• Mar 16th 2011 at 9:00AM
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2010 Toyota Prius – Click above for high-res image gallery

In this year's State of the Union address, President Obama proclaimed that there would be one million electric vehicles on the road in the United States by 2015. Toyota recently celebrated the building of the company's three millionth hybrid worldwide. More and more automakers are turning to the battery pack and electric motors to improve fuel economy or remove petrol from the equation altogether, but do Americans know what any of this means? Not really, at least according to a recent study.

MediaPost reports that marketing firm Synovate recently polled 1,898 would-be car buyers to gauge their knowledge of hybrids and electric cars, and the results are not encouraging. Only two-thirds are aware that hybrids use both petrol and battery power for propulsion, and a large portion didn't know hybrids even had batteries onboard. And while we enthusiasts know that most hybrids can run for short distances on electricity alone, only one-third of those polled were aware of that little tidbit.

The results of this poll are likely disheartening to advertisers who have tried tirelessly over the years to explain how hybrids work. And with plug-ins and electric cars starting to flood the market, the education of the car-buying public has just begun. Case in point? Less than half of the nearly 2,000 car-buyers polled knew that plug-in hybrids can run on electric power alone. So... just what is that plug for, then?

Marketing types, and we enthusiasts, have a tough road ahead.

Photos copyright ©2011 Sam Abuelsamid / AOL
[Source: MediaPost]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      no shock there -- a good majority of people (i'm assuming this survey is specific to americans) still think hybrids/computers/the internet/cell phones are all powered by voodoo and pixie dust.

      It's sad really when people have no interest or drive to be curious about things in general. If all you are interested in is pushing a button and having it "go" then I think it says a lot about how your thought process works.

      Humans are supposed to be naturally curious - I've met so many people who think the internet is just a big tube that was created specifically for their entertainment.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @SU: True, but most people don't have a need for RAID1 or RAID2. Sitting behind the wheel of a 3500 pound machine going 60mph calls for some sort of knowledge about what the hell is going on. Likewise with maps. Knowing where you are and how to get around is very important in everyday life. There are life skills and technical skills. Knowing to throw a gear into neutral as you car speeds up uncontrollably is a life skill.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dude but you are just as ignorant on things that you do not care about, as I am about say women or sex. Do you know what is a Raid 0 or Raid 1 or how graphics cards work and what is antialiasing. Probably not, because you do not spend most of your life around a computer.

        If people do not have an interest in a subject they will not know much about it. That applies to everyone. Sure many Americans can not locate themselves on the map, but every country has its fair share of morons.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Chris, those cars that this studying was implying people lack knowledge of, Prius, Volt, Branch, they're boring.. There is nothing about those cars that could possibly excite real car enthusiasts so don't attempt to infer we care.. The only people with a tough road are you environmentalists, the people that are pushing these bland cars onto us.

      Why doesn't Autoblog take on some real journalism.. Do a story on the environmental impact those batteries have, from mining to disposal. You'll surprise youselfs..

      • 4 Years Ago
      I remember a survey that showed that almost 3/4s of BMW 1 series buyers thought their cars were FWD, lol. I'm convinced more Americans know more about the particulars of Dancing with the Stars on any given week than anything else. We're doomed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      These poll findings don't surprise me at all. Unlike those on this forum, most people look at their transportation as yet another appliance that accomplishes a task. No more and no less.

      Audi coined the phrase "all wheel drive" in 1980. Even today, an astounding number of people don't know what that means or will do for them versus 2WD or part time 4WD. the same is still true for ABS. There's a lot of people that don't even know if their current car has ABS or what that will do for them.

      Part of the problem is the manufacturers have the wrong people doing their advertising and marketing of these technical features. I've seen numerous ads over the years showing an ABS equipped car supposedly stopping using ABS. I could easily tell it wasn't a hard enough stop to even activate it. So what twit let that get on TV? The same for 4WD/AWD; an ad showing a car driving on level, packed snow 1" deep that a Crown Vic could as easily traverse. It's not convincing at all. They need to hire ME for their ad campaigns!
      • 4 Years Ago
      There are people who still think water fluoridation is a public safety measure.
      There are people who still do not understand the 9/11 inside job.
      There are people who still want vaccination.

      There is only room to go up.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't think 9/11 was an inside job, I know it was an inside job.
        Insider trading of UAL at the CBOE, guess what happening to the investigation into that? Stopped cold.

        I know 9/11 was an inside job because I am scientifically literate.
        A Boeing 767-200, which has a maximum takeoff weight of 395,000 pounds does virtually no damage to a 1,000,000,000+ pound building. [400 million pounds in the core, 250 million pounds in perimeter and floor structure, 100 million pounds of poured concrete, and 250 million pounds just to finish the interior]
        Controlled demolition = inside job.
        Then there is the most ridiculous of ridiculous, WTC7: World Trade Center Building Seven.

        People will eventually learn because even if the primary drive does use electrical power, the ancillaries will: electric power steering, electric AC within the decade.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "There are people who still do not understand the 9/11 inside job."

        People who think 9/11 was an inside job probably don't understand much about anything, much less how cars work.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Wow!! They sure were good at keeping a lot of people silent, not to mention stealthy in their ability to rig two 1 hundred story buildings with explosives without ever being noticed in "a city that never sleeps". I won't even go into all of the conflicting theories of what kinds of planes actually hit the WTC.

        The government does not need to go to such lengths to get what it wants.

        What does this have to do with Prius drivers not understanding hybrid cars again?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Do you find the truth ridiculous?
        or do you find the cognitive dissonance of LUST-STANG S-197 ridiculous?

        and the missing $2.3 trillion announced on September 10, and guess who perished the following day at the Pentagon, the forensic accountants.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just when I thought your comments couldn't get any more ridiculous........
        • 4 Years Ago
        OK. THAT was funny.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mike W. Keep an eye out for those black helicopters. Australia donated two to the United Nations specifically to watch you, as you are on to us.

        Maybe I shouldn't have said that in a public forum? How do you delete from this thing? Better ask the Canadians white house infiltration team.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's all relative. I may know my fair share about cars, but I know almost nothing about, say, computers. If someones not super interested in something, why would they know alot about it?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well, if they used the word 'petrol' instead of the word 'gasoline', and 'propulsion' instead of 'to go', then that would confuse most of the American public right there.

      And the media along with 'enthusiasts' have done a great job with helping confuse the public with the ongoing 'debate' about the many different variables that go into how far a hybrid can travel on electric alone.....or not at all.

      At this point, manufacturers of hybrid cars don't even market the EV only aspect, except for the Volt, who get's beat up about it's electric only claims by the media/enthusiasts on a regular basis.

      So now they want to blame the 'public' for being confused. lol
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd like to see the same survey given to car salesmen. And marketing folks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And you won't have educated salespeople because they make crap money. You want educated sales people quit arguing over every last dime. You get what you pay for, and today that's the service side.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And the Autoblog peanut gallery.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why is it hardly anyone knows that a turbo diesel in a light weight, slippery package gets similar mileage to hybrids with out the environmental nightmare of battery production and disposal? And that the electricity used by PEVs is largely from non-renewable resources which have a sizable carbon footprint? Until we have clean power and battery production, there is nothing green about hybrids and PEVs. It is all just marketing hype.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And what turbodiesel in a "light weight, slippery package" do you know of on sale in the United States?

        Be sure to let me know, because that sounds like a car I would like.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What is the surprise here? The advertisements for Hybrids try their hardest to make them out as normal cars that use less fuel......and that's what people now think. I've never seen a hybrid ad try to explain how they work.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Color me unsurprised. There's tons of educated people who don't know the difference between a four cylinder and a V8, or between front wheel drive and rear wheel drive. So imagine what the less educated know about cars. Hell, most people think D on the gear shift means "Dat Way".

      For twenty years anti-car people have been trying to get the public disinterested in automobiles. Now they've achieved it and it's smacking them in the face. I couldn't be happier.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't think your comparisons are great. People don't know the difference between a four cylinder and a V6 because it varies so much. People don't know the difference between front wheel drive and rear wheel drive because, to most, it only matters in the snow.

        People really only bother learning what matters to them, and thus far nothing about hybrids has much mattered. We keep seeing reports about gas needing to be $5+ per gallon in order for a hybrid to make economic sense, ultimately meaning hybrids won't really impact the wallet. As a result, hybrids are just expensive options and people don't care. The exception to that $5+ per gallon rule tends to be the extremely ugly hybrids the average person wouldn't consider driving, anyway.

        Once hybrids become more attractive economically, either due to lower prices or more expensive gas, then you'll find the public becoming experts. Until then, though, none care enough to learn. Why should they?

        People only learn things that are important to them, and as of this point hybrids aren't important. Whether they ever will be, or whether they get surpassed by something else, remains to be seen. The public will be experts on something other than internal combustion engines soon.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The difference made up between a more apples to apples comparison (Camry 4-cyl vs. Camry hybrid) is an astronomical amount of gasoline to make up the difference between the cost of the hybrid option. May be saving gas to make some hippies happy, but the real deal is the strip-mining they use to make the hybrid batteries, whether its nickel or lithium, the deforestation and poisoning of waterways by mining is FAR worse than the CO2 put into the atmosphere.

        Open your eyes people. Until we are mining lithium and nickel cheaply and not destroying the landscape to do it, hybrids and EVs are a feel-good at best. (There's plenty of good options that are around 35+ mpg and there have been for a while) Lets just say the gas cars are still winning handily in eco-friendliness. Far more parts from far more places to make a hybrid. My girlfriend's 08 Hyundai Accent gets 42 mpg on the highway, easily.

        I did a research project on this very issue so I could graduate from college.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ironic that you would point out the people's lack of knowledge and then say "...while we enthusiasts know that most hybrids can run for short distances on electricity alone, only one-third of those polled were aware of that little tidbit." while most enthusiasts know this is only true for most hybrids. This does not apply to Honda's Integrated Motor Assist.

      All BS aside I am genuinely surprised by what you're reporting. I truly would've thought more understood gas vs. electric vs. a hybrid of the two.
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