European motorists choose environmentally-friendly car makers: survey

15 January 2013 - 15:19 By AFP Relaxnews

A survey of over 6 000 European motorists highlights fears about climate change and efforts to reduce their impact on the environment.

Despite 71% of respondents claiming they have reduced their spending due to the current economic and financial situation, 35% said that they would be prepared to pay more for an environmentally friendly car and 57% said they want to lead a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

The survey, conducted by The Futures Company, and commissioned by Ford Europe, shows that over half of those that took part (53%), rate climate change as the world's biggest issue and that 68% claim to tailor their driving to fuel efficiency. When it came to choosing a new vehicle, 60% said that they prefer models from manufacturers that have targeted a reduction in their environmental impact and 71% rate fuel-efficiency as a major factor in the decision-making process.

Of the results, Andreas Ostendorf, vice president, Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering, Ford of Europe, said: "The majority of car buyers prefer fuel-efficient vehicles, even if only a minority feel they can afford to invest in one given the current economic climate."

A report by Pike Research on the future of electric vehicles, published on January 3, forecasts that the market is expected to grow rapidly while the demand for vehicles powered by fossil fuels slows. "Sales of electric vehicles have not lived up to automakers' expectations and politicians' proclamations, but the market is expanding steadily as fuel prices remain high and consumers increasingly seek alternatives to internal combustion engines," says senior research analyst Dave Hurst. "Indeed, sales of plug-in electric vehicles will grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 40% over the remainder of the decade, while the overall auto market will expand by only two percent a year."

The few plug-in electric vehicles currently available, such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, demand a much higher premium than their gasoline-powered counterparts and, since they rely on battery power, can travel a significantly shorter distance between charges. An issue that has deterred many would-be greener motorists. This problem is further compounded by the current lack of supporting infrastructure, in the shape of public charging points and parking spaces that would help overcome problems regarding range anxiety.

Sales of plug-in electric vehicles and of hybrid electric vehicles (which combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor to increase driving range) are expected to grow exponentially throughout the decade as the number of affordable vehicles increases and the charging infrastructure to support them continues to improve. According to the report from Pike Research, this will lead to sales of more than 3.8 million a year by 2020.

However, manufacturers can't sit idly while the infrastructure is developed, and are working to increase the fuel efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of their existing fossil-fuel powered fleets. For example Ford has developed a small one-liter capacity Ecoboost engine that cuts fuel consumption but is still significantly powerful enough to be used in larger vehicles rather than just city cars. Likewise, Mazda this month demonstrated an energy return system that captures energy and power lost or dispersed through braking and deceleration that is in turn used to power a vehicle's electronics and auxiliary systems, therefore increasing fuel efficiency.