June 3, 2019

Alternative Fuel Vehicles – Driver Research Findings

Consideration of AFVs Outpaces Drivers’ Understanding of the Technology

In a recent piece of CLM online research, we discovered that more than 60%1 of company car drivers intend to choose an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) rather than a petrol or diesel when they next change their car

While this high proportion is somewhat surprising, there are a number of factors currently operating in the AFV market that could go some way to explaining the strength of sentiment:

  • There’s a burgeoning amount of choice in the AFV market; with more than 40 models currently available in the UK and with manufacturers set to increase this by at least 50% by the end of 2019. With more choice comes greater potential to find a vehicle that will meet a driver’s day-to-day mobility requirements.

  • It is now less than 12 months until the Government’s revised Benefit-in-Kind tax rates for AFVs come into force. From April 2020 cars producing between one and fifty g/km CO2, and capable of more than 130 miles on battery power alone, will be taxed at just 2% of their value. This means that anyone currently in the process of ordering a new company car has a significant monetary incentive to choose a highly efficient AFV.
  • While still a work in progress, the public charging infrastructure for plug-in AFVs has expanded rapidly in recent years, to a currently reported 8237 locations and a total of 22,557 connectors. That’s up from 5,411 locations and 15,537 connectors just twelve months ago (Zap-Map). This has been supported by improvements in battery technology for pure electric vehicles that has seen the average journey range of models on sale pass the 200-mile mark for the first time.

In the same piece of CLM research, we asked drivers what type of AFV they were most likely to consider when they next make a change. The findings here are interesting when examined alongside the latest SMMT registrations statistics.

For Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), there’s strong alignment between drivers’ levels of consideration and the volume of new purchases; 17% of respondents state that they are most likely to consider a BEV, and 15% of year-to-date AFV registrations are attributed to this type of car.

However, when looking at hybrids, there were marked differences between intention and final choice. While only 48% of our respondents stated that a Hybrid Electric Vehicle was their favoured type of AFV, they accounted for 65% of AFV registrations. Conversely, 35% of drivers stated that they were most likely to choose a Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle, but these made up just 21% of sales.

Some of this discrepancy could be the result of ongoing confusion around AFV terminology, and what the differences are between the available types of AFV. In research conducted by CLM2 over the last year, we have found that a surprisingly small proportion of drivers appear to understand the technology. While 65% of respondents were able to accurately select a definition of BEVs, just 36% and 25% were able to identify HEVs and PHEVs respectively.

Certain manufacturers have also been criticised for creating naming conventions that are not helping levels of consumer understanding; Toyota’s, ‘Self-charging hybrids’ being the most widely debated.

This lack of knowledge is also evidenced in the key barriers that drivers identify to AFV ownership. In CLM’s research, ‘Access to Public Charging’ and ‘Vehicle Range’ were identified as being the key disadvantages of choosing an AFV, when these have no relevance to the most popular type of AFV, hybrid-electric vehicles.

The UK market for AFVs, to date, appears to be following the classical model of technology adoption. In this model, around 2.5% of the potential audience for a product, known as ‘Innovators’, have a high tolerance for risk and educate themselves extensively about the technology, often choosing to make a purchase despite known issues.electric car charging point

The next group, ‘Early Adopters’, are similar to Innovators but they will tend to buy only when there’s at least some evidence that the technology delivers on the claimed benefits. Early Adopters represent the next 13.5% of the market and it would seem that take-up of AFVs in the UK is firmly in this stage.

For wider adoption, the ‘Early Majority’ of consumers need to be brought on board and this will require full proof of the reliability and cost-effectiveness of AFV technology.

We may be fast approaching a tipping point in demand for AFVs, but there’s still work to be done in improving knowledge of AFV technology and convincing the masses that they provide viable daily transport that can replace their petrol or diesel car.

To learn more about Alternative Fuel Vehicles click here to visit our dedicated AFV page.

1 Online research conducted with more than 400 company car eligible drivers between March and May 2019

2 Online research conducted with more than 500 drivers over a period of 12 months from November 2017 to November 2018.