Despite rising oil prices, growing concerns about climate change and uneasiness over dependence on foreign energy, Americans’ awareness and use of alternative fuel technologies is still fairly low, according to a recent Synovate survey.
Synovate, a global market research firm, surveyed more 900 respondents in the US and Canada, as part of an international assessment of 4,500 vehicle owners around the world.
Virtually every automotive manufacturer worldwide is trying to understand consumers’ familiarity with, usage of and preference towards hybrid electric, direct-injection diesel and alternative fuel source vehicles.—Scott Miller, CEO of Synovate’s global Motoresearch practice
American and Canadian consumers have similar awareness and adoption behaviors toward varying technologies, but demonstrate significantly divergent motivations for considering these vehicles. A majority of Americans surveyed want to reduce dependence on foreign energy while Canadians, along with most respondents across the globe, want cleaner emissions.
Americans responded similarly to consumers around the world when asked which factors keep them from purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle. By far, high vehicle cost is the number one deterrent, while the perception of these vehicles’ limited driving range was the second most claimed reason for rejecting alternative technologies.
In terms of the type of alternative fuel technology preferred, American consumers are most likely to consider hybrid electric vehicles over any other alternative to conventional engines, though only 6% of the respondents surveyed own a hybrid vehicle. Other countries surveyed for this study, including China and Russia, had significantly lower awareness of this technology.
Direct-injection diesel technology has the highest use globally, but is still very low at only 5% among all those surveyed. In the US, this type of engine is the least familiar of the three technologies mentioned in the survey, with 37% of Americans never having heard of direct-injection diesels.
While nearly all North Americans (91%) are familiar with alternative fuel sources such as natural gas, ethanol, methanol or biodiesel, it is not surprising that personal experiences driving these vehicles are virtually nil (2%). One major hurdle may be fueling infrastructures in this country.
Alternative fuel vehicles are typically developed in small, experimental volumes for commercial application, which is why so few retail consumers have seen or even heard of them. This is a serious ‘chicken and egg’ problem for the energy and automotive industries. Manufacturers can’t afford to launch vehicles that are not supported by a refueling infrastructure, and the energy industry can’t afford to build the infrastructure and wait 10 years for enough vehicles to be on the road to make it worth their investment.
...Don’t underestimate the emotional impact of increasing hurricane behavior in the Southeast or other observable changes in the climate that are linked to carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases. Consumers may drive the demand for change sooner rather than later in this country due to these factors.—Scott Miller