How are Electric Cars Portrayed?

Electric and hybrid vehicles have only recently in the past few decades gained attention. Through gaining relevancy, they were bound to develop certain portrayals as all things do. Some of these portrayals at first were negative and hurt the image of these cars. Ranging from being an environmental to cheap. Yet, in recent years, we see some of these same negative images becoming positives that actually now benefit their brand. What changed and why? That is what this post sets out to find. Let’s start with a well known car: the Toyota Prius.

The Prius is a car that has struggled in regards to its own proclaimed identity and what other people and media think of it. It is a cheap, fuel efficient, and practical car. It was never designed to be a power house of a car on the roads. Yet, this is what it is often compared to. In fact, a lot of Toyota’s TV ads play up the economical, cleaner fuel, and practicality of this vehicle. Different mediums have had different ways of portraying the car. Movies and pop culture often take a dig at pride/masculinity. News websites often mention its mpg while somewhat downplaying their technological achievements. Thus it has created a rift in people’s opinions of the car between being either too green and “feminine” to being a very practical car.

In a recent response, Toyota came out with a Superbowl ad which features robbers attempting to escape their heist but only to find a Prius as their only getaway option. In this video we some stereotypes about the car addressed such as its quickness, and its sportiness when the car performs J-turns as seen in other movies which feature cars and by doing this it is playing upon its pup culture stereotypes in media. This ad also reinforces what the car is being sold for, practicality and environmental when the robbers make comments about the various features of the car.

Pictures of the three recent Hyper car trios, Courtesy of

While the Prius and cars like it have stigmas associated with them, sports cars on the other hand receive less flak. Perhaps they received less flak as they help prove that electric and hybrid vehicles can encompass the same spectrum of cars we see in their gasoline cousins. Cars like 918, P1, and the LaFerrari gain prestige not only because of their manufacturers legacies but also because of the technology inside them. Often they are portrayed in news media having revolutionary tech. They are also portrayed as having more masculinity as well as they still resemble their sports cars roots and even look like something out of the future. In this way, electric cars are being portrayed with more class and luxury.

A comparison between the 2016 model Prius (left) and the older styled 2015 model (right). Courtesy of

In recent years, electric cars are being portrayed in a better position than in the past and perhaps this is due to two reasons. The first is that buyers of cars typically recognize a certain style of cars and recently electric vehicles that fit into this design cue succeed more. Movies portray fast and aggressive looking cars more frequently than your average electric vehicle. Cars that fit this norm allow transition to happen much easier. The second is the possible relationship between these cars and media coverage of other environmental events. It is a slow process but, more and more people are starting to hear about environmental issues, such as global warming. They are being talked about more and have become a selling point to these hybrid/electric vehicles.

A cartoon poking fun at the low gas prices currently. Courtesy of

In the same line of thought, gasoline’s inevitable demise is also a talking point in the media. Lots of references to cheap gas and the fact that it will not last long is made frequently. Other methods such as fracking are being frowned upon in certain communities where it negatively affects them. I doubt that these have a direct affect on the sales of these vehicles however, they can only help them as they will use less of the resources that the news portrays as harmful. This is a very convenient selling point for them.

How these car are to be portrayed in the future seems to depend on these two current trends. As more cars come out that show off their utility and have a direct response to the current environmental issues then perhaps media coverage of them in general will soon change as well.


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