U.S. Consumers Say They’re Interested in Alternative Fuel Vehicles, but Aren’t Buying Them

01.04.18 | Blog | By:

A report released recently by the Fuels Institute has found a strong disconnect between what potential car buyers say they will do and what they actually do when it comes to purchasing non-gasoline powered, alternative fuel vehicles. Consumers and Alternative Fuels 2017, the latest installment of the Fuels Institute’s annual measure of American consumers’ sentiment on vehicle purchases, finds that significantly more consumers said they were very likely or somewhat likely to purchase an alternative fuel vehicle than actually did purchase such a vehicle last year.

For EVs, the report found that factors influencing the gap between consumer interest and actual purchases included low gas prices, lack of battery charging infrastructure, range anxiety, and battery replacement costs, shown in the figure below. The survey found that 81% of consumers who said they would not consider an EV said it was too expensive (presumably, even with the federal tax credit, which is still in effect post the recent passage of tax reform legislation in the U.S.).

Among other key findings in the report:

  • When specifically asked if they would consider an all-electric vehicle for their next purchase, 51% of potential car buyers said they were very or somewhat likely to do so, up from 48% of respondents in a February 2016 Fuels Institute survey. Yet, electric vehicles represented only 0.45 % of all light duty vehicles sold in 2016 (80,039 units).
  • While the Fuels Institute report indicates EVs have a long way to go before capturing significant market share, increased consumer interest in them, especially among consumers aged 18-34, could reflect a growing trend that spurs sales in coming years. As the figure below shows, those aged 18-34 are significantly more interested in EVs than older drivers.

  • The Fuels Institute report found a similarly strong disconnect between stated consumer interest in purchasing hybrid and diesel vehicles and actual sales of these vehicles.
  • Strong consumer interest in alternative fuel vehicles holds the promise of these vehicles capturing significant market share in the future. Factors, including government policies, will play a critical role in how quickly and whether the significant gap between stated consumer preference for alternative fuel vehicles and actual sales of these vehicles will narrow.

 

Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.