Fuel Costs Drive Interest in Green Cars

Hybrids and high-mileage gas vehicles? Bring ‘em on. Plug-ins and fuel cells? Meh, not so much. That’s the view—driven by an interest in spending less money on gas—that prevailed among some 2,000 people who responded to a survey by online car seller Autobytel in July.

The website reported 57 percent of participants in the self-selected—and, thus, non-scientific— survey indicated an interest in purchasing an “alternative fuel vehicle.” Not surprisingly, as the price at the pump rises, interest in alternative fuel vehicles also goes up. Autobytel pegged $3.50 a gallon as the tipping point for gas prices; more than a third of respondents said that alone would compel them to switch to a green car.

image via Toyota

When choosing from among fuel-efficient vehicle types, hybrids and high-mileage, small gas vehicles together were preferred by more than half of respondents, while plug-ins and fuel cells were pegged by just a fifth of the people.

The survey was conducted at the height of the BP oil spill crisis, but most of the respondents—58 percent—said the sight of crude washing ashore would have no influence at all on their buying decision. Yet there was a generational split on that issue, with more than two-thirds of survey participants under age 25 saying the environmental disaster would be a factor.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.