How Are You Going Green? Study Suggests 25% Of Drivers Want Hybrids

September 13, 2012

Pretend for a moment that you're walking down the street, minding your own business, when a stranger approaches and offers you $1,000 cash. The money is yours for the taking -- no questions asked, no illicit activities involved -- but you have to spend it on energy savings. What would you do with it?

That's the question that polling firm Penn Schoen Berland posed to consumers, and the results were interesting, to say the least. 

Given the circumstances, you might imagine that a substantial portion of respondents would choose to spend the money on savings to benefit their homes. And in fact, 25% did, saying that they'd use the $1,000 to replace old appliances with energy-efficient models or that they'd purchase solar panels to cut down on electric consumption.

However, another 25% said that they'd take the $1,000 and purchase a hybrid vehicle, which implies that at least a quarter of Americans see gas consumption as their biggest energy expense. (Never mind that the difference between hybrid and standard models is typically far more than $1,000. The hybrid Toyota Camry, for example, starts at just under $26,000, while its non-hybrid sibling is priced from around $22,000.)

Other findings

We've known for some time that fuel efficiency is the most important criteria for new-car shoppers. But the Penn Schoen Berland study uncovered some other interesting statistics:

  • Roughly 70% of respondents "have changed their driving habits to become more fuel-efficient".
  • In all, 64% of respondents said that they're now driving less than they used to, and 41% said that they're driving slower. Interestingly (and somewhat alarmingly), 10% said that they make a point of driving behind bigger vehicles to benefit from reduced wind resistance, saving fuel.
  • 32% of those surveyed said that they've done research to find the least expensive gas in their area.
  • 21% said that they've bought a more fuel-efficient vehicle.
  • And 82% of survey participants said that they've shelled out more dough for "green" products, based on the assumption that those products will produce savings in the long term.


This study isn't without it's flaws. For starters, it was commissioned by Ford Motor Company, which is using the survey figures to highlight the importance and attractiveness of its fuel-efficient vehicles -- specifically, the Fusion EcoBoost with Auto Start-Stop. That's not to say that the study is invalid, only that the commissioning process raises a slight red flag. 

Our concerns aren't assuaged by the fact that we know very little about the study itself. For example, Penn Schoen Berland didn't release any data about its methodology, target demographic, or sample size. That doesn't invalidate the survey either, but when we're talking about 25% of a survey's respondents, we'd like to have an idea of how many people that means.

Do these findings match your own feelings about fuel-saving technology? How much of a premium would you be willing to spend on a hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle? Some studies have suggested that consumer are comfortable paying more for green tech if they see a return on their investment within two years: does that match your own opinions? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

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