Professors at Indiana University, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and the University of Kansas asked 3,200 respondents planning to buy a new car in the next two years to fill out a survey online in 2013. The participants were then shown various methods of expressing the cost savings for hybrids, plug-ins and battery electric vehicles against purely gasoline-fueled vehicles.
Rather than simply showing fuel savings, adding figures like lower maintenance and insurance costs for a more rounded total cost of ownership had a statistically significant effect on choosing to buy a green car, according to Phys.org. That preference came despite the higher initial purchase price of the more efficient models. The results carried an interesting caveat, though. The preference towards green models was only true for small and midsize car buyers. A higher total ownership cost didn't sway the preference for crossover customers.
"In this study we find that showing savings from fuel-efficient vehicles compared with regular vehicles in terms of total cost of ownership increases the perception of their value – although, of course, their actual savings remains the same," said Rachel Krause, a co-author of the study, to Phys.org.
According to the researchers, the new results contradict previous European studies that showed displaying fuel cost savings as an effective means to push buyers towards efficiency models. They think the difference is due to the cheaper fuel in the US.