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National Hybrid Sales Surging a Good Sign for Both EVs and ICEs

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Sept. 20, 2021—Recently, hybrid electric vehicles haven't been getting as much publicity as their fully electric counterparts. 

As EVs have been lauded as the future of the automotive industry and an absolute must in the fight against climate change, and as they struggle to deal with the growing pains that so often accompany new technologies, hybrids have—for better or for worse—largely flown under the radar.  

Despite that lack in airtime, however, hybrids continue to prove they still have a space in the U.S. car parc. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, sales for hybrid vehicles have not only been significantly higher than EVs for the past three years, but sales numbers for hybrids have also grown at a faster annual rate than EVs have. From 2018 to 2020, sales of EVs rose nearly 16 percent from 207,062 to 240,053. Over the same time period, hybrids nearly doubled that rate of growth, jumping up by almost 35 percent from 338,083 units solid in 2018 to 454,890 in 2020. 

The sales numbers point out an important trend developing: Consumers are, in general, more willing to switch to a hybrid that to a full battery-electric vehicle. A report from The Bulletin suggests that's fairly normal behavior but also adds that the surge in hybrid sales isn't necessarily a bad thing for the future of EVs.

"Many experts say that consumers’ apparent willingness to make the switch to hybrids, which has coincided with more popular models becoming available, could be a promising sign for an eventual shift toward electric vehicles," the report says. 

And though it may seem as though EVs and hybrids may be in direct competition with the other, several officials with the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California at Davis seem to think otherwise.

“There’s some overlap, but it’s not the same,” Gil Tal, director of the research center, said in the Bulletin report. "Both segments have a lot of room to grow before they start cannibalizing each other."

The adoption of electric vehicles into the mainstream, despite their growing prominence, is still quite a way off. EV infrastructure across the country hasn't developed nearly enough to make EVs a viable option for a majority of drivers in the near term.

“Without drastic measures, I don’t see a lot of Americans flocking to battery electric vehicles,” Wards Intelligence Electrification Analyst Christie Schweinsberg said in the Bulletin report.

Biden's infrastructure plan lays the groundwork to help EVs become more widely accepted, but even if the goal of having 50 percent of new vehicles sales be some form of electric vehicle by 2030, that still leaves a lot of room for internal-combustion-powered and hybrid vehicles to thrive for quite some time still. 

“Our research shows that there is growing consumer interest in eco-friendly vehicles,” Hyundai Motors USA spokesman Michael Stewart said in the Bulletin report. “Hybrids are great transition models as we move to a zero-emissions future.”

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