Americans Prefer Fuel Economy to New Technology

According to Harris Interactive’s 2010 AutoTECHCAST study, conducted between April 6, 2010 – April 26, 2010, there is greater demand for technologies that provide enhanced fuel economy of existing gasoline driven engines at a lower initial cost, than higher priced alternate fueled engines. Harris Interactive says that one in five Americans indicate they would be extremely or very likely to purchase a start/stop system (21 percent) or an ECO drive assistant (19 percent) that help improve fuel economy. Both of these systems provide an estimated 10 percent gain in MPG. However, barely one in six owners say they are extremely or very likely to purchase flexible fuel engines (16 percent) or a clean diesel engine (14 percent).

David Duganne, Sr. Research Director of Harris Interactive Automotive and Transportation Research states, “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.”

Even less interest exists for purchasing the newer, more costly and/or fully developed fuel efficient engines. Only one out of 25 vehicle owners are extremely or very likely to consider purchasing fuel cell engines (4 percent), hybrid-electric engines (4 percent), plug-in hybrids (4 percent) and pure electric engines (2 percent). A comparative bright spot is a 10% level of consideration of compressed natural gas engines.

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 percent in 2010, up from 11 percent in 2009).

While price is certainly a factor for adoption of these newer engine technologies, other barriers also exist. 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.

David Pulaski, Vice President of Harris Interactive Automotive and Transportation Research states “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.”

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