models - forget it

  27. allan wallace

    I hope people dont forget that a United States Gallon is Different From a UK Gallon!

    I hope people dont forget that a United States Gallon is Different From a UK Gallon! - it makes such a difference when calculating MPG......

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not perpetual motion

    Thank you, Jill, for posting your message. It's nice to hear from someone who actually knows what she is talking about.

    Adam, the power generation that Jill describes is NOT perpetual motion. A perpetual-motion machine would generate more energy than it consumes. We agree that's a violation of the laws of thermodynamics. However, neither Toyota nor Jill makes such a claim. As Jill says, the Prius recharges its batteries while coasting or braking. That recharging doesn't restore ALL the energy lost while driving, but it does recover SOME energy (from momentum) that a conventional car would lose.

  29. JohnG

    Just to clarify....

    The Prius battery pack works like a capacitor - taking energy from the engine and/or the vehicle's inertia. There is no provision for plug-in charging. The idea is that the petrol engine can be run for optimum efficiency/least emissions at any given vehicle speed and any excess energy goes to the battery pack. Conversely, energy can be taken from the battery pack to supplement the engine when that is deemed more efficient. At low speeds and when at a standstill, the petrol engine can be turned off completely - this is where most of the emissions savings come from.

    It's a pity that there is not a diesel Prius but I guess Toyota were thinking mostly of the American market when it was designed.

    As I understand it, Toyota envisages a future hybrid using a hydrogen fuel cell instead of the petrol engine.

  30. Jim

    And Clarkson knows everything about everything?

    Waste is only waste when it has no further use, ie zero recycling.

    Also, we are surrounded by toxins - tonnes of them. What do you think a petrol engine chucks out?

    The only thing that surprises me is that they chose to use NiMH instead of Lead-Acid. The latter has a much lower internal resistance and so wastes less power when charging or dsicharging, but I guess NiMH sounds better to 'green' people (not synonymous with environmentalist btw).

    To Pondscum, you seem to have some very secret knowledge to 'know' that climate change is a myth, everyone else is just taking their best guesses based on available evidence

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