• Nov 27, 2010
Consumer Reports recently surveyed 1,713 car owners in the U.S. and discovered that 39 percent of them will consider buying a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) for their next vehicle. Out of that group, 60 percent are leaning towards a conventional hybrid, 16 percent are considering a plug-in hybrid and 14 percent are contemplating purchasing an EV. Of course, it bears noting that 'consideration' doesn't necessarily translate to actual sales. With all that said, CR found that 94 percent of those surveyed found fault with green cars, citing drawbacks such as high prices, inadequate infrastructure and limited driving range.

In addition to hybrids and battery-powered vehicles, CR discovered that new-car buyers show a varying degree of interest in several other alternative-fuel vehicles:
  • 35 percent said they would consider a flexible-fuel vehicle, one that can run on either gasoline or E85, which is a mixture of 85 percent renewable ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
  • 19 percent said they would consider natural gas or propane-a fuel resource that is abundant in North America. Currently, there are very few vehicles equipped to run on natural gas and the infrastructure is limited.
  • 16 percent would consider a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. This, despite that fact that only a tiny number of fuel-cell cars are being leased to customers in selected regions, and no automakers have announced imminent plans to mass produce such cars.
  • Only 14 percent said they would consider a diesel-powered vehicle, despite the well-developed infrastructure and relatively broad model selection.
  • Of those who would consider a diesel, more than half (57 percent) said they would use biodiesel fuel.
Eric Evarts, associate automotive editor for CR, recapped the survey results like this:
In the end, the survey shows that consumers are willing to consider alternative power sources for their next vehicles, but they have real practical concerns.
But it was this survey finding by CR that immediately grabbed our attention:
Only 67 percent (of those surveyed) said they are considering a traditional gasoline engine in their next new-car purchase, which may reflect a growing optimism regarding the availability of competitive green cars.
[Source: Consumer Reports]


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  • 28 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      The infrastructure for plugging in is in your primary overnight parking spot. The key piece of information that many people are missing is that a plug-in car is *full* *every* *morning*. Range does not need to be the same as a gasoline car. Driving an EV is a different dynamic.

      The there are more places to plug in around your immediate neighborhood, than there is H2 filling stations in the entire country.

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 4 Years Ago
        Works for me everyday. Over 10K miles of e-commuting to date...
      • 4 Years Ago
      What is the point in all these 'surveys'???

      Aside from Tesla Roadsters, not a single consumer has an EV in their driveway yet! How are the majority of buyers going to form a serious purchase intension without having ever seen one let alone driven one or at lease know someone who drives one?

      These 'surveys' are about as logical as doing a survey of buyer intension on the iphone before any inventory is even delivered to retail stores.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's not quite correct. Nissan has started with the delivery of the Leaf albeit only to celebrities. However, what is true is that, with the exception of Tesla and Renault-Nissan, no other manufacturer with mass production facilities has entered the EV market. The bone of contention is not so much technology but more so the pricing for EVs.
        Range anxiety, applies to only 5 - 10% of the population.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This survey is less an indicator of the actual market and more an abject lesson in how the public consciousness is steered by marketing and PR efforts of manufacturers. As Jeff pointed out, 14% would consider diesel while 16% would consider H2 fuel cells. LOL! Common sense makes me laugh while the engineer in me wants to cry! Unless you're making that hydrogen on a desert coast line with solar energy you're losing out on environmental benefit big time and don't even think about price and availability...

      Just head to a VW dealer and get a TDI already.

      As for EV's, the tech is great but the pickings are slim (surprise!) despite the fact that the -average- high school student (male or female) could build one.

      I say forget surveys; just put some butts in some seats (of well executed examples) and let the tech do the talking. Surveys just expose ignorance and PR spin.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually just did buy a VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI to replace my aged (and dead) Volvo 740 wagon. I really wanted to buy a Volt; I'm a huge fan of the technology and I really wanted to be able to reward GM for their effort. But the Volt won't adequately replace our wagon, while the Jetta does so very well.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I suspect the world is waiting for an alt-energy or e-vehicle to save them $$$ on top of proving itself just as reliable and flexible as what they currently have.

      The fact is, most "consumers" today don't give a damn about saving the environment, but do care about saving their own money.

      I'm hoping about another 5 years and the big car companies can prove that Alt/E is a money saver.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Here's another thought though: why isn't efficiency/emissions seen as something with value in cars? We assign value to power, interior materials, size, looks, reliability, brand, safety, handling, etc. in cars, but so far only a relatively small portion (but growing as this survey shows) assign value to efficiency/emissions. Zealots/enthusiasts/early adopters obviously see value to it, and their job is to try to get other people to see value in it too. I don't see what is wrong with that; it doesn't always have to be about cost.

        Another thing I notice is when internet commenters tend to bring up cost of alt-e cars, they calculate down to the cent and say if the car doesn't have significant savings over a conventional car, then there is no point in buying it (doesn't even matter if it reaches price parity). I commonly see the point about saving up for college kids, yet when car shopping I bet those people rarely go for the cheapest car. There's always some things that creep in, like luxury, more power, or even harder to quantify in value, like looks (the "sport" packages with the spoilers, side-skirts etc), that is counter productive to the "saving money for the kids," yet people still spend it. Efficiency/emissions would just be another one of those things.

        Another issue is many alt-e cars have high sticker prices, but not necessarily a higher ownership cost. This is similar to fluorescent light bulbs, or more efficient appliances. Yet we have see much higher adoption of those than alt-e cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I see your point, Jake. I take total cost of ownership into consideration much moreso than purchase price. Though I trumped both by spending a decade driving a 1-liter Metro.

        What makes you think efficiency/emissions is not seen as adding value in cars? It does for some people, not for others, just as those other attributes you listed.

        My postings here are more about getting the majority of the car-buying population to see the need for more efficient vehicles. I think the green movement is missing a significant opportunity by not discussing more about the gazillion dollars or whatever it is we send out of the country for energy every year. It's a major disadvantage for our economy. Also our troops are fighting wars right now over this...and that's ok? I personally don't think it is ok.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ miles:
        There is only one acceptable alternative for me and that is an electric power train. The weak point in this alternative is the energy storage unit. I'm deliberately stating "energy storage unit" and not battery. I'm not a fan of battery solutions and would accept them only as an introduction to this exciting technology. As an engineer, I'm familiar with the deficiencies of both, batteries and capacitors. I don't like the Li-ion hype; there is a far better, cheaper and more practical solution possible.
        All batteries have the following vulnerabilities in common.
        1) Degradation and limited life
        2) Power density and energy density are usually inversely proportional
        3) Volume and weight (though constantly improving) is too high for mobility purposes
        4) Charging is too time consuming
        5) The electrolyte's reaction (loss of energy capacity) by high or low temperatures etc. etc..
        A solid state capacitor is not subject to any of those detracting points just mentioned.
        An ultra super capacitor made of graphene detours all of these pitfalls.
        A first step in the right direction has just very recently been reported in a blog. The state of the art has certainly not been achieved with this accomplishment but is being targeted in the absolute correct direction.

        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl102661q

        Addtional info to this subject.
        google with "multiple walled CNTs grown on graphene sheets"
        • 4 Years Ago
        The fact is, most 'consumers' need to feed and clothe their families. It's too bad that judgers don't have any common sense about economics and real world behavior. Saving the environment is not most people's top priority and with good reason. They obviously have more common sense than the zealots and ideologues.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Jordan,
        That's an excellent point I often try to make on this blog: This Alt/E auto tech will only make a real difference when it finds a way to reach the masses, and that will only make sense for most people to pursue when it saves them money. Myself among them. I frankly place more value on saving to send my kids to college than reducing pollution by another .000000001% by spending more on a cleaner car. This doesn't mean I'm not interested, but I have no illusions about the population at large saving themselves by spending more than they need to on transport.

        The zealots do tend to push away people less concerned about their cause - in fact, there's a few on this site I've tried to point that out to. It's an unfortunate fact that righteousness in one's cause gives people reason to justify all kinds of whacky statements. As long as those judgers don't gain too much political power they can rant on as many blogs as they like!

        I can't help but wonder why your profile is private. I like to see where someone is coming from, and seeing past posts helps me reply to their comment with a better feel for who I'm talking to.

        Spec,
        I think you're right, and that would be ok with me, but I hope the economic hit of higher fuel prices doesn't come in a way that shocks our economy too badly...
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Geronimo,

        The supercapacitor under discussion also shows an inverse relationship between power density and energy density, though of course the energy density ranges from unacceptable to bordering on acceptable, and the power density is amazing.

        Energy density is still not there. This is a lab experiment that at room temperature is about 50% of the best production lithium batteries, and under ideal conditions (80 degrees C) is around 80%. IF it can be mass produced at a reasonable price, it's not going to fix the single-charge range issue, though of course with a level 3 (or beyond) charging stations you could very quickly recharge the storage unit.

        I hope this proceeds beyond a lab experiment; even a 80 wh/kg ultracapacitor has some very nice applications, especially motorsports and hybrid storage assist (1 kwh = 12 kg = 50 kw, that's much more suitable device for regenerative braking). But try to stay calm :p
        • 4 Years Ago
        The next 5 years will show that alt/E cars are money-savers. But the bad news is that they will be money savers relative to gas vehicles that run on gasoline which has a sharply higher cost.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The numbers of participants in the survey who said, in effect, 'yes' to an alternative-fueled vehicle is encouraging (considering those kinds of cars are going to be the focus of the industry in the decades ahead) and I'm one who would strongly consider one. Of them all, the ONLY 'green' vehicle I would even look at is the Chevy Volt . . . but only because of them all, it's the only one that has built-in a way NOT to get stranded somewhere. However, I wouldn't even think about buying/leasing one because GM / Chevrolet lied about the car's propulsion system(s). I understand their desire to paint the brightest picture for the Volt and to make it appear to be near-perfectly engineered. But when the media uncovered the truth about how the car is powered, I realized that I couldn't trust GM or Chevy. And I still don't. I do not believe what they say, what they publish, what they 'confess' to . . . now . . . about how the Volt is motivated, and I doubt I ever will. As a consumer, GM / Chevrolet lost me as a potential buyer when they didn't come clean about the Volt right from the first. Granted it's hard to 'clear-the-air' after they've been discovered to be liars, but I no longer trust them or anything they say. So, will I purchase or lease an alternatively powered car? Not yet; not until someone engineers one that has sufficient range to cover my average day (which often covers up to 200 miles) so that I can drive the car without the anxiety of worry about being stuck somewhere miles from my home.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I fail to see how a change in the drivetrain paints a less bright picture.

        It was said to go 40 miles on electricity only and then hundreds of miles on gas. It does that. How a mechanical link or no mechanical link is of any difference in how bright a picture is painted I have no idea.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mike, there's a hilarious irony when people profess to be aghast at the 'revelations' about the Volt's layout. I assume that the reason you like the Volt is because as a vehicle solution, it offers the electric propulsion you want, without the 'range anxiety' you fear. That is, you wanted the most efficient vehicle you could find that can do everything your car can do.

        Saying that you've been betrayed because they changed the drivetrain layout from the initial projection is, quite frankly, hamfisted, uncritical idiocy. The change reflects engineering optimization in order to INCREASE the overall efficiency of the system. And that linkage only occurs in a very specific range of conditions. Are you saying that you truly would have preferred them to go with a less efficient always-in-series layout that burned more gasoline solely because they wanted to retain some abstract sense of marketable 'purity' in their drivetrain? Wouldn't that have been the pinnacle of slimy, image-driven hypocrisy?

        Somehow I don't get the impression that you were ever really in the market for a Volt...you just want to get your holier-than-thou jollies thanks to some overblown meaningless media controversy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Only 14 percent said they would consider a diesel-powered vehicle, despite the well-developed infrastructure and relatively broad model selection." Broad selection? What selection? Where is the VW TDI sportwagon ALL-wheel drive? or the diesel Subaru? We in the USA have almost NO selection when it comes to diesel. Thank CARB. Even the choices we do have pale in comparison to their European models. Take the Audi A3 as an example. 30/42 sounds great, until you find out that there is no Quatro or all-wheel drive available here, even though it is a standard option in Europe. Also without the CARB required emmissions ( meaning it's good enough everywhere but California) the A3 will pull down 68 mpg combined which tranlates to 57.4 US miles per gallon with Quattro. Even the cars MADE here for the UK market are better than what we can buy.
      Just read this.

      http://www.mpgomatic.com/2008/03/15/35-mpg-why-wait-until-2020/

      IF that doesn't tick you off, then you don't care about mileage anyway. And that was long before the bankruptcy. Maybe if they had let Americans buy the better build European bound vehicles they would not have gone bankrupt.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The federal government should do what it did when it raised the drinking age to 21 and what its done at other times in the past and just carry out a federal takeover of all rules related to emissions and safety and car requirements.
        And the auto industry should be lobbying them to do it (after all, being able to make one single car thats legal in the entire USA instead of needing to comply with rules from multiple states is of benifit to the industry)
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, that car wouldn't make 57mpg if it didn't have CARB emissions. The testing methodologies are different on the EU cycle. The exact same Prius as sold in the US at 50mpg combined gets 60mpg on the EU cycle. With no changes to the car.

        In Europe, even without AWD, with a tiny 1.6L engine with only 104HP it only makes 68.9mpg combined in UK gallons on the EU cycle. This could be about 42mpg on the US ratings system (in US gallons). That's a good combined figure no doubt. But you aren't getting the same engine or the same tune, you're getting 104HP, not the 140HP of the current model and you're not getting 57mpg.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't forget the diesel Honda Civic with 2.2 L, that we can't have as well.
        • 4 Years Ago
        yeah, that's effed. I'd own one of those right now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "6 percent would consider a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. This, despite that fact that only a tiny number of fuel-cell cars are being leased to customers in selected regions, and no automakers have announced imminent plans to mass produce such cars."

      Despite the massive propaganda campaign behind H2 (has anyone seen the TV ads?), these numbers are not all that impressive.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This 67% figure indicates an optimism for green alternative vehicles, if you consider Diesel, ethanol and LPG green.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's good that electrics and the franken-hybrid are finally here, however we have to be realistic... they don't suit the needs of many.and the price is quite high still.
      I think most people DO want cars like this, but can't live with the drawbacks.

      Like LCD TV's and Cell phones.. these cars are gonna be expensive for some time. For me, it's a waiting game whilst the eager first adopters help sort the rough bumps out.

      • 4 Years Ago
      lol, 16% would consider a H2 Fuel Cell vehicle and only 14% would consider diesel!? That is a shame! Show's how out of touch the general public is about the realities of the auto industry. I guess this one stat also goes to show how this survey definitely will not reflect actual sales numbers!
        • 4 Years Ago
        You are so correct.
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