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Harris AutoTECHCAST Study Finds US Vehicle Owners Currently Would Choose Lower-cost, Higher Fuel Economy Gasoline-Engined Vehicles Over Higher-Priced Alt Fuel Engines or Electric Vehicles

According to Harris Interactive’s 2010 AutoTECHCAST study, conducted between 6-26 April 2010, there is currently greater demand among US vehicle owners for technologies that deliver improved fuel economy of existing gasoline-driven engines at a lower initial cost, rather than for higher-priced alternative-fueled engines.

One in five Americans indicate they would be extremely or very likely to purchase a start/stop system (21%) or an ECO drive assistant (19%). Both of these systems provide an estimated 10% gain in fuel economy. Barely one in six owners say they are extremely or very likely to purchase flexible fuel engines (16%) or a clean diesel engine (14%). Even less interest exists for purchasing electrified vehicle technologies.

Only one out of 25 vehicle owners are extremely or very likely to consider purchasing fuel cell engines (4%), hybrid-electric engines (4%), plug-in hybrids (4%) and pure electric engines (2%).

A relative bright spot is a 10% level of consideration of compressed natural gas engines.

Consideration for clean diesel engines has been consistent over the past several years of the study, while that of flexible fuel engines has decreased. With the current push of clean diesel by European automakers, we anticipate this will start to increase while consideration for flexible fuel will continue to decrease, especially as other alternative fueled engines continue to come to market.

—David Duganne, Sr. Research Director of Harris Interactive Automotive and Transportation Research

The interest in technology-driven approaches using traditional gas engines is growing. ECO drive assistant doubled its level of consideration from the 2009 study (19% in 2010, up from 11% in 2009).

While price is certainly a factor for adoption of these newer engine technologies, other barriers also exist, Harris says. The price of the fuel (where applicable), the lack of an infrastructure for refueling or recharging, concerns about service and repair of the vehicles and in the case of the electric vehicles, how long the charge will last in respect to one’s daily commute are all detrimental to consumer acceptance.

“How likely would you be to purchase this technology if it added [INSERT PRICE] to the total cost of your vehicle?”
 

Clean Diesel Engine

Compressed Natural Gas Engine

ECO Drive Assistant

Flexible Fuel Vehicle

Fuel Cell

Hybrid Electric

Plug-In Hybrid

Pure Electric

Start/Stop System

Price

$1,000

$1,000

$250

$250

$5,000

$3,500

$4,000

$4,000

$500

Base

997

981

984

986

986

998

978

983

995

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

TOP 2 BOX (NET)

14

10

19

16

4

4

4

2

21

Extremely Likely

4

4

8

5

2

1

2

1

10

Very Likely

10

6

11

11

2

3

3

2

10

Likely

15

12

14

18

5

13

6

5

12

BOTTOM 2 Box (NET)

70

78

67

67

91

83

91

93

67

Somewhat Likely

25

25

29

27

23

29

21

18

27

Not At All Likely

45

53

38

40

68

54

70

75

40

Although there are some significant entry barriers, we believe that as consumers become more familiar with alternative fuel approaches, and gasoline costs rise, demand will grow. To raise mass market appeal automakers and government agencies must educate consumers on the benefits they offer, while reducing infrastructure issues. Education must not only address what is being done, but connect with the emotional elements of the concerns. At some point technologies that nip away at enhanced fuel economy aren’t going to provide automakers with the gains needed to keep up with industry requirements.

—David Pulaski, Vice President of Harris Interactive Automotive and Transportation Research

The new Harris Interactive 2010 AutoTECHCAST study, an annual survey of adult vehicle owners in the United States includes “start/stop system”; “ECO drive assistant”; “clean diesel engine”; “flexible fuel vehicle”; “compressed natural gas engine”; “fuel cell engine”; “plug-in hybrid engine”; “pure electric engine” as well as 61 other unique technologies spanning across several categories that include: Entertainment, Exterior Comfort & Convenience; Glass; Intelligent Sensing; Interior Comfort & Convenience; Lighting; Powertrain & Alternative Fuels; Ride & Handling; Safety; and Telematics.

The study also finds that there is increasing consideration for voice activated technologies that allow drivers to interact with their audio, navigation or telematics systems while helping them stay focused on the road. Additionally, technologies that provide the ability to customize a vehicle, such as the instrument panel or interior lighting color, have lower levels of consideration and exhibit more niche than mass market appeal.

The AutoTECHCAST study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive among 12,225 US adults ages 18 and over and who own or lease a vehicle, have a valid driver’s license, have at least one household vehicle, own a listed North American model 2005 or newer, and are at least 50% involved in the decision to buy their next household vehicle.

Results were weighted as needed for age, gender, education, region and income and to properly represent US vehicle segment owners. Propensity score weighting also was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

Comments

HarveyD

Some of us seems to be growing up and progressively pulling out of our addiction to large gas guzzlers but it is still a small minority.

Peak oil + more economic disturbances + lower cost batteries + a few more Gulf disasters etc may convince the majority by 2030+?

ToppaTom

I like these cheap, worthless surveys more than the expensive worthless trials.

But I firmly believe that when EVs become price competitive and (remain) cost of ownership winners the tide will shift dramatically – overnight.

Most manufacturers realize people do not want expensive electric bricks like the EV1 or golf carts.
The Prius is held back by high cost – but when low cost batteries become available all sizes and shapes of EVs will emerge.

Engineer-Poet

The attractiveness of things like electric propulsion depend on the cost of money compared to the cost of fuel. If the USA adopted European-level gas taxes as a way to control demand, the popularity would be a lot higher.

People are on to the flex-fuel scam. It has no future.

SJC

FFVs cost about $200 more per car and that can be paid back in a few years with lower fuel costs. This shows me that most people are unaware that they get cleaner air and less imported oil with M85.

HarveyD

Cost is rather relative. Something like $50K to $60k for an extended range, fair size EV may be acceptable to many in USA, Canada, EU, Japan, Australia etc, specially when quick charge points are everywhere. Of course, the top 5% in most industrial countries can afford $100+K e-cars if the performance is there.

The days of $3k cars are long gone. Most of us have been paying about $30k for a while. We survived the rise from $3k to $30K and we will also survive another rise from $30k to $60k. That will happen regardless of the technology used. The only thing that could stop that progressive change would be a 10 to 20 year economic recession.

Sanity Chk

All this tells me is that most people don't know much about the technologies presented, are resistant to change, and have no way to put them into context. All this will change when gas prices rise again.

ToppaTom

Cost is relative.

Small EVs are expensive and/or performance/range limited. Small ICE vehicles are low cost.

A $50K to $60k small EV will not suffuce when there are $10K to $30K small ICE vehicles on the market


People know about the technologies presented, or observe those who do. It is common knowledge that EVs are not ready


The majority are resistant to high tech, low value and attracted to high tech, high value and they put this into context easily.

All this will drive change when gas prices rise again; but only if battery prices are low enough.

Sanity Chk

Small, practical single-place commuter EVs with 60mi range and 75mph top speed are already available @ the $30K price. By 4Q10 Myers Motors expects to start delivering their 2-place Duo for $25K - $30K (without rebates and other incentives), with battery options for 80 and 100 mile ranges ($2.5K & $5K respectively).

http://myersmotors.com/

The Nissan Leaf will be in production by 4Q10 as well, but priced in the $35K - $40K range (without rebates and other incentives).

The Volt might be on the market by the end of the year too, at about the $45K price range (again without incentives) - and it's a hybrid.

Depending on where you live, the incentives can reduce the price by 10-20%. Considering that operating and maintenance costs of an EV will be less than 10% of an ICE-powered car, the benefits really do add up rather quickly - particularly as oil prices climb.

In general, people aren't terribly knowledgeable about the trade-offs and costs of operation and ownership of EVs. Were Harris to present their "study" participants with comparative data on total ownership costs, in easy to interpret graphical forms, the results would better reflect how consumers would decide.

They claim that consumers are leary about charging infrastructure for EVs. In reality, the 60+mi range of introductory low-cost EVs will allow the majority of people to own one for commuting/shopping while needing to recharge only at home. This and the total cost of ownership is the context of which I wrote, and an education issue to be sure.

This survey seems driven by what auto manufacturers currently produce with incremental improvements to ICE efficiencies - and not seriously addressing clean-sheet EVs with volume of production price points.

Once EVs get into mass production with growing competition, prices will inevitably drop. It's a bit of a catch-22 getting there, but that is what incentives are intended to address.

Arne

Problem with these kind of surveys is that people have to make a choice between a plethora of real, visible, buyable cars (ICE) and vaporware (EV's).

They can only judge EV's by what they were told about them. People need real, visible, tangible things to fully appreciate them. Wait until the neighbour-with-the-big-house-and-two-mercs-in-the-driveway buys one, and they'll want it too.

Buying a car is mostly an emotional experience, and it is impossible to predict where the market will be heading once the EV's start appearing in the showrooms.

SJC

I agree, if their neighbor has an FFV/PHEV they will find out about it and decide. Advertisements help get out the word, but for an expensive purchase, most need more than that.

wintermane2000

For many people its simply the fact they dont have room or money for anouther car and thats all a bev is right now anouther car not THE car.

ai_vin

Problem with these kind of surveys is that people have to make a choice between a plethora of real, visible, buyable cars (ICE) and vaporware (EV's).

They can only judge EV's by what they were told about them. People need real, visible, tangible things to fully appreciate them. Wait until the neighbour-with-the-big-house-and-two-mercs-in-the-driveway buys one, and they'll want it too.

And that is the real reason GM crushed the EV1.

sulleny

Anne is close to the purchase decision tree. For many, auto purchases are emotional - hence the plethora of styles. Rarely does anyone but a gearhead set out to buy an auto based on a technology.

The day the neighbor shows off his Leaf or Volt, and claims NOT to have bought gas for the last five weeks - the little wheels will begin to turn. The emotional buyer will focus only on the idea that "Hey, I don't have to buy gas anymore! I just plug the sucker in overnight!" If he/she's a left brainer, they'll run the numbers to see how long after it'll take to recoup added purchase price against zero/low gas purchase.

Other people will simply be delighted to beat the oil companies who are cast in a poor light already. EVs and PHEVs have the great advantage of offering logical solutions for half a dozen social and economic issues. That puts them in a sweet spot early on. IF Volt's MSRP is $35k, then it sells for $27.5k with low interest rates - easily accessible to millions.

"Studies" such as this present little information of use to the current cycle. The early adopters will be the best advertising for PHEVs - and since both Volt and Leaf will sell out their initial runs - there will be carefully planned pent up demand.

fred schumacher

The consumers polled by this study were acting quite rationally. Consumers are very cautious about adding debt right now, and BEVs and PHEVs would about double their debt load for an automobile purchase, ergo the weak interest in them. They're voting their pocketbook.

BEVs will have to drop to a price under present standard sedan cost to generate high interest and overcome the limits of range that consumers see as a real negative.

Engineer-Poet

When the worst that's required to handle limits of range is a generator on a trailer, that negative perception won't last long.

HarveyD

Could a rental plug-in mini genset be installed (under the hood or in the booth?) for the occasional long trip or whenever you have to change your BEV into a PHEH?

Sanity Chk

Rental gen-sets an excellent way to keep your EV light while accommodating extended range for the occasions that you need it.

I like the idea of having a plug-in receptacle of some sort for it. A lot of people might not want to tow equipment behind the car.

ToppaTom

Renting something to allay fears of range limits is like renting a car or motor home for your vacation.

Very logical, but a bit of a hassle - Does not happen.

I agree with Anne that car buying is emotional, but not quite the way we would like.

Prius sales are driven both ways:

1. BUY - because you get sophisticated engineering and really great mpg for some extra bucks
or
2. DON”T BUY - because you don’t want to look the pound foolish geek - and/or you don’t like the payback equation.

Sadly, Prius sales are 1.1% in the US – Umm.

I firmly believe that when the time comes that EVs make fiscal sense, they will flood the highways. The Volt and Leaf production numbers indicate GM and Nissan do not believe this time has come.

ai_vin

Renting something to allay fears of range limits is like renting a car or motor home for your vacation.

Very logical, but a bit of a hassle - Does not happen.

Maybe you should tell Hertz and Avis that.
"Does not happen." he says :-p Not only do people rent cars and RV for vacations every day some people use *rentals* for everyday driving: The guy across the road from me has been using a Carsharing service; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carsharing for three years now.

"Does not happen." he says lol

SJC

True believers do not need facts nor evidence, they believe and are absolutely certain.

wintermane2000

The two groups I see going for bev and phev cars are the ev/phev addict and those with enough money its just a toy to them.

Basicaly the same as when cars first can out.. You had car addict buying a dream and the rich buying toys.

The rest of us simply arnt addicted to it and dont have enough money to buy a 30-40-120k toy... Or are bussy buying other spendy toys.


Sanity Chk

Toppa: Why does renting a gen-set for going on a vacation seem so problematic to you? I don't know anyone who hasn't rented a rototiller or lawn thatcher or a cement mixer etc. who considered it a nuisance. I know many who rent RVs, autos, pop-up campers, etc. for vacation use who love the idea of not having to own it for the other 45-50 wks of the year.

This is a rather trivial adjustment for people to make in their lifestyles. Considering the urgency for action on reducing our CO2 emissions, this seems like a no-brainer.

Sanity Chk

winter: I'm not sure what point you are making here but I do know that we as a country, as a people concerned for the state of the world we're leaving our descendants, MUST act swiftly to rid ourselves of carbon-spewing belch-fire ICE machines.

Given the problems of AGW mitigation, national security, and trade deficit, why would anyone oppose moving rapidly to a future with highly efficient vehicles and renewable energy generation? Yes, it may cost something, it may be sometimes inconvenient, but the alternative is orders of magnitude more so.

SJC

"Higher-Priced Alt Fuel Engines"

Their quote is $250 per unit for FFV, I do not consider that "higher priced". GM has already said that they can make half their fleet FFV in a few years with no increase in price. If all new cars were FFV, we would have 50 million on the road in only 5 years. NOW you have a market for alternate fuels.

Engineer-Poet

The "alternate" fuels (mostly made with fossil fuels anyway) cost more per mile, which is in addition to whatever the FFV hardware costs.

GM ought to license Fiat's Multi-Air technology and use E85 with that. An engine 1/2 the displacement and 1/2 the weight with the same power and torque would let vehicles be made lighter and more efficient.

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