As America continues to face roller coaster prices at the gas pumps and a constant reliance on foreign oil, will that pave the road for hybrid electric cars? It could, if a new survey is accurate.
Around 48 percent of American consumers asked said they would be extremely or very interested in buying a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), according to a new Pike Research survey.
PHEVs promise better fuel mileage, lower carbon emissions, and less oil dependence than cars that use gasoline exclusively.
These hybrids can typically reach a distance of around 40 miles on a single charge. But that fits well within the needs of many drivers. Around 82 percent of those questioned in the "Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey" drive 40 miles or less per day, and on average travel only around 27 miles daily.
Citing the benefits of electric hybrids, 85 percent of consumers said greater fuel efficiency would be important when picking their next car. Pike estimates that the cost of electricity to charge hybrids would equal around 75 cents per gallon of gas.
Around 65 percent of respondents said they'd be willing to pay a premium price for a hybrid, on average close to 12 percent over the cost of a standard gas-powered car.
The survey found that 79 percent would buy a fast-charging electrical outlet for their homes. But many also expressed the need for charging stations at work and at public places.
Younger people and those with higher levels of education did express a somewhat greater desire for hybrids than did other groups. But overall, interest didn't differ much among age, gender, income, or education, leading Pike to believe the vehicles should appeal to the mass market.
Among those not interested in plug-in hybrids, 45 percent said they'd want to wait until the technology is more proven, while 33 percent said 40 miles on a single charge would not meet their needs.
Following their market introduction next year, more than 600,000 PHEVs will be sold in the U.S. by 2015, forecasts Pike. A number of auto companies will soon debut hybrids that can drive a certain distance using only battery power, then switch to gas when the battery is drained.
The research firm gathered its findings from a Web-based survey of 1,041 U.S. consumers during the second quarter of 2009.
Other surveys have uncovered similar results. Last year, a JD Power survey found high consumer interest in hybrids, even with their premium price tags.