Survey Says Consumers Still Prefer Gas-Powered Vehicles

According to a survey from Mineta Transportation Institute (MNI), consumers continue to prefer gasoline-fueled vehicles are over alternative-fueled vehicles, though there is a strong interest these vehicles. No particular type of alternative-fuel vehicle is overwhelmingly preferred, although hybrid-electric seem to have an edge.

Using a panel rank-ordered mixed logit model, the researchers assessed the trade-offs people make between key alternative-fuel characteristics. They found that, in order to leave a person's utility unchanged, a $1,000 increase in alternative-fuel vehicle cost must 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).

The study’s author, Hilary Nixon said, "Although one-third of respondents ranked gasoline-fueled vehicles as their first choice, 20 percent of respondents ranked gasoline vehicles last, and there is a strong interest in AFVs. Although no AFV type is overwhelmingly preferred, HEVs seem to have an edge, which probably reflects the fact that a number of popular HEVs have been available for several years."

Full electric vehicles (EVs) are the least popular of the alternative-fuel vehicles that the respondents were asked to consider. In fact, they were ranked last by 40 percent of the respondents. The researchers say it is apparent that the current limitations of these vehicles, such as their limited range and long recharging time, are still a deterrent to their widespread household adoption.

"The vehicle range trade-off primarily concerns EVs, and it highlights the importance of range for our respondents," said Jean-Daniel Saphores, the study’s other co-author. "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."

The research results have certain policy implications. Although the media often tout the environmental benefits of alternative-fuel vehicles, this characteristic does not seem to be a determining factor when buyers make large purchases, such as motor vehicles. Economic concerns are their priority. Therefore, policymakers and manufacturers who would like to increase the market share for AFVs must make environmental issues a greater educational priority. 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 nationwide three-part, Internet-based survey of 835 households was administered in February and March 2010 by Knowledge Networks. The final report is available for free download from the Mineta Transportation Institute at

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