Survey: Consumers prefer gasoline vehicles, EVs come in dead last

A survey of consumer preferences conducted by Hilary Nixon and Jean-Daniel Saphores of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has concluded that, among five different types of vehicles, consumers really just strongly prefer gasoline-burning automobiles.

None of the four types of alternative-fuel vehicles examined – hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas, hydrogen fuel cell or battery-electric – stood out among the pack, though hybrids had a slight edge in most categories. Electric-only vehicles came in dead last with 40 percent of the respondents.

The survey focused on assessing the trade-offs that consumers are willing to make, including vehicle cost, fuel prices, vehicle range and time required to refuel. MTI says that in order to offset every $1,000 increase in price, alternative-fuel vehicles must compensate by offering:
  • $300 savings in driving cost over 12,000 miles; or
  • 17.5-mile increase in vehicle range; or
  • 7.8-minute decrease in total refueling time
Of course, the vehicle range and refueling time categories primarily relate to electric vehicles and is likely why battery-powered autos came in last place. Click here (pdf) to read MTI's exhaustive 130-page report, titled "Understanding Household Preferences for Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Technologies."

[Source: Mineta Transportation Institute]
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Mineta Transportation Institute Survey:
Which Alternative-Fuel Vehicles Do People Prefer?

Gasoline Vehicles Still on Top; Hybrid Electrics Gaining Popularity.

San Jose, Calif., July 5, 2011 – The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has released a
research report that explores consumer preferences among four different alternative-fuel vehicles(AFV) – hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, hydrogen fuelcell (HFC) vehicles, and electric vehicles (EV). Understanding Household Preferences for Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Technologies was authored by Hilary Nixon, PhD, and Jean-DanielSaphores, PhD. The findings indicate that, in general, gasoline-fueled vehicles are still preferred over AFVs; however, there is a strong interest in AFVs. No AFV type is overwhelmingly preferred, although HEVs seem to have an edge. The full report can be downloaded at

Using a panel rank-ordered mixed logit model, the researchers assessed the trade-offs people
make between key AFV characteristics. They found that, in order to leave a person's utility
unchanged, a $1,000 increase in AFV cost must be compensated by either a $300 savings in
driving cost over 12,000 miles; a 17.5 mile increase in vehicle range; or a 7.8-minute decrease in total refueling time (e.g., finding a gas station and refueling).

Dr. Nixon said, "Although one-third of respondents ranked gasoline-fueled vehicles as their first
choice, 20 percent of respondents ranked gasoline vehicles last, and there is a strong interest in AFVs. Although no AFV type is overwhelmingly preferred, HEVs seem to have an edge, which
probably reflects the fact that a number of popular HEVs have been available for several years."

Full EVs are the least popular of the AFVs the respondents were asked to consider. In fact, they
were ranked last by 40 percent of the respondents. The researchers say it is apparent that the
current limitations of these vehicles (e.g., range and recharging time) are still a deterrent to their widespread household adoption.

"The vehicle range trade-off primarily concerns EVs, and it highlights the importance of range
for our respondents," said Dr. Saphores. "The respondents also place a very high value on
refueling convenience, which emphasizes the importance of providing enough refueling
infrastructure to make AFVs a viable transportation option for households."

The research results have certain policy implications. Although the environmental benefits of
AFVs are often touted by the media, this characteristic does not seem to be a determining factor when buyers make large purchases, such as motor vehicles. Economic concerns are their priority. Therefore, policymakers and manufacturers who would like to increase the market share for AFVs must make environmental issues a greater educational priority. More than one-quarter of the survey respondents were misinformed about the environmental impacts of motor vehicles or about current vehicle gas-mileage regulations. In particular, educating the public about the advantages of AFVs and the public health impacts of pollution from current vehicles will be necessary to increase support for AFVs.

The nationwide three-part, Internet-based survey of 835 households was administered in February and March 2010 by Knowledge Networks. The final report is available for free download from the Mineta Transportation Institute at

The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA-21
and again under SAFETEA-LU. The institute is funded by Congress through the US Department
of Transportation's (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the
California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public
and private grants and donations, including grants from the US Department of Homeland
Security. DOT selected MTI as a National Center of Excellence following competitions in 2002
and 2006. The internationally respected members of the MTI Board of Trustees represent all
major surface transportation modes. MTI's focus on policy and management resulted from the
Board's assessment of the transportation industry's unmet needs. That led directly to choosing the San José State University College of Business as the Institute's home. MTI conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer, focusing on multimodal surface
transportation policy and management issues. Visit

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