I’m not a football fan, but I still have a great time watching the Super Bowl. On Super Bowl Sunday, I eat chips and dip, laugh at the absurd high-budget commercials, and get a free concert at halftime! This year, electric cars dominated the commercial breaks with eight different electric vehicle (EV) commercials during Super Bowl LVI. Electric cars need more of this type of airtime all year round to drive up demand and get the everyday driver excited as we transition to all zero-emission vehicles.
Personally, I’m pumped that 112 million people got to see cool electric cars on the main stage. Transportation is the No. 1 source of global warming pollution and replacing our gas guzzlers with electric vehicles is a critical climate solution. Though many of the models highlighted during the Super Bowl are more expensive luxury vehicles, there will be more than 100 different electric models of all price points available by 2024. In 2021, a half-million EVs were sold in the United States, which doubled the electric vehicle share of the car market to 4.5%. This burst of EV ads is a big deal because increasing public awareness is necessary in order to keep EVs trending toward overtaking gas-powered car sales.
Here’s my review of all the EV commercials during the Super Bowl.
#1 Robo Dog
This ad pulled at my heartstrings with a small robo-dog and the emotional crescendo of the Bonnie Tyler classic Total Eclipse of the Heart. Substantively, it also covered the concept that electric cars don’t just use up electricity but can provide power for other applications like charging your phone, giving power back to the grid or your home, or in this case, charging your robo-dog. This was my favorite EV commercial by far.
#2 2022: Earth Odyssey
This commercial aired during the Super Bowl pre-show, which means less people saw it. That said, it was clever and chock full of cute animals. Everyone knows the iconic 2001: Space Odyssey music, and, like me, may have critiqued it in your college film class. This reimagining with funny and awe-inspiring animal sounds made me smile and also is a comment on how much quieter electric cars are than gas-powered vehicles. With quieter cars, we can hear the nature all around us! Plus, the towering 2001’s famous black monolith transforms into the EV charging station for the new electric Jeep Cherokee and Wrangler.
#3 EVil is Back for Good
“I will help save the world first, then take over the world,” says super villain Dr. EVil, who takes over General Motors in this commercial. The ad took its message directly from environmentalists and put climate front and center as the reason to go all electric. It highlighted tailpipe emissions and made clear that climate change is the No. 1 threat to the world. Dr. EVil, who now has a grandson, wants to help the planet for future generations. General Motors will have 30 EVs globally by 2025, and also intends to make its fleet totally electric by 2035. Still, the company currently sells a lot of gas-guzzling vehicles, so we’ll need to make sure GM puts its money where its mouth is.
#4 No Compromises
I was probably one of a handful of people who had actually heard of Polestar before Super Bowl LVI. Polestar is partly owned by Volvo and only makes electric vehicles. This commercial is mostly about roasting Polestar’s competitors. It broadly condemned other car companies for advertising gimmicks and greenwashing. It referenced Volswagen’s “dieselgate” scandal where the car company was caught cheating emissions tests. And even got a shot in at Tesla for Elon Musk’s attempts to “conquer Mars.” It made a pretty bold statement.
Room for Improvement
#5 Zeus & Hera
Greek god Zeus uses his powerful lightning bolts to charge all sorts of gadgets, including his all electric BMW iX. Casting former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegar as Zeus was a smart move given the leadership the “Governator” delivered on EVs and climate in California. The jaunty tune Electric Avenue on the radio was a little too on the nose for me. Another thing I didn’t love: the price tag. With a starting MSRP of $83,200, this luxury car is out of budget for most Americans even with a $7,500 federal tax credit.
#6 Can Seth embrace electricity again?
I think the premise of hating electricity because you were struck by lightning is dumb. But after all these electric car commercials, it is brilliant that Wallbox is advertising their charging equipment. One of the biggest concerns with driving an electric car is range anxiety and not having a place to recharge. (Thankfully, the range anxiety is going to ease because of the $7.5 billion that will go toward building a national electric vehicle network from the bipartisan infrastructure law.)
#7 New Generation
I’ve never watched The Sopranos so when I first saw this commercial it just seemed like an artsy representation of driving through New Jersey in an electric truck. My family lives in New Jersey, so I definitely felt more confident I could drive an EV on the Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway after watching this ad. I also liked the idea that you could charge your car outside a seafood restaurant. Not the first place I’d think of if my battery was low, but it reinforced how charging will become more convenient and can happen pretty much anywhere.
Today, the best selling cars in America are pickup trucks like the Chevy Silverado and the Ford F-series. And for many in the Super Bowl audience, who love football, beer and America, pickup trucks are likely to be appealing. Electric versions of these popular cars might start to change the minds of the rural truck driver.
#8 History of Evolution
This Jason Bateman ad was pretty forgettable for me, making it my least favorite of the EV ads. However, it did delve into an argument I like to use when naysayers claim that it’s too hard to make the transformative change we need to go all electric. We’ve come a long way in history, often in a short period of time, with new developments in technology overtaking the old. EVs are no different, and we can move to a future with all zero-emission vehicles by 2035 or sooner.
Growing the EV Market
I’m clearly a huge fan of electric cars already, and I hope these commercials will inspire more drivers to consider EVs. Each commercial break highlighted a different benefit of EVs: quiet, fast, no tailpipe pollution, and can charge devices like your robot dog companion.
Still, higher upfront costs and a lack of charging are challenges witty ads won’t solve. To get people behind the wheel of an electric car, policymakers must create better financial incentives and establish a more robust charging network. Both installing more charging and making it easier to use will get our communities ready to charge.
At the same time, the everyday driver needs to feel excited about choosing an electric car over a gas-powered one. A strong EV marketing strategy can be like the screaming fans in the stands spurring us to victory as we strive for all zero-emission vehicles. The ad agencies that work on Super Bowl commercials this year showed us just how good that type of cheering can be.
Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America Research & Policy Center