Hybrid Cars Enjoy a Renaissance as All-Electric Sales Slow

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As Teslas and other electric vehicles dazzled car buyers with futuristic technology and dreams of a gasoline-free future, hybrid cars began to seem like yesterday’s news. Sales of the Toyota Prius, the standard-bearer for hybrids, fell 85 percent over a decade.

Now, a slowdown in the growth of electric car sales has led General Motors, Ford Motor and Volkswagen to walk back ambitious targets for those vehicles. And sales of hybrids are robust, underscoring what may be the enduring reality check of 2023: Many Americans are hugely receptive to electrification, but they’re not ready for a fully electric car.

“Consumers want the same experience they’ve had” with a combustion engine car, said Stephanie Valdez Streaty, director of industry insights for Cox Automotive. “And we are not there yet. Price is still the top barrier for most consumers.”

Americans bought a record 1.2 million electric vehicles last year, a gain of about 46 percent and a 7.6 percent share of all new car sales, according to Cox. But hybrid sales rose even faster, up 65 percent to more than 1.2 million, lifting their market share to 8 percent from 5.5 percent, according to Edmunds. Throw in plug-in hybrids, and nearly one in 10 new cars pairs a gasoline engine with electric motors to save fuel and boost performance.

Analysts say stubbornly high electric car prices and worries about public charging are pushing some car shoppers to hybrids, including renters or urbanites who can’t charge a battery-powered car at home. Hybrids deliver savings at the pump with no need to plug in for hours or plan trips around charging stops. Their batteries are much smaller and cost a lot less than the batteries in fully electric vehicles.

Buyers paid about $42,500 on average for hybrids in November, according to Edmunds, compared with $60,500 for electric vehicles and $47,500 for a conventional models. There is a smorgasbord of affordable hybrid models, many starting around $30,000 — including a stylishly redesigned Prius that returns a model-record 57 miles per gallon. The electric vehicle market, by contrast, remains top-heavy with luxury offerings.

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Hybrid Cars Enjoy a Renaissance as All-Electric Sales Slow

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