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ALTERNATIVE–FUEL AUTOMOBILES SURGE TO MEET DEMAND
Dealerships around the nation are receiving a growing number of Alternative Fuel Automobiles (AFA), claims a survey by R.L. Polk & Co. The continual rise in these vehicle configurations might signal a widespread acceptance of hybrids, diesels and other forms of energy.
The number of AFAs on our roads today totals 11 million, with 434,000 being sold in the first quarter of 2007—a 27% increase over last year's account for this period. E85-capable vehicles jumped 40% from 159,882 to 266,859. Hybrid vehicles also climbed during the period, bumping 31% from 51,285 to 74,056. Clean diesel technology continues to be touted as an upcoming solution to our energy demands, yet sales declined slightly from 108,100 to 93,012.
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, rationalized the shift by saying, "gas prices, consumer incentives and the increasing number of AFA models available to consumers all play a role in the rising popularity of these vehicles." The buzz of global warming, national fuel independence and celebrity endorsements have helped create awareness of AFAs. Nevertheless, the acceptance can only expand with a supported infrastructure. McCurdy adds, "however, while interest in AFAs continues to grow, we still need more gas stations to offer biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel."
The offerings of AFAs have met the increase in demand. Currently, 60 models are available with even more choices in development including hybrid-electric, clean diesel, ethanol capable, biodiesel, hydrogen and pure electric. Modern vehicles will need advanced fuel preparation and processing. The study examined consumer opinion in regard to energy and found popular opinion advocated government funding for research and development in alternative fuels. More than 170,000 fueling stations exist in the United States, yet only 1,221 offers E85. Consumers may be willing to purchase AFAs, but if they are incapable of accessing the proper fuel, they might consider other alternatives. In fact, more than 74% of American consumers are familiar with AFAs, but the deciding factor was the availability of fuels.
Source: "Record number of alternative fuel automotives rolled off dealer lots in first quarter." June 7, 2007. Aftermarket Business. www.aftermarketbusiness.com.