Just 12 percent will go for diesel power, thanks to media coverage and government policy.

More than one fifth of UK car buyers say they will switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle when they come to replace their car, according to new research.

A study of more than 20,000 people by AA Cars found that 22 percent said they would dump petrol or diesel for lower-emission alternative fuels, despite the fact that just two percent of motorists currently run a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV).

The used car website also found that searches for second-hand hybrids and EVs are up 470 percent since 2014.

However, the company says the sudden shift in consumer attitudes may be partly down to the uncertainty surrounding diesel.

Fewer than one in eight respondents (12 percent) said they would choose diesel power for their next car, with 56 percent saying government policy has put them off the fuel. Negative media coverage of diesel was also seen as a deterrent by almost six in 10 (58 percent) of those surveyed.

Diesel fuel gauge in a car

Unsurprisingly, a massive 92 percent of diesel drivers said they wanted more clarity from the government regarding diesel vehicle policy – a need AA Cars said was “further cemented” by the fact that 24 percent of respondents “mistakenly” believe modern diesel engines are as harmful to the environment as older ones.

James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars said: “The appetite for electric and hybrid vehicles has increased significantly over the last few years, which is in no small part due to big technological leaps forward in the space.

“These advances mean vehicles can travel further on a single charge, charge points are an increasingly common sight across the country and manufacturers are designing more attractive models all the time. These are all contributing to the warming public opinion of environmentally friendly cars.

Tesla Model S

“The government has been keeping an eye on this increasing take-up and is now withdrawing grants for plug-in hybrids and reducing existing grants for pure electric vehicles. The implication is that mounting enthusiasm for non-traditionally fuelled cars won’t be dampened by removing financial incentives from the government.

“The outlook for diesel cars appears less positive, though, as our research reflects a mixture of misconception and uncertainty among traditional diesel drivers. As it stands, the used car market is following a similar trajectory to the new car market, with an uplift in searches for used green vehicles and a decrease in searches for diesel cars.

Traffic jam on the British M1 motorway

“Drivers are clearly crying out for a sense of clarity on diesel cars. A fair voice would help to demonstrate that modern diesels can be clean and fuel-efficient but also bolster the place of green vehicles in the car industry – this isn’t a zero-sum game.

“The pervasive feeling of uncertainty around the role of diesels is distorting and confusing the market for buyers and sellers.”