While people still look for ways to live green, the latest reports are that green car sales are down. A number of factors are involved including reduced fuel prices and more efficient gasoline engines, says Auto News. With that the case, what is the outlook for hybrid and EV cars?
Hybrid and EV Sales Drop
According to Wards Auto, the various Toyota Prius models experienced a 15 to 35 percent reduction in sales compared to the same time last year. The Nissan Leaf EV has maintained a flat monthly sales rate over the past three years, according to Auto news.
Torque News reports that the luxury EV, Tesla, has no projected sales increase for this year in the U.S. Increased production of the Model S will cover overseas sales and the anticipated Model X has been moved out to 2015.
What is Affecting Green Car Sales?
Auto News suggests that it’s a combination of changes that are affecting green car sales including:
- Green cars aren’t living up to expectations;
- Downsizing of gasoline engines;
- Downsizing of vehicle sizes purchased;
- Increased efficiency of gasoline engines;
- Increased interest in diesel vehicles.
Hybrid and EV Expectations
The production costs for hybrids and electric vehicles have not come down so the retail price has changed little. The battery technology continues to be expensive and slow to change.
Auto News says that the industry assumed consumers would more easily switch to a recharging scenario than has happened. Once the initial excitement faded, auto manufacturers are now seeing this as a slow change.
Hydrogen fuel cells were proposed as the backbone of all electric cars, giving better range and recharging options. Industry specialists are still seeing this as a distant solution, perhaps another ten years. One major challenge is the lack of a national system for refueling hydrogen cells.
Another competitive factor is the efficiency improvements of the gasoline engine.
Downsizing Benefits the Gasoline Engine
Auto manufacturers are putting smaller engines into cars that once came standard with larger power plants, reports Auto News. More automakers are offering 4-cylinder engines in place of the 6-cylinder models and V6s instead of V8s. U.S. consumers have become more accepting of smaller engines during this rise in fuel economy cars.
There is also a movement toward buying smaller cars. People are buying compacts and sub-compacts over large and mid-sized vehicles. Lighter vehicles give better gas mileage.
Diesels are once again gaining the attention of the consumer. Manufacturers are announcing diesel options in some of their popular models. Auto News notes that Chevrolet plans to offer a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel in its Cruze compact. The estimated mpg on highway conditions is 46 mpg. Nissan and Volkswagen both note an interest in their diesel models.
In a move to create better fuel efficiency through manufacturing practices, Ford announced that it will begin building its popular F-150 pickup using aluminum instead of heavier steel. Aluminum was once thought to be too difficult and expensive to use on high-volume production lines. Both Ford and GM are planning to show that they can overcome those barriers.
How to Choose?
Extreme Tech offers a suggestion for how to choose your next car based on the current standing of gasoline, diesel and hybrid vehicles. Pick a gasoline engine if you are a low-mileage drive, a hybrid for the typical city driving, and a diesel for high-mileage ventures on the highway.
Their reasoning is based on a number of factors including:
- The higher cost of a hybrid over comparable gasoline cars;
- The price of gas versus diesel;
- The miles per gallon averages of a diesel;
- The higher trade-in value of diesel over gasoline-powered cars.
The Future of Green Cars Still Includes the Gasoline-Powered Vehicle
Consumers will continue to watch the battle between gasoline, diesel and hybrid cars while each make improvements to fuel efficiency and usability. New light-weight production materials for gas and diesel cars, new battery technology for hybrids and EVs, and a nationwide infrastructure that supports hybrids and EVs will soon make choosing a new car even more difficult.