New Neutron Imaging Device for Fuel Cell Analysis
Tesla Electric Roadster “Signature One Hundred” Series Sells Out

Study Shows Strong Consumer Interest in Plug-in Hybrids

A new study by global market research company Synovate shows that 49% of consumers—once the concept of a plug-in hybrid was explained to them—said they would consider purchasing one, roughly the same level of consideration as standard hybrid technology.

The study, conducted among 1,240 buyers and those intending to buy new light duty cars and trucks, found that while awareness of hybrids is now very high among US consumers, consideration of a conventional hybrid vehicle has flattened at just under 50%.

Plugging the vehicle in at home means fewer trips to the gas station and lower operating costs. The unknown with this technology is the additional purchase cost. However, there is a considerable group of consumers who are willing to pay to get these unique benefits. It would also be an excellent way to transfer some of the country’s dependence on oil to the national resources we use to power the electric power grid. We believe it’s something to watch.

—Tim Englehart, Manager of Alternative Fuels Studies at Synovate Motoresearch

The study also found that while 37% of US consumers would consider purchasing a Flex Fuel vehicle that runs on E85, more than one-third of those same consumers lose interest when they learn that there is a reduction in fuel economy.

Consideration for diesels ran at roughly half the consideration of hybrids.

Our data give us strong reason to believe that if manufacturers can meet the emissions requirements of the new diesel legislation, some are going to surprise the market with the products they introduce and the buyers to whom those vehicles appeal.

—Scott Miller, CEO of Synovate Motoresearch

The information came from Synovate’s latest semi-annual survey of consumer attitudes toward advanced propulsion and alternative fuel vehicles.



Standard "you're only converting one fossil fuel source to another":

Well, sort of. But, consider:
(i) coal is in tUSA, natural gas in North America. Oil is coming from Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela, etc. In fact, there aren't a whole lot of oil exporters that tUSA is on particularly good terms with. This means a safer, more secure source for fuel.
(ii) power plants are far more efficient at converting fuel to energy. Now, there are all sorts of various resistances in the system, so the net change is tough.
(iii) most people will charge at night, when there just so happens to be tremendous excess capacity. This means that new power plants won't have to be built to accommodate the new demand for electricity.
(iv) this is another step in the path of moving around vehicles with renewable energy. Biodiesel and ethanol are making inroads on the liquid fuel side. Hybrids are stretching that fuel. Plug ins would be one more source for fuel which could be renewable.
(v) allowing for a mix of different fuel supplies helps to stabalize prices, much the way natural gas and home heating oil helped reduce massive swings in prices: as one got more expensive, people were installing the other system. This balanced demand and supply more smoothly.

Plug in hybrids will help tUSA progress toward energy stability, carbon stability, and cost stability. Those are all good things.

Sid Hoffman

Agreed with stormy, especially on point 5, but specifically in the diversity of electricity sources. We can only run a car on gasoline generally, and sometimes E85. Diesels can only be run on diesel or biodiesel, or with modifications and increased risk of clogging you can run it on vegetable oil, which is again a limited resource in the way that biodiesel is.

You can't readily run your gasoline vehicle on wind, solar, or nuclear, nor switch to coal or hydroelectic. You can't use wave or tidal power in your diesel vehicle. If a miracle technology drops the price of solar power in half, there's no way to make use of that in your gasoline or diesel vehicle.

Once you transition towards PHEV's then you instantly diversify your power source among all of the means of electrical production.


Well stormv, we import more oil from Canada then any other country.


Tesla has sold out of its first 100 cars.


Great Cervus, thanks for letting us know!

Charles S

I also agree with Point 5 above and the comments from first two posts. But I wouldn't be as negative about EVs, because electricity is probably more readily available compare to gas stations and a better infrastructure in delivery. It is really just the limits in current development and public acceptence.

My other point is that I really don't know if I have so much faith in such polls. I'm not saying that people are lying, but traditionally, the best selling cars do not match what these polls tell us.

I've got lots of folks asking me about hybrids, but the final decision always ends up putting fuel-efficiency at the bottom of the list.

I think it's good news that people will take time to find out more about PHEV, but once they see the price tag, I think it just makes the next Mustangs or Cameros that much more attractive. (yes, that's how it works: "What! PHEV is HOW MUCH!!! I'd be better off buying a gas-guzzler and spend the rest for gas!")

John Ard

Maybe they should sell a PHEV muscle car. Then peole will be like "Wow! I can burn rubber and not pay much more for fuel!" It'd work here in Alabama. :)

Tim Russell

Patrick is correct, followed by Mexico.

Here's an intersting survey on alt fuels / vehicle mix in the coming decade. Crap load of info in here but it's not too bullish on hybrids:

allen Z

Tim Russell, Patrick,
The problem is that:
a) Mexico is a developing nation with declining fields. As Mexicans get richer, they might want cars too.
b) Canada is relying ever more on their tar sand/syncrude sources, which is energy and natural gas intensive. Looking at their natural gas reserves, this is not sustainable beyond 2025, unless they use waste heat from a 4th gen nuke power plant for some of the processes.
___I generally agree with the idea of plugins, they will diversify and increase flexibility to our energy needs/demands. However, we will need more transmission lines. If you look at recent power load profiles, there are 2 peaks during a 24 hour period summertime. One is 2-4 PM (daytime workplace/AC use), the other is 7-11 PM (nightime residential AC).
___I suspect they will also force a confrontation between the NIMBYs and consumer demand. There are many who do not want them even within sight of their property, even if the transmission line owner/operator buys the land (and a buffer zone) to which the air rights the towers, lines, and transformers are located.

Max Reid

Russia, Mexico, Nigeria are all countries with fairly higher population and as their people start buying vehicles, they will cut their exports.

China moved from Oil exporting country to importing country last decade, Indonesia last year.

So the way forward is Plugin hybrids. No one expected oil prices to hit $40 around this time, 2 years ago, and today its $70 +.

Hope you guys must have seen July-2006 sales and SUV's (with Truck Chassis) are down 17 % on YTD basis.

At this rate, pretty soon, even the small cars with V4 engines may outsell bigger cars with V6 & V8 enginers.


When a large portion of our imported oils can be dismissed from unfriendly territories I think there is no reason to stop importing from Canada and Mexico. I say this because we won't get change overnight but if we can modify all the variables such that we only need oil from those two countries we would be much better off. Oil is not just used for gasoline & diesel you know.

Harvey D.

Using in-situ or open mine method to extract Oil from Tar Sands uses huge amount of energy and water. Alberta is going to run out of Natural Gas by 2020 or before if activities are substantially expanded as plannned.

The latest news is that the extra energy required will come from local or nearby COAL because it is cheaper than Nuke and faster/easier/cheaper to build the coal-fired power plants. You can imaging the increase in GHG (blowing south-east most of the time) when production is increased from 1+ million barrel/day to 5 + million barrel/day. Bye Bye Kyoto for decades to come.

Ron Fischer

Dear Tim, that survey in Autoextremist is based on members of the Auto Industry. It expresses that blocs goal: little change except for further diesel penetration. I would guess the automaker push for ethanol, while not making technical sense, helps them by adding confusion, ensuring a clear winner does not emerge too soon (hybrid or PI hybrid). Largely the same as the hydrogen fuel cell. Both are presently non-viable but have future development paths that can be made to appear attractive through marketing.

Max Reid

Canada will not always use Natural Gas to extract Oil from Sands, now a days more countries are using LNG and this could increase both the demand and price of natural gas. It nat-gas prices come closer to Oil, Canada will simply stop extracting Oil from Sands and say Sorry.

The ultimate thing is that the energy input-output ratio for Oil is declining.

I guess the Saturn Vue Hybrid which costs only 2K more than Gasolene Vue may provide the much needed break for Hybrid and then the Plugin Hybrids.


Put photovoltaics on the roof of that plug-in hybrid and now you are really talking cool. Drive to work and park car outside in the sun. Get into car at end of day with fully charged battery.

Buh-bye Detroit.

Max Reid

Solar panel will not charge the battery fully, but atleast it can give enough charge to power the vehicle's airconditioner and thats good enough.

The fast charging facility in the gas stations will do the rest.

Tim Russell

Dear Ron, cool out, don't shoot the messenger. I thought it was an interesting survey. Think about it, many of the people in the auto industry don't think hybrids are the answer, that means something! BTW only about 51.6% were in the auto industry according to the part of the survey that showed the respondants. I'm in the "I know more than your avarage citizen" when it comes to cars. I found the Best Solution part of the survey very interesting, 26.8% say fuel cells are the best solution. That beats "much more efficent gas vehicles" (AE's words from the survey) and diesel combined. 4.6% said Plugable hybrids, 3.8 hybrids and 3.1 electric. Good thing only 0.4% said gas vehicles with todays mileage as that would be a bad thing.
Since flex fuel and H2 burning vehicles were higher on the list than diesel and much more efficent gas that's a good hint of what the industry might be looking at.

One little rant: So many people get an idea that X is the answer and anyone who says or even hints it's not is jumped on. No one technology is going to be the answer. Hybrids have their place and many companies are investing in them. It will be a wait and see how much they penatrate the market in the next decade. If you like them buy one, every one sold is a vote for the tech.


Tim, Ron did not "shoot the messenger". He said the study was biased toward auto industry interests, and it appears that he is right.

I agree with you that no one technology is "the answer" at this point. The same was true in 1906, but gasoline (and diesel) ICE pretty much became "the answer" for the rest of the century. Today we are in a state of flux again. Some of us are negative on hydrogen and ethanol because the energy in vs. energy out ratio is poor for them. It further appears that the hydrogen approach is at least partly serving as cover for business as usual, along with being a cynical ploy to gain "environmental cred". What is the sense in building a huge hydrogen distribution infrastructure when the grid is already there? It is important for people here to point out the flaws in bad technology, because GM, Ford, and Vinod Khosla sure as hell aren't going to point them out.

Ron Fischer

Paron Tim. Ending my comment with a strong opinion made it appear to 'attack'. That wasn't the intent. What I agree is that we should eliminate or equalize subsidies and let the market decide. It's the Venture Caps & Auto Companies' 'job' to seek winners. Let a thousand flowers bloom (I worked at startups in Silicon Valley). However, what's confusing about H2 and biofuels are the deeply negative technical impressions one finds digging just under the surface, and how biased our subsidy structures are. Imagine how strong and forward-looking the GOP would appear if they put forward an honestly neutral, market-based plan to solve this.

richard schumacher

For a short description of why hydrogen sucks see the last two pages of this article in Caltech's magazine Engineering & Science: (I recommend downloading the article; for some reason it may hang some browsers.)



In spite of all the "free market" and "market driven" rhetoric, neither the GOP or the Docrats have any clue of how to use the Government to promote economic development -- only economic interests.

Helpful Reader

Hotlink to make saving that document easier:

Tim Russell

Ron I agree that the subsidies should stop. I think most can see corn ethonol isn't the answer. Except for MB Bluetech clean diesel cars are a couple of years from being available in large numbers. Be interesting to see how those sales go.

I try not to get political but here's my take. Don't look for the GOP or the Dems to give a ballanced neutral plan. The Dems are a bit more on the green side so that might help move things along for environmental reasons but both parties are more and more in big businesses pocket. Throw in the farm lobby keeping subsidies in place and you have a formula for government inaction.

I agree with a comment I heard in the news that we need an Apollo mission scale effort to really come up with some answers. It also will take a sea change in the people of the developed world in how we use energy.

Sorry to get long here but one other point. Fuel costs are already being seen in peoples vehicle buying choices. SUV sales are slumping, car sales are going up. Sure the market forces can move slower than some would like but look for more and more fuel efficent choices from all the automakers in the coming years

From CNN money the other day they said Honda is a big winner, they didn't jump into the SUV thing with both feet. They kept building and researching 4 and 6 cyl engines. Sure they built some SUV and even a truck, any company would be foolish to ignore what was a huge growth segment but they didn't stop car developement. While Ford and GM are in trouble due to slumping truck sales because they threw too many eggs in that basket and ingnored their cars. I'm not a fan of any one brand that was just the basis of the article.

Max Reid

The worldwide population of Fuel-Cell + Other Hydrogen vehicles are < 1,000. Compare that with 750,000 Hybrid vehicles.

The momemt, someone introduces plugin hybrid, a whole of lot people will jump into it.

Infact, my guess is 100,000 hybrid owners will sell their vehicles and buy a plugin hybrid, after all its going to cost 2-3K more than regular hybrid.

Joe Stillwell

Finding ways to make automobiles more efficient is great, but why can't the US also work on better mass transit systems? The more cars we get off the road the less oil dependent we become.

The comments to this entry are closed.