October 31, 2007

University of California to study users of plug-in hybrid cars

Davis, California – The University of California Davis campus will study drivers of ten Toyota Prius models converted to plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEV) to produce what it says will be the first comprehensive consumer report on PHEVs.

During the next two years, the ten UC Davis cars will be lent to 100 families in Northern California for six to eight weeks each. The drivers will be surveyed about their automobile preferences before, during and after they use the cars.

“What we have seen is that, as consumers become more aware of hybrids, the cars are going beyond the innovators to the core market,” says Tom Turrentine, a research anthropologist who directs the university’s new PHEV Research Center. “The Prius is now the best-selling sedan in the San Francisco Bay Area and one of the most popular cars in California.”

However, Turrentine says that PHEVs are still virtually unknown to consumers, with fewer than 100 in the U.S. today, all of them converted by their owners since there are no commercially-produced ones for sale yet.

“We know that existing hybrids offer environmental benefits and some savings on fuel costs,” Turrentine says. “Plug-in hybrids offer improvements of those benefits, plus the ability to recharge at home and choice of fuel alternatives. It’s your choice every day – you can choose to use electricity or you can choose to use gasoline. We have not identified the survey drivers yet. We will take a scientific sample of the marketplace, people who represent typical new-car buyers and have secure garages where they will recharge the cars.”

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