Electrify America is the name of the organization created by Volkswagen as part of its penance for its diesel cheating scandal. In all, it will spend $2 billion to build EV charging stations along some of America’s busiest roads. Individual states will get to use some of that money to buy clean energy vehicles for their public transportation systems and government fleets. A third part of the funds will be used to help educate Americans about the benefits of driving an electric car.
That ad campaign has now begun, featuring a Chevy Bolt as the star. Why a Bolt? Because as part of the settlement with federal and state officials that led to the creation of Electrify America, Volkswagen is prohibited from using the money to promote itself or its products. Those chargers on the highway will not have VW branding on them, for instance, and will not be accompanied by large signs reading, “Brought to you by the generous people at Volkswagen who are really, really sorry for lying to you about diesel engines.”
Another reason? Volkswagen doesn’t actually offer any electric cars in most US markets, at least not yet. It says that some of the EVs that will be sold by its newly created ID division will be manufactured in America. Expectations are those cars will start to become available in 2019, but the ID Crozz electric SUV — one of the models scheduled to be made in America — won’t be on sale until 2020 at the earliest. At the end of the commercial, viewers do catch a glimpse of other electric cars from Nissan and Honda but there are no Teslas to be seen anywhere in the 30 second spot.
The ad campaign, which will run through next June, is scheduled to cost $45 million according to CNET. Developed by the Deutsch ad agency, it features a mashup of the theme music from The Flintstones and The Jetsons. It’s all part of Volkswagen’s pledge to help educate the American public.
“Electric cars are not something of the future, they are here now and more accessible than many people know,” says Richard Steinberg, of Electrify America in a press release. “The JetStones campaign is just the beginning of our work to educate and demonstrate that electric vehicles offer a full array of features that customers expect, and they are totally fun to drive.” A spokesperson for Deutsch adds, “We tapped into iconic theme songs from the fan-favorites The Flintstones and The Jetsons as a way to connect the past to the present, and to send the message that the future is electric.”
A more important part of that goal may be a new website called Plug Into The Present that offers people information about the electric car experience. There, people can find information about charging, range, and other aspects of the EV lifestyle. The theory is that education will help take away the fear of the unknown that still keeps many from considering an electric car.
Will any of this help move the electric car revolution forward? It would be interesting to find out how many people actually visit the Plug Into The Present website and what their browsing experience is. Will they actually click the links and spend some time reading the information presented? That remains to be seen. But if the Electrify America campaign is even modestly successful, that will be a win for the nation and the world.