The House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill that would significantly increase the number of gas stations with ethanol or E85 fuel pumps nationwide. According to a just-completed series of snap polls conducted across the Autobytel online network, slightly more than half of the respondents support a “yes” vote on this measure.
Fifty-one percent of poll-takers say the government should pay for the expansion of E85 pumps across the nation while only 28% said it shouldn’t. The remainder admit they’re not informed enough to say.
Asked to name the single best thing the government could do to reduce the country’s dependence on oil,
- 35% named funding research for alternative fuel technologies;
- 32% named funding E85 pumps at more gas stations;
- 22% named raising CAFE standards; and
- 12% named increasing the tax incentive for hybrid vehicle buyers.
Although Autobytel’s car shoppers may be pinning a lot of hope on ethanol as an energy solution, at least some of this optimism may stem from some very basic misconceptions about the fuel. Nearly half (47%) of the car shoppers polled by Autobytel thought they would spend less to drive with E85 fuel, while only 32% understood that they’d spend more versus gasoline for the same amount of driving.
Not only does ethanol deliver worse fuel mileage than gasoline, but currently the price has risen sharply in some markets. The spot price for ethanol last week jumped to $5 per gallon, then settled back to the $4.00 and upper-$3.00 range.
Drivers may be in for a shock when they see E85 prices advertised at the local gas station—and when they realize that less-fuel-efficient E85 would have to cost about 20% less than gas to break even.
It also suggests, in turn, that US automakers’ marketing of ethanol-capable vehicles may become a harder sell as drivers become aware of E85 costs. Not surprisingly, 62% of the shoppers surveyed by Autobytel said they wouldn’t pay a penny more, per mile of driving, to achieve ethanol’s potential benefits of increased fuel independence and improved emissions.—Autobytel
Other data points from Autobytel’s new automotive consumer polls:
65% of car shoppers agree that we are in the midst of an energy crisis, similar to that during the 1970s.
Only 35% say their current vehicle gets at least 25 mpg—and only 16% say that their current ride gets at least 30 mpg. Yet 71% say that their next vehicle purchase must get at least 25 mpg, and 43% say it will have to get better than 30 mpg. 15% say it will have to get at least 40 mpg.
When asked to describe their general impression of hybrid vehicles, 39% replied “too expensive for the hybrid benefit” and an additional 28% selected “not a real solution, more of a statement.”
72% think that Congress should raise CAFE standards for the automakers.
The number of responses to each poll varied, but averaged around 580.