What Does the Public Really Think About Alternative Fuel Vehicles?

Project information

Content type: Survey and Infographic

Original context: Green-Car-Guide-com

Client: Nationwidevehiclecontracts.co.uk (via Fresh Egg)

This multi-stage piece looked at a controversial issue of interest to Nationwide Vehicle Contracts' customers, seeking exposure on a green motoring site.

  • A large pool of respondents provided data on opinions across international and gender divides, alongside a general picture of environmental perceptions and green motoring knowledge
  • After compiling and analysing the data for appealing angles, I provided a wireframe and brief for the resulting infographic, which was produced in-house at Fresh Egg


US Alternative Fuel Awareness Outpaces UK

The wholesale switch of the automotive industry from conventional petrol engines to alternatively fuelled options in our vehicles seems inevitable, yet precisely what we're switching to is uncertain. We have a scientific and public consensus that the switch is necessary, but what do the consumers caught up in the movement actually think? A new survey and infographic commissioned by Nationwide Vehicle Contracts has asked respondents their views on environmental issues, gauged their alternative fuel knowledge and asked what they expected from the future of the various technologies.

  Alternative Fuels: What do people really think?

Oceans Apart: UK versus US attitudes

Among the most significant findings is the disparity between American and British knowledge, particularly regarding Hybrid Electric vehicles. Whereas 97.3% of all Americans surveyed had heard of the technology, only 65.2% of their British counterparts named it (though it was still the most commonly identified technology among UK respondents). This reflects a greater push on the technology in the United States, where passengers are more likely to take longer journeys and where fuel economy may be more of an issue. US respondents were also more likely to identify Battery Electric, Biodiesel, Bioethanol, HCNG, Hydrogen and Solar Electric.

Looking to the future, 71.3% of people in the US predicted that Hybrid Electric cars would account for 25% of vehicles on international roads in 2032 – twice as many as in the UK. American respondents were also more likely to identify the potential for Hybrid Electric cars to be outmoded in fifty years time (2062): Hybrids presumably becoming useless as soon as fuel reserves are depleted. Solar Electric was also seen as a breakout technology in the long term: 52.8% of US respondents believe Solar powered cars will be a significant feature of the roads of 2062 compared to just 27.9% in the UK (blame the weather).

Why Won't They Buy?

Familiar concerns about alternative fuel car capability were expressed by survey respondents. According to the survey, the greatest barrier to purchase was the cost of vehicles (79.5% of respondents cited this as a barrier to purchase). The cost of fuel followed (44.4%), with charge time (43.1%) and availability of charging points (37.2%) also significant. However, the punch line of the research is that 70.3% of people believed they would one day own an alternative fuel vehicle, a number that while encouraging, still reveals that nearly a third of people will still be stubbornly clinging to petroleum for as long as they can.

Key Facts

Environmental opinions:

  • 58.7% of respondents are 'moderately concerned' about environmental issues
  • 25%/75% split on 'unconcerned'/'concerned'
  • Over a third of respondents felt that CO2 from conventional petrol vehicles, fossil fuel burning power plants and deforestation had 'a significant effect' when contributing to environmental problems
  • Deforestation had the highest average environmental problem rating (3.76 on a five point scale)

Alternative fuel knowledge:

  • 80% of respondents had heard of Hybrid Electric as a method of alternative fuel
  • Other well known fuels include Solar Electric (73.9%), Biodiesel (71.8%) and Battery Electric (66.1%)
  • Only 6.5% of respondents have heard of Ammonia Fuel and only 4.5% have heard of Dimethyl Ether Fuel
  • 39.1% of respondents had been inside some form of alternative fuel vehicle at some point
  • Of these, 70% had been inside a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (27.75% of the entire pool of respondents)
  • Only 11.4% actually currently own some form of alternative fuel vehicle
  • Only 28.6% of these own a Hybrid Electric car (3% of the entire pool of respondents)
  • 84.7% of respondents felt that conventional petrol was not environmentally friendly
  • Other dispreferred fuel sources included Ammonia (69.1%) and Dimethyl Ether Fuel (62.2%)
  • Preferred fuel sources include Solar Electric (89.9%), Hybrid Electric (77.7%), Algae Biofuels (74.6%), Hydrogen Fuel Cells (70.4%) and Battery Electric (68.9%)
  • Respondents are a little more unsure about Biodiesel (59.2% in favour), Bioethanol (51.2% in favour), Biomass Gas (52.7% against) and liquid Nitrogen (56.5% against)

Opinions about the future of alternative fuel:

  • 52.3% of respondents predict that Hybrid Electric will account for more than 25% of traffic internationally
  • Only 30.5% believe that conventional petrol will still be significant. 35.1% put their money on Battery Electric and 30.1% on Solar Electric
  • When the range is extended to fifty years from now, only 13% believe that conventional petrol will still be used. Hybrid Electric also sees diminishing faith (43.1%, down from 52.3%)
  • A number of people think that Hydrogen Fuel Cells will have their day sometime after the 20 year period – 27.6% believe that such cars will account for more than 25% of traffic in 2062, up from 16.7%

Opinions on future purchasing habits:

  • 70.3% believe they will own an alternative fuel vehicle in their lifetime
  • 79.5% identified the cost of AFVs as a barrier to a future purchase
  • Other significant worries included – the cost of the fuel itself (44.4%), the replenishment/charge time (43.1%), availability of replenishment/charging points (37.2%)
  • Respondents were relatively unconcerned about range (29.3%), safety (25.1%) and the environmental friendliness of sourcing fuels (16.3%)

Cross tabulation: US/UK comparisons

  • General environmental concerns were broadly shared between the two nations
  • 97.3% of respondents based in the US have heard of Hybrid Electric versus only 65.2% of UK respondents
  • The US are generally more alternative energy aware – a significant number more are aware of Battery Electric, Biodiesel, Bioethanol, HCNG, Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Solar Electric (20% plus difference)
  • Reflected in experience of these vehicles: 80% of US respondents have been inside a Hybrid car, compared with 55.9% of UK respondents
  • US respondents also more likely to have been in Battery Electric, Biodiesel, HCNG vehicles
  • Greater awareness of alternative fuels coincided with a more positive opinion – 86.5% of US respondents identified Hybrid Electric as environmentally friendly, versus 69.1% in the UK
  • American respondents were generally more optimistic about the capabilities of alternative fuels, a majority rating nine fuels as environmentally friendly (versus UK seven). Yes vote average – 63.8% US versus 55.99% UK
  • 20-year outlook: 71.3% of US respondents believe that Hybrid Electric will account for 25% of vehicles on International roads, only 36.4% of UK respondents believe the same
  • Similar optimism for Battery Electric (46.3% versus 25.6%) and Solar Electric (35.2% versus 25.6%)
  • 50-year outlook: Hybrid Electric optimism in the US plummets from 71.3% to 49.1% (stays similar in UK – 38%)
  • US respondents consider Solar Electric a breakout technology: 52.8% believe it will be an important tech 50-years from now, whereas just 20-years from now only 35.2% feel it will be important
  • 39.5% of UK respondents don't believe they will ever own an alternative fuel vehicle, compared with only 18.5% of US respondents
  • 92.6% of US respondents found the cost of AFV prohibitively high versus only 69.8%

Cross tabulation: gender divide

  • More women believe they are likely to own an alternative fuel vehicle at some point in their life (75.9% versus 61.7% male)
  • Men are currently more concerned about vehicle range than women (40.4% versus 22.1%)