As gasoline prices rise, so do sales of electric vehicles

As gasoline prices rise, so do sales of electric vehicles

The electric Chevy Volt owned by EnergyUnited electric cooperative.

The Electric Drive Transportation Association reported that March was the best month ever for plug-in electric vehicle sales. EDTA said 7,632 plug-in vehicles — plug-in hybrid, extended range and battery-powered electric vehicles — were sold in March, a 41.2 percent increase in sales over the previous month. EDTA also reported that there was a 140 percent increase over what plug-in sales were at the same time last year.

Meanwhile, 46,327 hybrids (powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor) were sold in March, a 15.3 percent increase over February. Total yearly hybrid sales were 14 percent higher than they were at the same time in 2012, EDTA said.

Electric vehicle market observers point to rising gasoline prices, increasing reliability records for plug-in electric vehicles (PEV), and a wider selection of hybrids — including the Toyota Prius C, the Ford Fusion sedan, even the LaFerrari, a 949-horsepower, million-dollar luxury car.

Hybrid vehicles make electricity when they slow down and store it in a battery. Some can run on electricity alone for varying distances. Their fuel economy can be more than 40 percent better than the conventional gasoline version of the same model.

Worries that batteries will have to be replaced or that the cars will experience mechanical problems haven't proven true so far. Toyota says 90 percent of the Prius cars it has sold since introducing the model to the U.S. market in 2000 are still on the road.

The pricy (about $70,000), all-electric Tesla — a full-size car that can go for between 160 and 200 miles on a charge — in the first quarter of 2013 emerged as a contender in the market. Its reported sales of 4,750 vehicles was about the same as the Chevy Volt and ahead of the Nissan Leaf. The Toyota Prius hybrid plug-in was fourth.

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