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April 23, 2014

Hybrids Not Good Enough Anymore



Society first reached a tipping point with its demand for cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles by demanding hybrids, result—gasoline- and battery-powered automobiles ushered onto the road by early frontrunners such as the popular Toyota Prius. Now, consumers want more, and they are reaching for purely-electric vehicles. No gasoline required.

A Cars.com announcement this week suggests that sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are up while hybrid sales are suffering. The car buying and review site found that, from last year to this year, hybrid sales are down 15.9 percent. In the same period, however, EV sales are up 21.8 percent. And the site's principle analyst, Jesse Toprak, says electric cars are besting hybrids because the attractive element of fuel efficiency is finally matching up with a decrease in overall automobile price.

"Price points for many pure EVs are getting closer to where it makes sense financially for consumers," Toprak said. Basically, he commented, the obstacles to EV adoption lie in three areas: battery costs, range, and infrastructure. Battery costs are lessening enough to become attractive to consumers, and the range of modern electric cars is stretching far enough to quell individuals' thoughts about getting stranded without a charge. Infrastructure, though, is still blocking EVs from widespread adoption.

People living in metropolitan areas may not have access to a garage or a proper charging unit outside their apartments or condominiums. Even charging stations a block away could be seen as an inconvenience. Furthermore, individuals in rural areas may not have access to charging stations in any part of the towns where they live.

In order to see greater adoption, charging stations will need to become even more accessible and convenient. Many consumers are still used to filling up their cars with fuel in five minutes at the local gas station. Charges -- or perhaps battery swaps -- may need to become that quick, or companies may need to construct more charging stations in local parking garages or parking lots to allow apartment owners convenient access to overnight charges.

Cars.com lists the highest-selling EV models as the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius PHV, and the Ford Fusion Energi. Leading the pack for the hybrids are the Lincoln MKZ, Hyundai Sonata, Lexus CT200h, and Kia Optima Hybrid, which had the largest increases in sales from 2013 to 2014.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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