When Consumer Reports issues a guide to alternative fuels, consumers know the decision to “Go Green” or to even save money at the gas pump is probably not an easy one. The car and gas industries may struggle to market vehicles that offer alternatives to gasoline as long as consumers find the choices confusing.
A random survey by Consumer Reports in April concluded that car buyers are not confident in making fuel-efficient, alternative fuel choices. They feel the leading disadvantages are high purchase price, inadequate refueling or recharging infrastructure, and the cost of battery replacement.
Higher vehicle purchase prices was a deterrent for 74 percent of the prospective buyers. Limited driving range and limited choices were also factors. The report noted, however, that some of the concerns may be unfounded and based on perceived information rather than data.
There are now multiple sources for powering vehicles and some of them are virtually unknown to most consumers.
There are at least seven alternatives, other than gas or diesel, fuel vehicles. The alternatives include electric, hybrid, propane, hydrogen, diesel, liquid natural gas, compressed natural gas, methanol, and P series fuels (including ethanol).
Auto makers are offering vehicles with all of these choices or hybrids that combine gasoline and an alternative. In March, President Barack Obama proposed increasing the current $7,500 tax credit for advanced technology vehicles to a maximum of $10,000. The credit would also apply to more vehicles than just plug-in cars, as it does now.
Vehicle availability is increasing; however, many consumers do not purchase the alternative choices because the purchase prices are typically much higher than conventional vehicles.
A bigger issue is fuel availability.
Pull up to your favorite gas station and how many choices are there? Regular gasoline, premium gasoline and diesel. Consumers will not find a compressed natural gas pump locally or a charging station for an electric vehicle.
They won’t find hydrogen fuel currently in the United States except in California. Hydrogen contains much less energy than gasoline or diesel on a per-volume basis, so hydrogen vehicles can only go about 300 miles between fill-ups.
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