Written by Suzanne Stougie
The automobile industry has decades of commercials to look back on, ranging from the serious to the silly. More and more are for electric cars, and we had a whale of a time looking through them and picking our most cherished ones.
Elcar Electric Vehicle Circa 1977 from Wikimedia Commons
Car commercials are as old as the television commercial itself, dating back to the early 1940’s. From the very first televised sales pitches with a gleaming car standing still and a gushy voice over (‘Even when standing still, it looks like it were going places!), commercial breaks were the domain of the car.
In the 1950’s, America sang along with Dinah Shore to ‘See the USA in your Chevrolet’. Three decades later, we picked our cars depending on the celebrities we liked, whether it was Tina Turner (in which case you’d be driving a Plymouth)
or Michael Jordan (Chevrolet all the way).
These days, EV ads are taking the reins from conventional car commercials, claiming prime time slots left and right. Who didn’t see GMs plea to ‘give EVs the stage they deserve’ during the 2023 Superbowl? Many focus on typical EV USP’s like the absence of engine noise, though there’s a decent amount of speeding along deserted roads going on as well. Here are some of our favorites:

For most of this commercial, you’ll be wondering if it’s a car commercial at all. Highlighting the generational gap between an analog baby boomer grandad and his digital-only gen alpha granddaughter, the punchline is subtle yet strong: the future is indeed electric.
Playing into the dream of every male on the planet, this ad features a man-in-Jag sneaking onto the iconic Monaco Formula One track in the middle of the night to have a very quiet spin. Nobody can hear him, is the point, of course. This one takes the prize for the best tag line.
An oldie but goodie, this 1996 prime time TV commercial was made for the very first mass-produced EV, a two-seater available for lease only. The ad is clearly showing its Hollywood roots – it was directed by Joe Johnston of Jumanji and Rocketeer fame – and was accompanied by a $10-million ad campaign sporting anticipatory slogans like ‘You can’t hear it coming, but it is.’
Valentine’s Day was the inspiration for this cute animated commercial for the Renault Z.E. It’s a romantic comedy squashed into a minute and a half, where (spoiler alert!) the hero doesn’t get the girl until the day he starts driving an electric – hence silent – car. We won’t give away any more than that, apart from the smashing slogan: ‘Everything starts with an electric moment.’
Driving home the point that EVs are not just for the young ‘uns, this commercial tells the story of an elderly lady who sells her old red VW Golf, then misses it so much she has it inked on her arm. She only perks up when she goes for a test drive in its all-electric equivalent: an ID.4 GTX, revving and spinning like an eighteen-year-old. The ad is a sequel of sorts to a Dutch 2010 VW Golf 3 commercial that went viral – it amassed 23 million views on YouTube so far. Which one’s your favorite?
The New Ad:
The Old Ad: