The Mercedes-Benz EQ concept, which is actually meant to be an electric car. Mercedes, surprisingly, actually knows how add adjectives to the words “electrified” and “electrification” to make them more clear. Gold star. Image via Mercedes-Benz

The automotive world is full of buzzwords. After all, this is the industry where every car is “dynamic” and full of “dynamism.” Although the word is annoying, it doesn’t convey much other than the fact that companies aren’t too creative. But the industry’s newest term, “electrified,” does—and wrongfully so.

Automaker press releases across the board talk about “electrified” lineups and “electrification” in the coming years, all to the sincere confusion of the people reading them. And the confusion is completely warranted. Not even automakers have the same definition of “electrified,” as is evidenced by a quick search of press releases on the Newspress database that automotive journalists often use:

  • “Every Jaguar and Land Rover launched from 2020 will be electrified”
  • “Honda commits to electrified technology for every new model launched in Europe”
  • “Batteries required—All-new Audi A8 to feature electrified powertrain as standard”
  • “Polestar announces new management team to develop electrified performance brand for Volvo Cars”
  • “Honda’s ‘electric vision’—Two thirds of European sales to feature electrified powertrains by 2025”
  • “Volvo cars announces new target of one million electrified cars sold by 2025”
  • “Ford adding electrified transit, Mustang, F-150 by 2020 in major EV push; expanded U.S. plant to add 700 jobs”

Those are all from the last six months, and, upon reading the press releases—and using context clues, because the releases don’t come right out and say what “electrified” truly is—most car companies have different meanings of the word. “Electrified” in the Jaguar release conveys, via context clues like “giving our customers even more choice,” that all new Jaguar/Land Rover models launched from 2020 will have electric, hybrid or mild hybrid versions. The Honda releases seem to say the same thing, but there aren’t enough context clues to tell.

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The Audi A8 release is about something totally different. It uses “electrified” to talk about the new A8’s “mild hybrid” setup, which is the step on the ladder between a traditional gasoline engine and a hybrid vehicle. The mild hybrid, according to Car Buyer, has an electric motor that assists the engine to make it more efficient but cannot power the car on its own like most hybrids can.

That doesn’t sound nearly as “electrified” as the word makes it seem, but none of these definitions do. The Polestar announcement doesn’t hint in the slightest at what its definition of “electrified” is, while the Volvo and Ford releases consider both hybrid and all-electric vehicles as “electrified.”

“Electrified,” as a buzzword, does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It gets your attention, it gives you a mental image of electricity pulsing through a car and powering it into the next era of technology, and makes you think companies are committed to a far greener and more evolved near future than they really are.

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But, because automakers aren’t just going to stop using it after reading this blog, car companies’ future plans require a deep look at the context around the word to know what it really means—that is, until cars truly are “all-electrified” and carmakers move onto other annoying buzzwords.

No matter where on the scale an “electrified” automaker falls, don’t get caught up in buzzwords you read online—especially if it’s not completely clear what they mean, and especially if they’re meant to sell you products or make you interested in a brand.

Look into it, see what it really stands for in context, then decide how you feel. Most of the time, “electrified” doesn’t mean what you might think.