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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As gas prices decline, consumers are much less likely to consider purchasing a non-gasoline-powered vehicle, according to a new alternative fuel vehicles tracking study commissioned by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
The survey shows that 80 percent of consumers who are considering an alternative fuel vehicle say their primary reason is to save money on fuel. Therefore, interest in these vehicles drops as gas prices do: for every 10-cent drop in gas prices, there is a corresponding 1-percent decrease in the percentage of consumers considering alternative vehicles.
Seventy-eight percent of consumers would consider a non-gas-powered vehicle if gas were $5 per gallon, compared to 68 percent at $4 per gallon and 56 percent at $3 per gallon.
Nearly three out of four consumers considering an alternative vehicle, or 72 percent, would consider a hybrid, followed by a flex-fuel vehicle (42 percent), all electric (34 percent), and hydrogen fuel cell and diesel fuel (22 percent each).
This represents a sharp drop in consumer interest in alternative vehicles since April, when gas prices were 90 cents per gallon higher than today.
In particular, consumer interest in all-electric vehicles has declined, with just 34 percent of survey respondents indicating interest, compared to 55 percent in April. Women are much less likely to consider all-electric vehicles than men, 27 percent vs. 40 percent, likely due to range-anxiety concerns, NACS said.
Aside from saving money on fuel, consumers cited other factors that would incentivize their purchase of alternative fuel vehicles: 51 percent would consider an alternative vehicle to protect the environment, 45 percent would to reduce American dependence on foreign oil, 42 percent would to reduce their carbon footprint, and 41 percent would to increase their driving range.
Although the overall survey results may be discouraging to the alternative fuel industry, there could be opportunities to expand sales. Consumers over the age of 50 are most likely to consider an alternative fuel vehicle as a means of reducing American dependence on foreign oil, with 59 percent citing this reason, compared to 35 percent of those aged 18 to 34. Younger consumers are more interested in how these vehicles fit their lifestyle, with 22 percent citing this reason compared to just 8 percent of those over age 50.