Why do you drive your green car? Is it to do your bit for reducing pollution, greenhouse gases and dependency on oil, or is it simply to reduce your gas bills as prices creep upward?

If it's the latter, then Ford says you're the sort of consumer who'll only be driving a green vehicle if you can recoup the extra purchase cost fairly quickly.

In fact, Ford's research suggests that one in four buyers will pay extra on a green vehicle if they can make back that cost in four years or less.

That's according to Joe Bakaj, Ford Motor Co.'s vice president of powertrain engineering, during a conference presentation during the Center for Automotive Research "Management Briefing Seminars" held outside Traverse City, Michigan.

According to Automotive News, Bakaj says the information has helped Ford develop a useful blueprint for rolling out electric vehicles, hybrids and other fuel-efficient powertrains.

That includes Ford's quick-selling EcoBoost powertrains, that use turbochargers and direct injection to make up for power that would otherwise be lost by downsizing engines--but retaining the high gas mileage of those smaller units.

EcoBoost is even proving popular in vehicles where displacement used to rule--43 percent of F-Series pickup buyers now choose the 3.5 EcoBoost, despite it costing more than the V-8.

But is it about payback?

We've speculated before that the importance of payback varies depending on the vehicle and consumer. For EcoBoost Fords, the time may well be around four years--or perhaps even less. But with electric cars, it could be considerably longer, particularly for early adopters who may be choosing cars based on more specific criteria than the general public.

Even so, we've found that payback on hybrids like the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata is less than five years, which is surely attractive to buyers--and no doubt the reasont that Ford is stepping up its hybrid and plug-in vehicle lines, with Fusion and C-Max hybrid and plug-in "Energi" models.

Ford actually admits that the newly-priced C-Max Energi won't meet that four-year payback target, but the company's overheads are relatively low so it doesn't have a lot to lose on the car.

And whether customers get that four-year payback or not, the 95 MPGe rating is sure to go down well with green-minded consumers.


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