March 21, 2005

Test driving the public's interest in alternative-fuelled cars

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Researcher Dimitris Potoglou is conducting a survey of Hamilton area residents to try to determine their desire for alternative-fuelled vehicles.

Hamilton, ON - What would it take for you to make the switch from a fossil-fuelled vehicle to an alternative-fuelled vehicle?

That’s one of the questions Dimitris Potoglou hopes to be able to answer when he compiles research into the viability and desire for alternative-fuelled vehicles. The study is Potoglou’s PhD thesis, and is supervised by Pavlos S. Kanaroglou, Canada Research Chair in Spatial Analysis in the School of Geography and Geology. The study is funded by the City of Hamilton, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

“We are trying to understand how residents in the Hamilton area (Hamilton, Burlington, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Grimsby and Stoney Creek) buy and sell their vehicles, the types of vehicles they choose, and their potential preferences to non-gasoline technologies,” said Potoglou, adding that you don’t need to own a car to take part in the survey. It is the first Canadian study of its kind to use an entire urban area.

The initial data collection for the survey will be conducted in two phases. The first is a Web-based survey that can be found at It can also be accessed through the City of Hamilton website. This survey, open to all Hamilton-area residents with access to the Internet, begins today (March 21), and it will log responses until April 30. To get you motivated, there are cash prizes of $200, $100 and $20. The second phase involves phone interviews and mail-back questionnaires to a random sample of 5,000 Hamilton area residents.

The obvious lack of alternative-fuelled vehicles in the current car market is not seen as a drawback for Potoglou. “In cases like this, researchers use hypothetical situations,” he explained. “We’ll be using hypothetical vehicles that will be described in the surveys, and respondents will make choices based on various attributes (e.g., purchase and maintenance cost, fuel availability and incentives).

Over the last two years, Potoglou has been shaping the study for the data collection, assisted by Chris Benoit, a 5th-year student in Software Engineering and Society, who created the survey' s web sites.

The main purpose of this study is to examine the factors that may influence the demand for lower- and zero-emissions vehicles, says Potoglou. “But we also hope to determine how various policy measures could promote that further.”

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