NACS: Low Gasoline Prices Could Spell Bad News For Alternative Fuel Vehicles

U.S. consumers are much less likely to consider an alternative fuel vehicle as gasoline prices continue to decline, according to new reports from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

In its latest Consumer Fuels Survey, NACS found 80% of U.S. consumers polled report gasoline prices are lower than they were 30 days ago, reaching an average of $2.70/gal. Furthermore, for the first time in two years, the study says more consumers believe gas prices will be lower in the next 30 days (30%) rather than higher (27%).

That could spell bad news for alternative fuel vehicles, as NACS found in a separate study that four out of five consumers (80%) considering such vehicles say that the primary reason is to save money on fuel.

According to NACS, each 10-cent drop in gasoline prices corresponds to a 1% decrease in the percentage of consumers considering alternative vehicles: 78% would consider a non-gas-powered vehicle if gasoline were $5.00/gal., compared to 68% if it were $4.00/gal. and 56% if it were $3.00/gal.

The study notes consumer interest in alt-fuel vehicles has fallen sharply since April, when gasoline prices were $0.90/gal. more than today. Interest has particularly declined for all-electric vehicles, with 34% indicating interest, compared to 55% in April. NACS says women are far less likely to consider an all-electric vehicle than men (27% vs. 40%), likely because of range-anxiety concerns.

Besides seeking out fuel savings, consumers identified a number of other factors that could incentivize them to purchase alt-fuel vehicles: 51% of consumers would consider such vehicles to protect the environment, 45% would to reduce American dependence on foreign oil, 42% would to reduce their carbon footprint and 41% would to increase their driving range.

NACS says that although the survey results are not encouraging to the alternative fueling industry, there may be some opportunities to expand sales. For example, older consumers over the age of 50 are most likely to consider an alternative fuel vehicle as a means of reducing American dependence on foreign oil: 59% cited this reason, compared to 35% of those ages 18-34. Meanwhile, younger consumers are more interested in how the vehicles fit their lifestyle: 22% cited that reason, compared to only 8% of those over age 50.

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