Self-charging is another way to say gas-electric hybrid powertrain, and it doesn't mean Toyota has developed some kind of perpetual-motion machine, says Norway consumer agency.

CarAndDriver, By Sebastian Blanco


© CarAndDriver | Norway Calls Lexus's Self-Charging-Hybrid Ads Misleading

Toyota and Lexus have used the term "self-charging hybrid" in their European marketing for years now, but now Norway wants to stop it, claiming it's misleading and confusing to consumers.

That's because the technology in question is just your regular gas-electric hybrid powertrain.

Kia has also called its Niro hybrid "self-charging" in European marketing.

It's easy for meanings to get lost in translation, but we're pretty sure a fair number of Norwegians speak enough English to understand the phrase "self-charging hybrid." That's how Lexus is advertising the NX300h in some countries, but the phrase is likely to be MIA in Norway soon thanks to the country's Consumer Authority calling the ad a "pure lie."

That's because just calling a hybrid "self-charging" doesn't change the underlying technology. "Self-charging" is just another way to say gas-electric hybrid powertrain, and it does not actually mean Toyota has developed something along the lines of a perpetual-motion machine. There's nothing in the basic functions of the NX300h's powertrain that hasn't appeared in some version of Toyota's hybrid powertrain that was first introduced in the Prius back in 1997. What has changed is that electric vehicles have become a thing during the last decade, and this is Toyota's marketing response.

Toyota and Lexus have been using the "self-charging hybrid" phrase across Europe for a number of vehicles since early 2019. In a video ad posted by Lexus U.K., the company says twice in 30 seconds that the hybrid charges itself, claiming that not needing to the plugin is "a small detail for those who see a bigger picture."

In Ireland, Toyota uses "self-charging" to describe its entire hybrid range, saying the cars "can recharge their batteries without needing to be plugged in." Kia sometimes also uses the "self-charging hybrid" phrase, saying the regenerative-braking system in the new Niro hybrid "converts kinetic energy to recharge the battery."

But in Norway, at least, the phrase might be headed for the door. The country's independent Consumer Authority (Forbrukertilsynet), a supervisory agency that "prevents and stops illegal marketing," said that the Lexus and Toyota ads are misleading and give the impression that the hybrid is somehow getting its power for free. This isn't true, of course, since the electricity comes from consuming gasoline.

Whether or not the ads will be allowed to run in Norway in the future, Lexus's campaign has already made its mark, with some European car reviewers putting the "self-charging" phrase right up in the headline. The phrase also apparently confused some car shoppers. The Consumer Authority made its determination on the misleading nature of the ads after receiving complaints about the phrase, including one from a Lexus buyer who said he is paying for the lie every time he fills up his tank. This is particularly rough in Norway, which is the per-capita world leader in electric vehicles. More than half of all new cars sold there in 2019 came with a plug.

This article was originally published in CarAndDriver.
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