Green Update: Hybrid Unpopularity Survey Questioned
The survey also reports that hybrid owners are looking to other kinds of vehicles, including higher-tech gasoline-powered cars, to get fuel costs down. Yes, we all know that new 4-cylinder turbo technology has improved. We also know that gas-powered cars cost a lot less than cars with batteries.
If initial cost and return on investment are the only factors, well, of course you won’t buy a hybrid or EV. If gas prices continue to rise, the cost differential will rapidly get smaller and ROI will improve.
Hybrids are also supplemental cars for many people; they fill a different role as second cars. Further, Polk doesn’t say how it measured its “repeat purchases.” Is the current hybrid owner buying another hybrid or replacing the hybrid already owned? As one commenter here (IT guy) put it: “how many people buy two consecutive Honda Fits?”
And yet, a recent Bloomberg piece indicates that sales of EVs, hybrids and plug-ins “were the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. auto market in the first quarter,” with sales rising 49 percent (117,182 vehicles sold) over 2011. They account for this by rising gas prices.
And that factor is going to be the key to hybrid demand, at least in the short term. Farther out, there is little agreement on how or whether these cars will take hold.
Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn keeps pushing for EVs to account for 10 percent of the market by 2020. Others claim it will be more like 2 percent.
The carmakers, some of them, are betting high: Hyundai North America CEO John Krafcick is selling a lot of Sonatas, up to 30 percent with gasoline-electric hybrid systems. Such cars, he points out, are not as attractive for urban dwellers, owing to lack of recharge capabilities. Honda, despite its troubles, more than doubled sales of the Civic Hybrid last month.
Problems: FedEx trucks take lots of current (and 8 hours) to fully recharge but can run 100 miles per charge. They cost two to three times more than present delivery vans but run at 75 percent lower operational cost, plus being “zero-emissions.”
Like cars, charging and recharging are the stumbling blocks. But with fixed routes and times, look for EVs to make big inroads in the urban delivery and fleet van business.
Back to the Polk survey: Do you think its flaws invalidate the findings?