Americans crazy like a fox when considering hybrid, electric vehicles?

We’re dummies when it comes to hybrid and electric vehicles. That’s what green-car experts seem to think anyway.

Because of that, we don’t buy as many alternative-fuel vehicles as we should – they accounted for only about 3.5 percent of nearly 17 million cars sold last year, according to Wards Auto.

And we apparently are unprepared for the coming flood of alternative-fuel vehicles automakers will send to market because of rising mileage targets under federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules.

Photo: BMW i3 electric vehicle recharges.
BMW i3 electric vehicle recharges.

“People know about one-third of what these technologies can do,” Bryan Krulikowski of Morpace Market Research and Consulting told a conference on 21st century powertrain technologies, referring to diesel, hybrid and plug-in electrics. “Conventional (gasoline) engines are what people are familiar with, and it impacts how they feel about (advanced) technologies.”

That lack of knowledge is the reason consumers “dislike” alternative fuel vehicles, according to Daimler, the parent company of luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz, based on a large-scale, two-year study of electric cars and consumer attitudes toward them – in Germany, at least.

Researchers reported that the less drivers knew about electric cars, “the more negative their opinion,” according to Green Car Reports’ story on the Daimler study.

But apparently we can be at least partly forgiven our lack of knowledge and distaste for several reasons.

Photo: Recharging a Nissan Leaf at a public station.
Recharging a Nissan Leaf at a public station.

Speaking recently at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), Krulikowski blamed the automakers for not educating their sales forces or effectively marketing the new technologies to shoppers so the latter is convinced the new vehicles are worth their heftier price tags, especially if gasoline prices stick at a relatively cheap $3 per gallon.

Indeed, more than six in ten of 2,522 people responding to a survey for Morpace’s Powertrain Acceptance & Consumer Engagement Study (PACE) said they would consider buying an environmentally friendly vehicle only if “performance is on par with gasoline vehicles in the same class.”

Those reasons ultimately won’t matter as CAFE fuel-mileage requirements rise through 2025.

“Regulations will force carmakers to implement these technologies on a large scale in the coming years,” said Green Car Reports. “So companies are going to have to figure out how to escape from between the rock of government regulations and the hard place of consumer ignorance.”

But, perhaps, owners aren’t getting enough credit for their reasons for sticking with gasoline vehicles.

“It’s all about the bottom line,” said one survey respondent. “If it is more cost-effective to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle, then I will consider it. Otherwise, just give me a more fuel-efficient gas engine.”