According to the 2012 U.S. Automotive Industry Survey and Confidence Index by Booz & Co., alternative vehicle powertrains may take up as much as 10 percent of the total market by 2020, but only if the federal government continues to support development.

Without a helping hand from Uncle Sam, only 30 percent of the researchers, executives and consumers who participated in the survey believe alternative-fuel machines will be able to carve out that small slice of the market. Specifically, federal tax incentives for potential buyers could help push the technology forward in the future.

According to Wards Auto, further development faces a double hurdle. First, additional urban planning is required to demonstrate plug-in hybrids and EVs will be viable options for buyers, but at the same time, government agencies also need to see fuel cell and battery costs come down before being willing to pony up for chargers or incentives.

Even so, 70 percent of those surveyed said they were more confident about future hybrid demand than they were in 2011. Take a look at the full survey results here.

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