Fact check: Photo does not show a diesel generator charging an electric car

Over 30,000 social media users have been sharing posts that claim to show a photo of an electric car being charged by a diesel generator towed by a gas-powered van, often with the strapline “the future is stupid”. The claim about the machines pictured is partly false: a technical expert from ÖAMTC, the company charging the car in the photo, told Reuters that while the breakdown van was diesel-powered, the “generator” was powered by rechargeable lithium batteries

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The posts (here  ,  here  ,  here  ,  here) show a photo of an electric car being charged by a machine that is attached to a yellow car with ÖAMTC branding. The text above the photo reads: “A gas powered van, towing a diesel generator charging an electric car.” Some posts add the phrase, “The future is stupid…”

The original photo, seen  here  , was posted in May 2019 by the Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club, or ÖAMTC in German ( , which provides members with emergency road services and annual safety tests, among other services (here) .

The caption on the original photo says, when translated from German: “When the battery can’t take it anymore, we’ll bring you fresh juice! Our ’Mobile Power Bank’ for e-cars has successfully completed its first test in practice. After about 20 minutes, the electric Mercedes had enough power to bring our member to the next charging station without any problems.”

“The photo was actually misinterpreted,” Christian Klejna, a technical expert at ÖAMTC, told Reuters via email. “This is not a petrol generator, but a mobile power bank for e-cars. The “Mobile Electric Vehicle Charger” consists of several lithium cells and can deliver electricity for about twelve kilometers to an electric vehicle.“

These lithium batteries are charged via public mains cables with a normal 220 volt socket, Klejna said.

“The breakdown vehicle is not (yet!) an e-car,” Klejna continued. “It’s one of our standard Diesel breakdown vehicles we use all over Austria.  Although we are constantly testing e-Cars in our car fleet and are already on the road with e-bikes in the city of Vienna.”


Partly false. The company pictured in these claims told Reuters the breakdown vehicle was diesel powered, but that the power source for charging the electric car used rechargeable electric batteries.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .