By Ami Cholia
Posting in Education
Even though the market is being inundated with new hybrid and electric cars, few Americans know the difference, and that is hurting sales, a survey conducted by research firm Synovate finds.
A hybrid, a gas/electric car, an all-electric vehicle, a plug-in hybrid -- what do all those words mean? Turns out, most Americans don't know the answer. Even though a new hybrid or electric car seems to be launching on a weekly basis these days, a survey conducted by research firm Synovate finds that a majority of new-car buyers are still confused about the varied options available and that the lack of knowledge could prove a significant barrier to sales.
Most consumers don't even understand the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in car, the survey found.
The results are quite shocking: Only 50 percent of the 1,900 or so respondents interviewed knew that plug-in hybrids had an additional battery pack, while only two-thirds know that they use both gasoline and batteries. With pure hybrids, only one-third of respondents knew that they had an electric-only mode (albeit one with a really small range); and about 28 percent thought that hybrids didn't have a tailpipe. The same number also assumed that hybrid vehicles needed more than 15 minutes to refuel. All this after the hybrid has been in the market for over 10 years.
While companies like Nissan seem to have done a better job disseminating knowledge about pure-electric vehicles, most people were still really confused about charge times and emissions.
As Stephen Popiel, senior vice president of Synovate Motoresearch, says, "This low level of understanding about the way in which electric powertrain vehicles work will have profound consequences for vehicle sales. In the short term, dealers will have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the workings of PHEVs and BEVs to interested buyers. We have to wonder if consumers will become disillusioned when they understand the actual requirements of electric vehicles. Will the person who goes to their Chevy dealer to buy a Volt, or their Nissan dealer to buy a Leaf, still buy the vehicle once they discover the need for plugs and 220 volt outlets? And, if they become discouraged with the electric option, will they stay and buy a different Chevy or Nissan vehicle? Or simply leave in confusion?"
Popiel also believes that the government should play a bigger role in educating the public about the different options available.
"There needs to be a significant consumer education process to explain why we must move from a petroleum-based powertrain to an electric based powertrain," said Popiel. "The awareness campaign would have to address questions of environmental protection and national security, i.e. dependence on foreign oil leaves our society vulnerable to outside disruptions."
What do you think? Is the media doing a good enough job educating the public about the different drivetrains available? Should the government play a bigger role in educating the public?
* Update: BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle, PHEV: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, HEV = Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
Mar 11, 2011
Americans are not known for bring very smart! Most don't know where Canada is and some think when you say you come frome Ontario, they think that is somewhere in California. So, Please when you write a comment, say the U.S. not North America. Regards, Randy. P.S. I hope that MOST AMERICANS don't get mad at me. I know Canadians won't.
@A. Z. K. Sanders I'm not sure *YOU* understand the differences between the different HEVs, BEVs and hBEVs... You state in your first paragraph that the Prius has a small battery and motor to assist the vehicle, but the main purpose is the computer for reducing fuel consumption.... I think you are incorrect here...The Prius uses an electric battery to power the vehicle in total at low speeds.. In other words, the gasoline engine remains turned off as long as the vehicle is traveling under a specified speed, or the battery has sufficient charge to propel the vehicle. Once the Prius exceeds the specified speed, the gasoline engine is turned on and from that point on, propells the vehicle in it's entirety. The only time the gasoline engine an electric motor run at the same time is during aggressive acceleration as on jack-rabbit starts from stop or passing other motorists. Your depiction of the PHEV is also incorrect...in the EREV GM version of the PHEV, the gasoline engine *NEVER* propels the vehicle. The Chevy volt runs exclusively on battery and electric motors. Never does the gasoline engine propel the vehicle. The gasoline engine the the Volt (unlike the gasoline engine in the Prius) is there to only charge the batteries.
It would also help consumers if companies were held responsible for providing clear information to meet a prescribed standard instead using of their own proprietary nomenclature to obfuscate as a way of creating distinctions. There can be no more egregious example is GM's promotion (for years pre-release) of the Volt as an BEV when it is in fact it is actually a PHEV.
I drive a truck. I will continue to drive one as long as I can. These cars are too expensive and they don't look safe in an accident. For all the "green" people what do you do with the dead batteries? Do they go in the dump? What is the cost to replace the batteries in one of these cars. I have heard the price is high.
I don't think the author of that survey understands enough about electric vehicles either. Let me try to straighten it out. Historically, the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) comes first, the Prius having been sold successfully for about ten years. It is propelled by a regular gasoline engine but with a small battery and electric motor acting as an assist to improve economy. Battery is small and cheap so can move the car only about a mile, but that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to permit use of a computer to improve efficiency by doing things like seamlessly turning engine off and on at red lights, recapturing energy otherwise lost braking, etc. It has range of 300 miles or so, more than a regular gasoline-engine car. The brand-new battery electric vehicle (BEV), the Leaf, is pure electric, having only a large battery and large electric motor. It has a nominal range of 100 miles per charge, but under unfavorable conditions (like heavy use of heater or air conditioner, heavy slow traffic, etc., the range may drop to 50 miles). This is a serious deficiency for some users since it causes "range anxiety" which results in fear that one may get stuck somewhere. This is much more serious than getting a ride to a filling station and borrowing a five-gallon tank of gasoline. In this case, the car is dead until towed to somewhere that there is an electric outlet which takes hours to recharge the big battery. (It normally takes all the hours in a couple of nights to recharge fully using a 120-volt outlet; a full night from a special 240-volt outlet -- costing an extra thousand or two.) It is really only suitable for drivers who need it for a regular short commute that will never be unexpectedly long. The new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is the Volt which GM insists on calling an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) apparently to avoid confusing it with the successful Prius (a hybrid electric vehicle). However, it is very different. The Prius has a small battery and electric motor assisting the gasoline engine whereas the Volt has a large battery and electric motor assisted by a small gasoline engine. The engine is intended to seamlessly switch to propelling the car after the first 40 miles on the battery. The result is the effective range is 40 miles plus, say, 300, or a total of 340 miles. This means the range anxiety problem of the Leaf has been completely eliminated. Further, the "magic number" of 40 miles on the battery means that the average driver will almost never use any gasoline at all. This eliminates fear of climate change and unsustainable dependence on fossil fuel. Also eliminated is fear of national dependence on unreliable, even hostile, foreign suppliers of oil. Similarly it will eliminate a national annual balance-of-payments deficit of over 500 billion dollars that is unsustainable and must lead to national bankruptcy. None of this can be said of the HEV Prius. From a more personal standpoint, fear of gasoline price increases and shortages is also eliminated. And, as gasoline prices increase, the higher Volt purchase price is more quickly recovered. Incidentally, the Volt is almost universally praised as a fine sports car comparable to the same-price BMW Series 3. Lastly, it is a true all-purpose car for the one-car family since it can be used for long vacation trips, emergencies, and so on. This cannot be said of the BEV Leaf. Finally, it should be said that where the electricity comes from is vital. If it is from a coal-fired generating plant, the climate- change fossil-fuel dependence fear is worsened. If it is from a gas-fired generating plant, the fear is less, but still there. The solution is solar energy which is limitless and not climate- changing. The progressive state of California (and Nevada to some degree) have under construction large concentrating solar power tower plants, some with molten salt heat storage that will provide utility power. A full explanation is beyond the scope of this letter but power is available for sunlit hours plus up to ten hours more daily. They are expensive to build but eventually pay for themselves as there is no cost of fuel. Also the national electric grid will have to be reinforced but this too will eventually be self-financing so that the cost of electricity will be competitive with coal or gas-generated.
Most Americans ARE NOT confused about alternatives to the combustion engine. They know that the technologies are unproven, expensive, and environmentally unsustainable. What do you do with the toxic batteries once a hybrid car becomes junk? How do you produce and distribute electricity to provide power to all-electric vehicles? How many power plants will be required to supply all of these so-called "clean" electric cars? Do you want that electricity to come from coal, gas, or nuclear power plants? Most Americans make sound decisions when buying cars. It is buyers of hybrid or electric cars are completely unaware of the consequences of their actions.
Hi Rocky: WE define a whole bunch of similar looking and sounding EV names here: http://www.evsroll.com/All_Electric_Cars.html BTW The site also covers EV basics and Hybrids. EVsRock!
Here's a good electric vehicle community with news and info: http://www.energyinyourlife.com/article.php?t=100000210
The US auto buying public has become accustomed to choice. There aren't a lot of choices in models at this point. If you need a truck because you need to haul a load on occasion you are out of luck. If you need to regularly drive 300+ miles you are out of luck. Also, the infrastructure isn't in place to "fuel up" your BEV in most places. Too many negatives for a product that is not price competitive. It needs to make dollars and cents.
The government should NOT have a further part in educating the public regarding these cars. The manufactured, through their dealerships, have the advertising money to properly define and make the public aware of what they have to offer. If the car companies cannot convince the public to buy (and of course make them affordable to purchase) then no amount of education from any source will help.
Hey, The chart is from the survey itself, but to clear things up: BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle, PHEV: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, HEV = Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Thanks!
Most people don't know the the differences because different makers define their hybrid differently. The Hybrid Prius works completly differently than the Hybrid Honda Insight, and they both work differently than than the Hybrid Saturn! Every maker of a Hybrid car defines their hybrid differently...is the electric motor a helper motor or does the motor drive the vehicle in it's entirety? And if so, does the electric motor cut off at any perticular speed or range? See the problem? And don't get started on the Plug in electric vehicle! The Volt is a good example! Unlike other gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles, the gasoline motor never powers the wheels! It only charges the batteries! The industry needs to standardize on what definition they are going to use to identify their particular brand of "Hybrid"
Most of these cars are targeted to a relatively thin slice of the upper-middle to upper classes who are prepared to spend $40k or more on a new "2nd" or "commuter" car. To other 95% of the automobile marketplace, there's little point to be invested in all these terms and technologies yet.
Many people driving today are confused about what to do at a red light and verse a green light. To speak of the many eco friendly vehicles can be a nightmare with manufacturers adding to the confusion with unexplained acronyms. Just advertise the car on its price and capabilities. People will not care if mice in a wheel power it as long performance is acceptable and the vehicle performs as advertised.
I remember taking that survey and kind of wondered about the questions. What I wondered was why were they so elemental and that very few people wouldn't know the differences. I guess they were smarter about the survey than I might have been. It's true that I'm an engineer and was a drag racing enthusiast when I was younger - that translates to a bit of a car nut. So I guess the general public is pretty ignorant about this stuff.
This isn't the fr*cking military- AT LEAST define acronyms upon initial use... IMHO*, this is type of data presentation will do nothing to improve the public's understanding. *IMHO="In My Humble Opinion"... See how easy it is?
Yes, please observe the first rule of acronyms. Always provide their expansion at least once in an article and twice doesn't hurt. I'm guessing that BEV expands to battery electric vehicle.
Hi Ami, What are the differences between BEV, PHEV and HEV and what do the anagrams stand for? Thanks, Rocky
You are not criticizing MOST CANADIANS, are you Kenogami? And, I think a previous poster is "right on". Why should most Americans care, when we can't afford those choices, anyway - our lack of interest is the reason for the confusion - when the price is right, and there are vehicles that fit our particular needs, we will educate ourselves as to our best choice. Meanwhile, we will deal with what we have to deal with, including the arrogance of the clueless about what motivates us.