More Practical Plug-In Hybrids Picking Up in Sales as Electric Cars Slow Down

By Jacob Brown | July 20, 2012
In the Captain Obvious finding of the day, the LA Times surmised electric cars weren't really charging through the market as some last year had anticipated they would. Instead, plug-in hybrids have picked up momentum. There are very good reasons for that. Most electric cars are still sold in limited areas. Nissan and Mitsubishi both sell their cars nationally, but the Mitsubishi's dealership network is small, and the car's range makes it unappealing for most areas. Other competitors like the Ford Focus Electric are only sold in a handful of states. And, in general, electric cars are fairly expensive for their capabilities. The 2012 Tesla Model S, which is just starting to reach private owners, is going to cost nearly $100,000 for its initial batch of Signature Series cars. It has a 265-mile driving range. But most electric cars have fewer than 100 miles of range in them. For comparable gas cars, that'd be like running around with a three-gallon gas tank. Except that it doesn't take six hours to refill your gas tank in a conventional car. Recently, California has begun incentivizing plug-in hybrids, which use an electric motor to power them until the battery runs low and an engine acting as a gas generator kicks in. Then plug-ins run like conventional hybrids. The most technologically sophisticated plug-in currently on sale is the Chevrolet Volt, which can run an average of 35 miles before having to rely on its gas engine. Along with a $1,500 California rebate and access to the carpool lane on highways, the Volt's popularity has shot up, a 221-percent increase in sales from last year as of June 2012. Toyota recently introduced a plug-in version of its popular Prius hatchback, which has also enjoyed a steamroll of sales. And Ford is on the offensive, launching plug-in, hybrid, and all-electric versions of its C-MAX hatchback in the States later this year. Nissan has sold 3,148 Leaf electric hatchbacks through the first half of 2012 while Mitsubishi has found just 333 i-MiEV takers this year. "Range anxiety," or the fear of running out of electricity in a short distance, has driven many an electric car shoppers over to more conventional alternatives like hybrids. Plug-in hybrids look to be the best alternative to span that gulf for people who want to go green but fear the impracticality that comes with a limited-range electric vehicle. Source: LA Times