More than half of British drivers have never heard of hybrid cars, according to a survey by TNS on behalf of Honda UK. The research, marking the launch of the new Honda Civic Hybrid, questioned 1,200 motorists on their attitudes towards the environment and their understanding of alternative fuel vehicles.

Fifty-one per cent of British drivers were not aware of hybrid cars at all. Of those who had heard of them, over 40 per cent did not know that they are cars that use both petrol and electric power. Respondents guessed hybrid meant “two cars welded together” or “a car made by more than one manufacturer”.

When asked to name an alternative fuel vehicle, only 18 per cent mentioned the petro-electric hybrid car. LPG and fully electric cars were more likely to get a mention.

Only 35 per cent realised hybrid cars offer lower fuel costs. Even fewer knew that hybrids entitle the owner to reduced company car tax (four per cent), lower road fund tax (two per cent) and exemption from the London congestion charge (two per cent).

Despite this, British drivers would be more motivated by money than a green conscience to try hybrid motoring. Of the 73 per cent who declared themselves unlikely to buy a hybrid vehicle, 43 per cent would buy one “if I was sure the running costs would be lower” and 34 per cent only “if petrol became too expensive”.

Of the 18 per cent who would consider a hybrid car, the top motivating factor was lower fuel costs at 54 per cent, with 34 per cent naming environmental benefits.

The government should be responsible for encouraging better take-up of greener vehicles according to 70 per cent or respondents, whereas 35 per cent said car manufacturers should champion the cause.

Final confirmation that drivers shirk accountability for the impact of their own fuel choices came from the result that a mere 17 per cent of drivers saw it as their own responsibility to lessen the environmental impact of their vehicles.