And they don’t know much more about hybrids, either. A study by London-based market research firm Synovate found that new vehicle buyers hardly knew that hybrids contained batteries, used gasoline, or couldn’t be plugged in.
Only two-thirds of people surveyed knew that hybrids used both battery and gasoline power (hence the “hybrid” name), and only one-third knew that hybrids could run on the electric motor by itself.
It gets more distressing. Those surveyed about plug-in hybrids didn’t know that they still required gasoline. Less than half knew that plug-ins, like their regular hybrid brethren, could also run in electric-only mode.
The survey was conducted from Oct. 22 and Nov. 2 of last year, among 1,898 Americans who were about to buy a new car or intended to do so. Synovate concluded from these results that a lack of buyer knowledge could affect vehicle sales, before going on to prove the aqueous qualities of dihydrogen monoxide.
“This low level of understanding about the way in which electric powertrain vehicles work will have profound consequences for vehicle sales,” said Stephen Popiel, senior vice president of Synovate Motoresearch. “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.”
Ultimately, “whose job is it to educate consumers about these powertrains?” Popiel asked. Is it the manufacturer’s responsibility? The media’s? Or even the government’s? Synovate didn’t suggest anything. Either way, “long-term success of the electrification of the fleet will only come about with a better-educated consumer,” said Popiel.
Certainly, shelling out for the second most-expensive consumer purchase in one’s lifetime merits even basic knowledge of its functions. You may not have to read the owner’s manual cover to cover (unless you’re a nerd), but if you don’t remember to put gasoline in your hybrid, then it’s back to the drawing board.