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Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage

Jon LeSage is a California-based journalist covering clean vehicles, alternative energy, and economic and regulatory trends shaping the automotive, transportation, and mobility sectors.

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Why EV’s Aren’t Winning The Race From Hybrids Yet…


The Ford Fusion Hybrid knocked the Prius out of the top spot for the first time in U.S. sales during January and March. That’s reflected more market competition and an overall hybrid sales decline in the U.S. since gasoline prices took a dive in 2014 and stayed down.

Compared to that pivotal year, U.S. hybrid sales were down from 43,790 in March 2014 (right before the oil price drop) to 32,012 units sold in March 2017. Sales for the Prius liftback, which had been the flagship green car in the U.S. and globally for the past decade, dropped about 50 percent during that period.

Pressure has been on Toyota and other automakers – especially Japanese rival Honda – to join the electric vehicle race. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai had been leaning toward hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over EVs as an alternative technology. But growing sales of EVs in China and pressure brought on by Tesla and its upcoming Model 3 put Toyota in a quandary.

Toyota appears to be more likely to keep a broad, diverse portfolio of powertrain offerings, and that goes for other automakers as well.

Toyota announced this spring that it had registered 16 percent growth in hybrid-vehicle sales last year, delivering a record 1.4 million of these vehicles to the global market. In January, the company passed the 10 million mark in hybrid sales since the Prius was initially launched in Japan in December 1997. The leading automaker in 2016 global sales now has 37 hybrid models on the market, with 28 of them Toyota models and nine being Lexus models. Related: Did OPEC Shoot Itself In The Foot?

Its Prius Prime plug-in hybrid is seeing strong sales, much better than its first Prius Plug-in Hybrid that lost interest from its limited range in battery power before being pulled from the market.

While China isn’t offering “new energy vehicle” incentives for hybrids, with only all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles qualifying, hybrid sales aren’t being hurt. Sales of hybrids tripled to 111,981 units in that country during 2016; about two thirds of that total came from sales of Toyota Corolla and Levin hybrids, whose key components have been locally produced since 2015. Keeping those two hybrids at the same selling price as their gasoline-engine versions has also helped sales.

The Japanese giant won’t be backing away from hydrogen and fuel cell technology, either – and its going beyond its Mirai passenger car.

Toyota just launched its “Project Portal” Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell drayage truck. The zero-emission truck will soon start making zero-emission trial runs from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. If it works out, Toyota will be finding other applications for its fuel cells in other freight and passenger vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. is also taking a broad approach to launching new vehicles that will meet stringent emissions policies in China, Europe, and the U.S. The Detroit automaker had shown off a new small SUV all-electric prototype and a plug-in hybrid version of its Mondeo midsize car in China right before 2017 Auto Shanghai started.

Yet, Ford is taking a wait-and-see approach to global market demand, with its F-150 pickup truck remaining a strong seller in its lineup. Ford CEO Mark Fields illustrated that cautious strategy by making appeals to President Donald Trump earlier this year to soften U.S. fuel economy and emissions rules. Related: Is Australia The Next Big Thing In Shale?

The Detroit automaker has been slow to launch electric vehicles in global markets. Like competitor Toyota, Ford seems to have more confidence in hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles over battery electric models. That helped Ford design the Ford Fusion Hybrid Prius-competitor, and its plug-in hybrid version, the Fusion Energi.


Earlier this month, Ford launched the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan to law enforcement agencies. The automaker received an EPA-estimated mpg of 38 combined city and highway. That was more than double the mileage of the Ford Police Interceptor with its 3.7-liter, V6 engine and 18 mpg combined EPA rating.

By Jon LeSage for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Dan on April 24 2017 said:
    EV got killed as a recent survey shows that young people pass on buying electric. No money, no job, no expensive car. These are all pipe dreams killed by liberal globalization and Socialism.
  • najeeb on April 24 2017 said:
    What kind of article was this. The author never answered his question.
    , "why are EVs not winning from hybrids yet"? Maybe he asked the wrong question. EVs have been growing exponentially while hybrids have been loosing market. Next time plz ask a right question. So somebody can help you find the answer.
  • Marcus Rönningås on April 25 2017 said:
    We have been driving hybrids for ~10 years now without any problem. The next car to switch will be the Volvo XC90, but it's hard to fins something similar (plugin / electric) within a reasonable pricerange, i.e not the Tesla X so it will be a smaller car. After that switch we will be all CO2 neutral as long as we charge the cars at home, except for a few travels with the summer car that is.

    In conclusion, EV's / hybrids etc is not something new. It has already happened and by 2030 or whatever every new car vill be either plug-in or EV. If fuel cells or similar doesn't get enough coverage that is.
  • EH on April 25 2017 said:
    I am pro-clean energy,, having seen first hand alot of the effects of both finding anddrilling for fossil fuels, " I live in the Permian basin" Texas. I just hope they work better and are more reliable than this stupid "smart phone or ANY digital electronics,, Thanks a lot Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs and IBM! NOTHING works or lasts like it use too. Can't keep the landlines working anymore cause there is no profit for AT&T! And after all this innovative technology. We are back to tap tapping away, like we HAD TOO with Moris Code! Who would have thought!
  • Timmie Tee on April 28 2017 said:
    The case for EV is limited by range and charging infrastructure, and most of all, charge time. Just doesn't make sense when hybrid yields 40-50+ mpg, and all the convenience of ICE cars. The real promise for alt-energy cars is hydrogen-- Toyota is heading in the right direction.
  • tom on April 30 2018 said:
    The elephant in the room for me is Lower Emission Vehicles. This is something the Oil Industry refuses to recognize, as it fights ethanol tooth and nail, for fractions of market share, even in a growing gasoline market. Ethanol can reduce toxic tailpipe emissions by up to 50%. You would think that big oil and the API would jump all over that, but No, Profits are more important to them than People. So API and Big Oil fight ethanol as hard as they can and line up for EPA Waivers not to blend it.

    For me, this is why it is so important, for everyone, that Hybrids and EV's Succeed. Big Oil, the API and Scott Pruitt at the EPA could care less about Cancer or Clean Air. They would rather sell you polluting carcinogens like Benzene than sell you American made ethanol that would clean up our air. Way to go Big Oil.

    Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the Dirtiest Industry of All?

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