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Economics Drives Buying Decisions on Alternative Fuels and Vehicles

Fuel economy and vehicle cost are most important factors, according to Fuels Institute consumer poll.
August 19, 2014

​ALEXANDRIA, VA – Consumers look at alternative fuels and vehicles the same way they look at traditional fuels: economics drives the purchasing decision.

Consumers say that fuel economy and the cost of the vehicle are far more important than any other attribute when purchasing a new vehicle, according the results of a national consumer poll released by the Fuels Institute, a non-partisan think tank dedicated to evaluating the market issues related to consumer vehicles and the fuels that power them.

More than 8 in 10 consumers say that economic factors such as fuel economy (83%) and vehicle cost (81%) are influential to their vehicle purchasing decision. Safety features were a distant third (51%), followed by fuel or engine type (48%), according to the survey of 2,007 gas consumers conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC on behalf of the Fuels Institute.

"The successful fuel and vehicle technology will be decided by the consumer," said Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger. "Understanding these preferences is critical to forecasting what the future of personal transportation will look like and for deciding which technologies and fuels should be brought to market."

Consumers say that they are open to new alternative vehicles. Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) say that they would consider a non-gasoline vehicle, compared to just 30% who say that they would not.

Hybrid vehicles, which combine electric power with traditional gasoline power, are most appealing to those considering a new car purchase in the next three years, with 85% saying that they would consider a hybrid vehicle. Other alternative vehicles were also of some interest to consumers, including electric (55%), flex fuel (52%), diesel fuel (30%) or other fuels including propane or natural gas (22%).

"The results of this national survey provide a clearer understanding of the relative importance of economic considerations made at the pump and in the showroom,” said Eichberger. “However, while economics may influence purchasing decisions within a specific class of vehicle, they may not necessarily change consumer preferences for a specific class of vehicle," he added.

The survey results are featured in the new white paper, "Consumers and Alternative Fuels: Economics Are Top of Mind,"  which is available for download at The Institute will be publishing three additional reports in September that more closely examine consumer perceptions about non-gasoline vehicle alternatives.