Consumers Uninformed About New Automotive Technology

New automotive technology is a mystery to many Americans. A Harris poll of 1,052 US residents to be released May 27 finds that two thirds do not know anyone who owns an electric, plug-in hybrid, or hybrid car. The survey was commissioned by Ford Motor Company, which announced recently that it will spend $4.5 billion over the next several years to expand the number of models in its lineup that either electrics, plug-in hybrids, or hybrids.

plug-in hybrid is new automotive technology

Nearly 76% of those surveyed said they were “not at all sure” how far a plug-in hybrid car could drive without refueling and/or recharging. On average, they thought such cars could go about 260 miles on a combination of electric and gasoline power. In actuality, some cars can go twice that far or more.

The manufacturers are not helping consumers understand new automotive technology. Ford announced yesterday that its 2017 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid will be able to go 610 miles on a tankful of fuel, thanks to new tweaks to the powertrain and an improved regenerative braking system. But only 22 of those miles can be managed on electric power alone. “Fusion Energi – with a full battery and a full tank of gas – can go from San Diego, through Los Angeles and all the way up to San Francisco, and still have up to 110 miles of range remaining,” says Wade Jackson, Fusion marketing manager at Ford.

That’s a 10% increase from last year, but is a PHEV with only 22 miles of range really relevant to anything? It certainly does very little to further the effort to reduce global carbon emissions. Isn’t that supposed to be the point? All it really does is bambozzle shoppers into thinking they are buying a car with significant environmental credentials when in fact it is just another hybrid after the first 22 miles. No wonder people are confused.

Consumers are also disinterested when it comes to self-driving technology. A survey of British drivers that 55% do not want to be a passenger in a driverless car. The poll was conducted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers/ICM Unlimited and collected data from 2,002 people. A study by University of Michigan researcher Michael Sivak earlier this week found more than half of Americans would rather drive themselves than be driven in a computer controlled car.

The manufacturers are falling all over themselves to bring autonomous driving cars to market, fueled by the somewhat inflated claims by Tesla Motors for its Autopilot suite of software. Earlier this year, Trent Victor, senior technical leader of crash avoidance at Volvo, said this about Telsa’s Autopilot: “It gives you the impression that it’s doing more than it is [but it] is more of an unsupervised wannabe.” In other words, Tesla is trying to create an semi-autonomous car that appears to be autonomous.

That point was brought home forcefully this week when a Tesla Model S operating in Autopilot mode crashed into the back of a disabled vehicle on a highway. As one person commented,”If you have to be fully engaged and alert to use autonomous driving what then is the point? Might as well just drive the car.”

Despite Elon Musk’s enrhusiatstic embrace of autonomous driving systems, they are still many years away from being perfected and at least half of drivers aren’t all that interested in them in the first place. Still, more than 30,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes every year. Surely technology can help reduce, if not eliminate, that deadly toll.

Source: Automotive News


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.