The hilarious Hyundai "carbon free" car commercial

Scene from the commercial - bike powered moving plants over backdrop

We’ve seen a lot of stupid videos lately, such as the 10:10 fiasco of blowing up school children because they were ambivalent about reducing their carbon footprint. Now, we are treated to a “behind the scenes” video of how Hyundai shot a commercial for a gasoline powered car, using no gasoline and leaving no carbon footprint. There’s all sorts of clever human powered props, and the whole set resembles some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption. But the real punch line is: they had some guys push the car to get it going for one scene.

Honestly, I don’t see the point. It seems beyond ridiculous to make a zero carbon footprint commercial for cars that use gasoline. Note all the trucks, rental, and equipment vans surrounding the commercial shoot, now how did all those get there? Pedal power? Watch this video:

Here’s another video aptly titled “Creating the illusion”:

And yet another on the alternative power sources:

Nice, but the thing that makes this a candidate for the FAIL blog is this: transporting all this equipment to the shoot couldn’t be done “carbon free”.

Here’s the final product, the actual commercial:

If they really wanted to create an “illusion” you’d think they would have had the good sense to keep the U-haul, Budget, and Ryder rental trucks out of the video scenes. But, when you are on a mission, details like this apparently don’t matter. On the plus side, at least they didn’t blow up anything or anyone.

h/t to Tom Nelson


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Pull My Finger

Where’s Monty Python when you need them.


Human power is not carbon-free.


Maybe it’s some sort of Korean humor. Razzing the gai-jin and all that. If watch the clip as a satire, it really works (the green consultant was my favorite).

Phil M2.

Zero carbon footprint my A**e
Talk about cherry picking the data, only measure while the camera is running. What about the hundred or so people who all drove to the set. The eco-trailer I’m sure has a nice big diesel engine. All that was saved here was a few kWr to run the equipment. Probably the worst part of the Ad was the 4% they gave to Al Gore’s slush fund as carbon credits.
Age of stupid? Yes.


I’d like to see Caterpillar make a commerical on how they helped dig a canal, mine, etc with a no carbon foot print. You can see it all now men standing around with shovels digging and some others with baskets carrying the dirt up out of the hole.
By the way does’t all the CO2 being breathed out because of extra effort count? More food will have to be grown to account for the used calories.
For pity sakes this is silly.


Wow. Just wow.
I’ve long held that the Greenies are religious zealots, and this … just about takes the cake. Before I’m branded a AGW-denialist or something – there are things meantioned that are of benefit: No plastic drinking bottles. Absolutely! I’m sick of the fvqqing plastic water bottle fetish. And, reducing trash. Again – I’m for it. I hope they rented a portable dishwasher (they exist), and a bunch of cheap-ass chinatte plates, metal utensils, and banned outside food. That’s how groups can be efficient.
Unfortunately, the zealotry angle got to them. Pedal-powered plant movers. Puhleeze. People riding bikes to charge very “hip” car batteries wrapped in Web2.0 mid-tone orange plastic housings. Puhleeze. Solar cells! And all the U-Haul trucks to get the stuff there. Did the actors and helpers stay in tents? They’re VERY “low carbon footprint”. Did they abandon showers (huge “carbon” sinks), washing hands in warmed water, taking cabs, eating heated food? Go entirely vegetarian? Ya see, hot water, cabs, well-cooked food and especially meat-based foods are huge carbon sources.
But their point – their only real point – was that the ingenuitive minds of the Green Bank Generation (21-39) can collectively do their Rahs and Oohs around an abundant theology of Greenness. They can chart their progress (that takes a whole person, costs be damned), a whole bunch of extra equipment (requiring diesel to get it there, and a whole lot more people, costs be damned). All this for a car commercial. A car that, prior to its “life on the road”, is built from an industrial infrastructure that is estimated to require nearly as much “carbon” in manufacturing the stuff, as the car itself will require in its first 5 years on the road. The greenest solution? NO CAR.

Kevin B

You’re missing the point, Anthony. Ads of this sort aren’t made to impress the punters or to sell the product, they’re made by artists to impress their peers. If they happen to sell a few widgets, well so much the better. (Although for some directors, selling product is a black mark.)


Why? How could it be cost effective? Or like most things “green,” is this a situation in which costs do not matter?


Why not just buy carbon offsets?
At $.05 per ton, it’d only cost a few bucks to make a traditional car commercial carbon neutral.


In a nutshell, this is the whole “green” thing.
It’s not about actually doing something, it’s about the appearance. And if you don’t like it then you must support dumping raw chemicals into pristine rivers too.
Any guesses how many resources are used to make reusable grocery bags, vs how many plastic bags they replace? How about the obvious stupidity of ignoring the manufacturing emissions on a hybrid car, as if tailpipe emissions are the only metric?
It’s actually sad… when I was traveling regularly I used to ask for the rental Hyundai’s… they were nice little cars. Too bad they fall apart after just a few short years.

James Sexton

Oh my, so they’re making a commercial to encourage the purchase of a gasoline drinking, CO2 belching, internal combustion automobile. And trying to convince people they care about the environment and lie about being carbon free. I’ll have to have a few beers to mull this over. Do people really buy based on disingenuous advertisements? Its a blatant lie on several levels!

Mike Jowsey

With all that extra manpower and additional set design required, I would bet that this was an expensive production compared to traditional productions. I wonder how much those guys were getting paid to ride bicycles to charge batteries.

Paul Deacon, Christchurch, New Zealand

Our local airport proudly advertises that it is “carbon positive”. That takes the biscuit.
If I see nonsense like this on a product at the supermarket, I put it back on ths shelf.
All the best.


They’re awesome! They saved 98% of their carbon!
They spent 300% more money on those ads.


PS… one of the most amazing things I learned today – from a neighbor:
The amount of energy that it takes to safely can food en masse is 97% less than to cook the same food by traditional techniques on the stove. Yep. The reason is because virtually all canning operations recycle the heat-of-preparation efficiently. The canning materials (plastic-coated steel) is also nicely recycleable.
Here’s another cooking fact. Compared to electric stoves, a gas stove loses over 75% of the thermal energy of the burning natural gas. The coupling of burned-gas to pot-bottom is terrible. So, no matter how “efficient” gas is supposed to be, it hardly compares to electrical. To bad electricity “per therm” costs so much. EVEN if one includes the thermodynamic inefficiency of converting heat-to-electricity (65% losses), electricity still wins. The ultimate? Microwave. Nearly 95% efficient in converting electricity to heat-in-food.


Well I’m sure they all felt really good about themselves. Most manure salesmen do.


HAHA I always thought the same thing whenever I saw that commercial. How did they get everyone there and all the equipment?

R. Craigen

No link to the commercial itself?
Apparently there was not only a full film production crew, but a separate crew to take the two documentary shorts about the making of the commercial — maybe two separate crews. I’m losing track, but that’s a LOT of resources going into this one commercial.
Hmmm, I wonder how the CO2 production of the lungs of the crankers compares to that of a car gently sailing through an actual countryside? Have they accounted for the difference between the CO2 sequestration rates of REAL trees versus the pictures of trees on their giant, uber-expensive carbon-intensive vinyl phototransfer? I’m intrigued by that conveyer of shrubs. Did they kill live carbon-consuming plants to make that thing, or did they use fake plants manufactured out of plastic with a carbon-intensive process?
As an exercise in cinematography I think this is really intriguing and interesting in and of itself. As an exercise in ecological sensitivity it’s a giant greenwashing FAIL — the REAL illusion is the illusion that any reduction in harm to the environment is evident here. In fact, measured by expenditure of resources, human, financial and environmental, this is clearly far more costly than a basic on-site, point-and-shoot-take-back-to-the-studio-and-edit commercial. If they want to be REALLY ecofriendly, why not render everything digitally in 3D from scratch on a single desktop computer?
REPLY: Thanks, added the actual commercial – Anthony

This is par for the course. No one should be surprised by this. It is what is expected. Until someone tops the idea that building mirrors in space to “cool” the Earth is a legitamite idea, I will be somewhat immune.

Paul Nevins

Blazingly stupid.
Human powered is not carbon free. It might be minimal if the people aren’t breathing.. One little gas engine is a lot more environmentally friendly than this huge mob of bozos making and using all these props.
They should be absolutely embarassed. All for 3000 Watts when the sun shines. A gas powered generator would have a lot less negative impact than this mess.

jack mosevich

Riding a bicycle has a carbon footprint which depends on what you eat:


Since I do not plan to replace my present vehicle with a Hyundai anyway, they can spend as much money doing as many silly commercials as they wish…


Is this an example of the Car Not cycle or the Auto cycle? I forget my thermo after all these years. [Just kidding, I have a copy of “Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire: And Other Papers on the Second Law of Thermodynamics” by Carnot et al. on my reading table. And yes I know it is the Otto cycle.]

Don’t people exhale a lot of CO2 when they’re pushing cars? Think of the methane released from the cows that fed those hungry workers.


I give them serious props for reducing solid waste on the set by 3/4 if that is actually true. Film sets produce massive amounts of garbage and I am happy to see this being addressed with an emphasis on waste reduction, reuse and composting.


@James Sexton
Yes, people do buy these disingenuous advertisements. Just walk into an Andronico’s (food store, West Coast) or a “Whole Foods” (again, über-green market) … and be amazed. So many things now are branded with the light-yellow-green “green label” as to make me want to puke. But its like branding turds in bows and glitter. Turds they remain. Water bottles are now often sexy, European styling, and limey green.
Everything is about recycling, but to a population of DINKs and ECPUs (double-income, no kids … or … environmentally conscious parental units), it really is all about trendy image-setting. Something to “talk about” at all social events. Its OK, it all comes in cycles, and paves the way for lots of inefficient spending on questionable products. Makes plenty of people a living, I guess. But the interpersonal brow-beating is sometime quite amusing to observe.
After seeing the “recycleable trash” path of ignonymity taken … at the local “recycling and reuse facility” (AKA “metropolitan dump”) – whereby all recycleables are dumped into a grinding machine – glass, plastic, metal and all – and grossly separated into a small pile of useful stuff, and a great big pile of “standard trash” … I’ve stopped entirely filling my “colored bins”. If its all treated as trash anyway, there is no way in hell that I’m going to give the trash company all those CVR fees for all them bottles. No way.
In Baltimore (and a hundred other “progressive cities”) I’d be fined. Well stuff it, folks. I’ll happily take my own trash to the dumps every few weeks… as it gets nice and ripe in the summer time. It remains one of my inalienable rights.


Building all the extra equipemt like the stage, the bikes, the solar panels, the batteries, the various mechanical devices consumes MUCH more energy than the little fuel saved with the single car.


I’m totally greened out……….
sick and tired of hearing green this and green that

Sean Houlihane

Well, i can see that there is some point to presenting a commercial where it’s all hand-powered, like the Honda chains of parts. Metaphor and artistic interpretation has some place.
Where it becomes a massive con (or group stupidity) is where they claim to have actually achieved something by being ‘special’ in their production method. It’s not clever.


Lots of green jobs in Canada, it seems.

Steven Kopits

It’s a 274 horsepower car!


Greg says:
October 28, 2010 at 12:19 pm
I give them serious props for reducing solid waste on the set by 3/4 if that is actually true. Film sets produce massive amounts of garbage
As a matter of fact, you could say that is all they produce. Reducing solid waste from filmakers by 3/4’s would be an excellent start, with more concessions to be made in their wasteful production and consumption following.


But they did not use hand cranked cameras!

Greg McCall

They have conveniently overlooked all the energy required to manufacture the materials and equipment they are using.


I am a Hyundai dealer, and also a skeptic, and an active skeptic at that.
Hyundai has the best average fuel mileage of any car line. The 2011 Sonata, only comes with a 4cyl (Camry and Accord have V-6 options), and gets EPA 35 MPG highway with its standard 6 speed automatic.
To get people who want more power to buy a Sonata (the US version is only made in Alabama), they are offering a turbo version, so you get power when you need it.
I dont see this ad as been crazy green, and think people are over reacting. Hyundai has set a target of 50 MPG fleet average so lets cheer them on. Go Hyundai!

Scott Basinger

My wife was watching this commercial for the first time a week or two ago and I remember her turning to me and saying ‘what a stupid commercial, how much more CO2 did they expend having people push things around and constructing the set like that vs conventional electric power?’
Being an engineer, I was tempted to come up with a reasonable approximation of how much ‘worse’ this set was vs using electric power, but then I decided it was better to mock it in simpler terms. Isn’t a carbon-free world great? Instead of using machines, we’ll all be digging ditches manually and sweating while inconsistantly turning hand-cranks in the summer heat. What an idyllic world it will be, indeed.


What a bunch of BS! If you take all the extra manufactured equipment they had to use and truck there, extra people they had to get there, extra food they had to eat, extra big fat paychecks they had to give and inefficiencies of their contraptions, driving the car around must have a much smaller carbon footprint.
What a bunch of liars and scientifically challenged idiots.
… Never buying Hyundai!

I am grateful to you for the best writing – you are a talent, dear writer. Every little thing I want to do now is to begin my writing – I say you it will be a excellent essay

Tom in Texas

All that for a 30 second commercial?

Lorne LeClerc

On one hand it was a creative effort, however impractical and useless. They sould also have considered fasting and reducing their respiration rates by controlled breathing.


“It’s a 274 horsepower car! Steve Kopits”
Priceless ROTFLMAO

What a bunch of baloney!
If I did the embodied energy analysis, I would have no problem proving they wasted more energy than usual.
And how much did that “green consultant” burn up?


Paul Deacon beat me to it, but once you have boarded your flight at “carbon neutral” Christchurch airport, landed in Wellington, your only options are carbon neutral taxis, or…
the bus.

That’s it?
All that for a thirty second ad? I didn’t see the backdrop in one frame (I watched it three times), or the rain, or the pedal power trees. And to top it all, they’re not even subtle about it, showing the guys pushing the truck. With all the distractions going on, did anybody actually see what the car looked like at the end? I thought that was what it’s supposed to be all about. Massive fail.


Reminds me of the pious “No animals were harmed in the making of this film” credit – except for the hundreds of cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, etc killed to feed the crew over several months, that is.

Tony B (another one)

I am increasingly making my purchasing decisions on brands and products that do not make a big deal about how green they are.
So, when my Satan gas spewing V8 BMW requires more poison juice to run, I do not go to a BP or Exxon station, as they take up way too much airtime with their earnest, hand-wringer adverts.
I’ll go with Shell, thankyou, with their F1 supporting V power stuff.
I only go for the “green” product if I have absolutely no choice.

dave ward

Goatguy – re your comment about the poor conversion rate of gas hobs, I am of the opinion that this is largely due to the burners typically having a ring of ports around the periphery. This means that most of the flame gets directed at the edge of the pans, and consequently gets wasted. Electric hobs, on the other hand, heat the whole of the pans base. I cannot understand why gas burners can’t be made smaller and have most of the flame emitting from the top. Proper design should mean adequate air being drawn in to ensure complete combustion.
Microwave ovens normally quote “cooking power”, but this is typically only about 2/3rds of the electrical input rating, so a 95% efficiency is simply not possible.

Stephen Skinner

What, so none of the pushing and cycling would involve exhaling CO2?


At October 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm, you said:
“The amount of energy that it takes to safely can food en masse is 97% less than to cook the same food by traditional techniques on the stove. ”
That’s an interesting idea, I don’t know about 97% less than cooking at home, but I can believe it is probably more efficient.
Then you said:
“Here’s another cooking fact. Compared to electric stoves, a gas stove loses over 75% of the thermal energy of the burning natural gas. The coupling of burned-gas to pot-bottom is terrible.”
This is really comparing apples-and-oranges. Burning the natural gas at the electric generation facility has the same problem as burning gas in your stove. They can improve the efficiency and sometimes by a lot if they can use the waste heat, but then there are the losses in transmission and distribution of the electricity to your stove.
So it probably doesn’t change by much, except in the case where the generation facility uses the waste heat for some other useful purpose.


paulhan, apparently this was for a campaign, not a single ad.
BTW, my new car is 285 HP, also a 4 (2.4), and who freaking CARES what the mileage is when you have that much power under your foot?!