The drumbeat of splashy TV advertising and reports in the media has created an awareness of electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles in the general public, but most people admit that they don’t know all that much about the new technologies. Research released by Maritz Research demonstrates that, while consumer awareness about alternative-fuel vehicles continues to grow, only about one in five consumers say they are very familiar with any alternative-fuel technologies. The research also indicates that consumers have relatively little knowledge of electric-only and electric-hybrid vehicles. A scary aspect for auto manufacturers is that many consumers see electric vehicles as useful only for those who do limited driving.

“Our research indicates that, over time, consumers see the adoption of electric-power and other alternative power-train vehicles as an imminent reality,” says Dave Fish, vice president of Maritz Research. “Yet today, low consumer familiarity and understanding of alternative-fuel vehicles, including both electric-only and gasoline-electric hybrids, has a cooling effect on their purchase intent.”

According to a telephone survey of 1,207 licensed American drivers who are 18 years of age or older, top-of-mind consumer awareness about the electric-only vehicle category outpaces gasoline-electric hybrids. When asked to name an alternative-fuel technology other than gasoline-powered automobiles, 56 percent said electric vehicles, while nearly a third identified gasoline-electric hybrids. Only 16 percent cited ethanol, 15 percent said hydrogen fuel and 7 percent said clean diesel. While awareness is high and knowledge has increased since a 2006 Maritz Research poll, few consumers today purport to be very familiar with either electric-only, flex-fuel or gasoline-hybrid vehicles. In the last five years, the percentage of consumers very familiar with electric-only vehicles doubled from 8 to 16 percent. Flex-fuel vehicles rose from 12 to 17 percent, and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles rose from 15 to 22 percent.

Overall, survey respondents voiced positive opinions on alternative vehicles and their benefits. Almost three quarters (74 percent) said they felt that alternative-fuel vehicles were good because they reduced dependence on foreign oil. Some 68 percent said they would consider obtaining an alternative-fuel vehicle because it was better for the environment, and 59 percent said an alternative vehicle is appealing because it costs less to operate than a gasoline vehicle.


Tom Ripley is a contributing editor for Driving Today. He writes frequently about autos, safety and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France



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Driving Today Auto Review - Consumers More Aware of Alt-fuel Vehicles