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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman August 23, 2019

No, that’s not a van towing a diesel generator to charge an electric car

On its face, the viral image seems ridiculous: A van tows a generator that is being used to charge an electric vehicle.

"A gas powered van, towing a diesel generator, charging an electric car. The future is stupid," reads the text above the photo.

Screengrab from Facebook

Shared on Facebook more than 74,000 times since Aug. 11, the image garnered over 770 comments.

It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

That’s because the narrative being shared about what is happening in the photo isn’t right. While the van in the photo is diesel-powered (not gas), it is towing a battery pack, not a diesel generator. 

A reverse-image search revealed that the yellow van comes from a roadside assistance company in Austria called OAMTC

The company initially posted the photo on its Facebook page on May 29, 2019, with the caption: 

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"If the battery can't make 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. We think this is pretty electrifying!"

Our attempts to reach someone with OAMTC went unanswered, but we’re not the first to check this claim. An OAMTC member told fact-checkers at AFP that the photo was "wrongly interpreted, this is not a portable generator, but a mobile power bank for electric cars." The power bank, AFP reported, is made of lithium battery packs that can provide electricity for an electric vehicle for about 12 kilometers (or about 7.5 miles).

AFP found that the packs can charge from any energy source in OAMTC’s shops, and according to the World Bank, 76% of Austria’s electricity output came from renewable sources in 2015.

And though the Facebook post says the van is gasoline-powered and towing a diesel generator (the lithium battery pack), it is actually the van that is diesel-powered, according to OAMTC officials.

While diesel engines do create harmful emissions, they are generally considered more fuel efficient compared to their gasoline counterparts and emit less carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide than gasoline combustion. 

Our ruling

An image shared on Facebook comes with the claim that a gas-powered van is towing a diesel-powered generator that is charging an electric car.

The only oil-based product in the photo is the van, which runs on diesel. In tow is a mobile lithium battery pack used to charge stranded electric vehicles.

We rate this False.

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No, that’s not a van towing a diesel generator to charge an electric car

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