US: cheaper gas impacts hybrid sales, EVs are still on the rise image

Even though conventional wisdom says that when gasoline prices fall, alternative fuel cars immediately see a delivery fall, a closer look at numbers paints a different picture.

The situation is a little bit more complex, as surprisingly, as the most common hybrids – the ones that still use gas and don’t need recharging – took the biggest plunge, with 11-month figures showing gas-electric hybrid sales dropped 9% to 418,850 units, according to data gathered by hybridcars.com. While during the same period of 2013 they had a market share of 3.2%, the total U.S. light-vehicle market hold was now just 2.8%.

On the other hand, plug-in hybrids and pure electrics had a strong run this year – with the first category jumping 17% to 51,490 units and the latter posting an even stronger climb of 31% to 55,906 autos. The best result for pure battery-driven models was posted by the world’s best selling electric vehicle, Nissan’s Leaf – commending nearly half of category with 27,098 sales. Actually, the model was not just 35% up during the first eleven months, it was also climbing 34% in November, when gas prices already had declined for months.

Even though EV sales are picking up pace, the Obama administration’s target of putting 1 million battery-only and plug-in electric vehicles on the country’s roads by 2015 is far out of reach, with alternative propulsion systems still unable to shed the overall dominance of the internal combustion engine. If the current gas prices, which are now heading to the lowest prices since 2008-2009, continue to drop or remain the same, the electric car market will need to rely just on the people that want to save a few hundred dollars a year, but entirely on those that want to get rid of the fossil fuel habit altogether.