Hybrid & Electric Vehicles Gaining Recognition – But Slowly in the UK
A survey of 8,000 motorists Conducted on behalf of Continental in eight major international markets indicates that electric and hybrid drive vehicles are currently the subject of “remarkable” interest amongst motorists. At the start of 2008 the market research company TNS/Infratest surveyed approximately 1,000 motorists each in China, Germany, France, UK, Japan, Austria, Switzerland and the USA, asking a series of questions focused upon their current knowledge and opinions of hybrid drive systems, driving styles and battery powered cars. The feedback received showed that 36.0 per cent of those surveyed were willing to buy a hybrid drive car and a surprising 45.8 per cent expressed an interest in purchasing an electric car. “This trend holds great potential for us as an automotive supplier and provider of environmentally-friendly drive technologies,” said Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Conti Executive Board member and chief technology officer, at a press conference in Austria.
Concern for the environment and rising fuel prices were quoted as equally important motivators for changing behaviour. Higher fuel costs led 45 per cent of all motorists surveyed to report changed driving behaviour, and the Japanese, at 62.6 per cent, have changed their driving behaviour the most in response to higher diesel and gasoline prices, followed by Germans at 55.2 per cent.
The figure among Americans was 42.8 percent. The two notable exceptions to this trend were the British and the Chinese, of whom 60 per cent and 48.9 per cent respectively reported no change at all to their driving behaviour in response to increased prices.
The upward trend in fuel prices is feeding greater interest in alternative drive systems, but the study indicates that awareness of such systems varies greatly around the world. About one in five motorists thinks immediately of hybrid drives, which combine a petrol and electric engine. This type of drive is best known among the Japanese, at 46.9 per cent. The British, however, whose 3.9 per cent awareness level – the lowest in the survey – are not the only ones whose knowledge is lacking in this area: only 6.6 per cent of Americans are familiar with the hybrid drive system.
With an average recognition rate of 16.8 per cent, the pure electric drive comes in second. Austrian and French motorists at 33.3 per cent and 31.7 percent respectively, mentioned this variant even more frequently than the hybrid drive. “Urban and short-route drivers can reduce their energy consumption by more than 25 percent using hybrid drives, while also reducing CO2 emissions,” stated Dr. Neumann regarding advantages compared to conventional vehicles. “There is also tremendous potential for American drivers: almost two-thirds of all motorists there drive in urban traffic and/or on short routes.”
A total of 36 per cent of respondents claimed they would be definitely interested and very likely to purchase a vehicle with hybrid drive. Respondents in the high-growth coastal regions of China were even more enthused: After the technology is explained, more than half of Chinese motorists (53.8 per cent) can imagine purchasing a hybrid vehicle – a marked contrast with the 27.4 per cent of Germans – less than one-third – that are prepared to make such a purchase decision. A majority of motorists would be interested, however, if the government provides tax incentives for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. More than half of the respondents (64.2 per cent) would then consider purchasing a hybrid car. These incentives are even more decisive for Germans (66.6 per cent), Austrians (67.6 per cent) and British (69.6 per cent).
Thus far, more than half of international motorists (58.1 per cent) assume that environmentally friendly hybrid drives have higher purchase costs compared to conventional cars. An average of 50.8 per cent of motorists are not prepared to pay more for a hybrid vehicle. The other half could envision investing up to 2,781 euros in a more environmentally friendly vehicle.
The environment is the second most-important factor for most Europeans, however, excepting a minority of respondents, the British Asian and American motorists surveyed did not focus on this issue. “These results show that acting in an environmentally friendly way is also cost-efficient,” explained Dr. Neumann. “The purchase costs alone should not be the decisive criterion and must be viewed long-term, where hybrid technologies and drives will bring significant savings for motorists who drive mainly in urban traffic.”