Will people miss fossil fuel cars once they're gone?

Christien PhebyContent Manager
September 02, 2021, 2:34 PM UTC

There is a sense of inevitability around electric vehicles. Governments around the world are working to phase out vehicles that run on fossil fuels (petrol and diesel)– in the UK, the plan is to stop selling new petrol and diesel cars by 2030; in the US, President Biden has set a goal for 50% of new US vehicles to be electric in the same timeframe.  

But new YouGov Direct data suggests that neither Americans nor Britons are yet ready to say goodbye to petrol and diesel cars. In Britain, nearly half believe car manufacturers should not exclusively offer electric cars (48%) – compared to two in five (41%) who believe they should. In the US, the gap is even wider: while three in ten (29%) think automakers should only sell electric vehicles, three in five (59%) disagree.    

The public have, in the past, cited practical reasons to oppose an all-electric automotive market: convenience, for example, is a key issue, and one recently cited by the government’s climate spokesperson. But our data also shows evidence of a sentimental attachment to petrol and diesel cars in both markets. 

In Britain, for example, more than two in five (45%) say they will miss petrol and diesel cars if they are ever fully phased out – with a similar proportion saying the opposite (44%). American consumers, however, are more emphatic: over half (52%) will miss cars with fossil fuel engines once they’re gone, compared to fewer than two in five (36%) who believe the reverse.  

This could present a key challenge for governments and car manufacturers as they transition towards an electric future: whatever the benefits of electric cars or the drawbacks of petrol and diesel cars, a sizable portion of the public simply enjoys their gas-guzzlers. In any case, if political enthusiasm for electric cars is high, popular enthusiasm is not quite there yet. 

Methodology

YouGov polled 1,500 US adults online on 28 July 2021 between 09:42 and 16:48 BST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, political affiliation, and ethnicity. Results are nationally representative of adults in the United States. The margin of error is 3.5% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct. 
 

UK: 
YouGov polled 1,500 British adults online on July 28 2021 between 10:43 and 12:03 BST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. Results are nationally representative of adults in Great Britain. The margin of error is 4.3% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct. 

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