MTI report finds consumers receptive to alt-fuel vehicles, but still prefer gasoline; quantifying the trade-offs
|Importance of AFV characteristics in ranking decision. “Concerns about GHG emissions” polled the largest “not important at all” results at 9%. Data: Nixon and Saphores. Click to enlarge.|
A new survey of consumer preferences among four different types of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) by Hilary Nixon and Jean-Daniel Saphores of The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) finds that while consumers in general still prefer gasoline-fueled vehicles over AFVs, there is strong interest in AFVs.
None of the four types of AFV examined—hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) vehicles, and battery-electric vehicles (EV)—was overwhelmingly preferred, although HEVs seem to have an edge, the authors said in their study,Understanding Household Preferences for Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Technologies. Full EVs were ranked last in preference by 40% of the respondents.
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A major focus of the research was assessing the trade-offs people are willing to make among key AFV characteristics, including vehicle cost, fuel cost, vehicle range, and refueling time. To leave people’s utility unchanged, a $1,000 increase in AFV cost needs to be compensated by either:
- A $300 savings in driving cost over 12,000 miles'
- A 17.5-mile increase in vehicle range; or
- A 7.8-minute decrease in total refueling time (e.g., finding a gas station and refueling).
A 10-mile decrease in vehicle range needs to be compensated by a 4.2-minute decrease in total refueling time.
The vehicle range trade-off primarily concerns EVs, the authors note, and it highlights the importance of range for the respondents. The respondents also place a very high value on refueling convenience, which emphasizes the importance of providing enough refueling infrastructure to make AFVs a viable transportation option for households, Nixon and Saphores concluded.
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More than one-quarter of the survey respondents were misinformed about the environmental impacts of motor vehicles or about current vehicle gas-mileage regulations. In particular, educating the public about the advantages of AFVs and the public health impacts of pollution from current vehicles will be necessary to increase support for AFVs, the authors said.
Our analysis reveals that consumers are receptive to AFVs—an outcome that bodes well for policymakers and manufacturers. Nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents listed an AFV (including HEVs) as their top choice in the ranking exercises. While no technology is overwhelmingly preferred, HEVs seem to be currently the most popular alternative to gasoline-fueled vehicles. Except among a small group of respondents, EVs are not favored, despite an emphasis on this technology by the Obama administration.
Although the environmental benefits of AFVs are often touted by the media, this characteristic does not seem to be a determinant for consumers when making large purchases, like motor vehicles. Economic concerns are consumers’ priority, so policymakers and manufacturers who would like to increase the market share for AFVs must make environmental issues a greater priority. More than one-quarter of our respondents were misinformed about the environmental impacts of motor vehicles or about current vehicle gas-mileage regulations; in particular, educating the public about the advantages of AFVs and the public health impacts of pollution from current vehicles will be necessary to increase support for AFVs.—Nixon and Saphores
The nationwide three-part, Internet-based survey of 835 households was administered in February and March 2010 by Knowledge Networks.
(A hat-tip to Mario!)
Hilary Nixon and Jean-Daniel Saphores (2011) Understanding Household Preferences for Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Technologies (MTI Report 10-11)