Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electrics accounted for the fastest-growing U.S. vehicle segment in terms of first-quarter sales, though they still may not be worth the extra price if all you're looking for is payback through lower refueling costs, according to separate reports.

First-quarter electric-drive vehicle sales jumped 49 percent from a year earlier to more than 117,000 vehicles, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. With such growth – both the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in hybrid and the Toyota Prius hybrid set monthly sales records in March – GM cut its previously planned production shutdown from four weeks to five and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle sales could grow further starting later this year once U.S. production of the car get underway. Domestic production might also lowering the EVs cost in America.

Last month, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and diesels rose almost 40 percent. In addition to the Prius and Volt, sales of the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen diesels and General Motors' eAssist-powered mild hybrids such as the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Malibu also jumped substantially.

The growth rate likely reflects the effect of both rising gas prices and year-earlier supply constraints on models such as the Prius stemming from the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last March. Regular gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon, up about 60 cents this year, according to AAA.

Still, most hybrids would take more than a decade to pay off their higher costs in the form of lower refueling expenses, and that scenario wouldn't change even if gas prices were to rise to $5 a gallon, the New York Times reports, using data compiled by automotive research website TrueCar.com.

The Times says models such as the Prius and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid pay back their owners within two years, but a car like the Ford Fusion Hybrid takes more than eight years to pay off at $4 a gallon and 15,000 miles a year driven. And even with gas prices at $6 a gallon, hybrid versions of the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata would still take four years to pay off. Even with gas at $5 a gallon, a Nissan Leaf would take nine years to pay off the difference between is price and that of the Nissan Versa. Relative to the Chevy Cruze, the Volt could take a quarter-century to pay off.

We wondered about those numbers. The only comparisons that can honestly be made are between cars that have ICE-only and hybrid versions. So we did some math. The 2.5-liter I4 Fusion gets 25 miles per gallon combined and costs $24,970. Thus, fuel for 15,000 miles at $4.00 would be $2,400. The Fusion Hybrid gets 39 mpg combined and costs $29,570. Fuel for 15,000 miles in this car would be $1,538. So, the difference per year is $862. Given this, the Hybrid would pay back the initial price difference of $4,600 in 5.3 years, not eight. Of course, if you compare either of the more expensive and thirstier V6 versions, the numbers are even more favorable (2.8 years for the 3.0 V6, for example).

Perhaps buyers are driven by something other than payback times, like simply using less fuel. Whatever the reason, some lower-priced hybrids seem to be making a case that the extra price is worth it. For example, there were more Toyota Prius C compacts sold within its first three days on the market in March than Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicles and Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-ins in all of February.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 117 Comments
      george costanza
      • 4 Months Ago
      I dont agree with below re: hybrid camry. it is like flexfuel vehicle to me..most of that is greenwashing. either buy a real hybrid or buy ICE which is fuel efficient... I dont agree with a couple miles bonus for five grand extra.. either go big or go home.
        EZEE
        • 4 Months Ago
        @george costanza
        their killing independent George
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Gosh, autobloggreen. You sure do post a lot of articles against the subject of your site. Not many sites i know of do that. Just rename it to Jalopnik Jr. and get it over with.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 4 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Well stated. I am also only here for the community. The actual content is poor to average. This is definitely one of those weeks here on ABG where i am asking myself why i still read this stuff tho.
        marcopolo
        • 4 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        @ 2WM, Ezee, Spec et al, What part of "environmentally-friendly (or egregiously unfriendly) car news, reviews, high-quality photos and commentary about living green." Don't you understand? ABG article are often opinion pieces. Naturally, opinions differ, sometime you are with the author, sometimes you don't. Of course, those who subscribe to conspiracy theories, follow a rigid mindset, or follow a particular political agenda will always find sinister motives. ABG, follows a magazine style, comment friendly, format. It encourages a wider, more mainstream audience. 2WM, seems to believe that ABG should be published as a Not-for-Profit service ! If it were, it would attract only a tiny audience of fellow travellers. ABG journalists do their best, not perfect, but pretty damn good!
          EZEE
          • 4 Months Ago
          @marcopolo
          You are cetainly correct Marco, however, my comment would be that they have had a lot of these articles. Imagine I work in the fast food ndustry, publishing trends and news. Now, imagine that 1/2 of my articles are on how awful fast food is for people. I seek out and find articles from MSNBC, for example, that tell everyone on how fast food will kill us all. The industry might want to fight back, but at some point, fatigue would set in. People would ask, 'how come you ignore this great new sandwich, called the Blade, from Australian fast food maker, Hopping Roos, but publish another article about how now it seems even grilled chicken is bad for you?' I am obviously not a long haired, dope smoking, tree hugging, Birkenstock hacky sack playing, fece throwing, Starbucks burning, compost turning, maggot infested hippie type (wow, that is the longest I ever went with that), however, I do like learning and do want a green environment, and would rather they spent more time finding articles that allowed me to learn, opposed to obvious trolling for clicks. Not sure where I got 'maggot infested,..' sorry to anyone offended....
        EZEE
        • 4 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        you know....you got me to thinking.... I go to lots of car web sites, political web sites, etc. there are always trolls on all web sites, and they can be fun or annoying... When I think of the car websites, however, ABG seems to troll their own viewers, on their own subject! I go to jalopnik. Somewhat fun, odd in many ways, but I rarely see stuff there, leftlanenews, car connection, etc., where the authors troll like they do here. In the end, I learn more stuff from the commenters. You taught me the finer points of bikes, Marco explained the horror of pollution from container ships, PR has his great left Wong sided research (I am not criticizing it for beng left wing), and even Dan, with light weight and aero. Then there are the hydrogen and fuel cell posters...sure, people disagree, but learned more as a result. Many times I see articles posted here, earlier from other sites....
      JoeP
      • 4 Months Ago
      We often read how it makes little sense to buy a hybrid because we won't recoup the extra expense of the hybrid for decades. I have several problems with this silly "calculation". First, why don't we see the comparison between buying the cheapest car and every other we are thinking about buying? If we buy a simple car for $13,000 vs a luxury car. Why don't we compare the costs and payback for both of those options? Because it doesn't make sense. We want the car we want for our own reasons and don't feel the need to justify it. Is the Camry really worth so much more than the Corolla? Can you justify the difference? It will never break even. Second, it doesn't factor in the effects of us lowering our fuel consumption. If we reduce consumption, it will lower the price of fuel, further increasing the savings. If that happens, do you think the silly calculations would take that into account? No, they would say that it is an even worse buy than before because prices are lower, never considering that prices are low because so many people are conserving fuel. Third, if we conserve resources now, the supply ( and our society which is based on oil) will be stable for a longer period. How is that figured into the calculation? If we run out, we will quickly change our minds about the value of conserving, but at that point it won't matter. Fourth, gasoline is unique because as oil companies see it, gasoline is a byproduct of the production of high-value plastics and chemicals. If a plastic sells for $3-15/lb, that equates to roughly $15-70/gallon...much higher than gasoline. Oil companies want the volume of gasoline produced to be the amount of high-value products produced. Even a small surplus would cause the price would come down very quickly, as oil companies would have to find ways to get rid of the excess gasoline supplies. What can we do to lower gas prices? Conserve fuel! We have more power than we think.
      marcopolo
      • 4 Months Ago
      The British Columbia Automobile Association, conducted a series of comprehensive studies establishing that at least five hybrids exceeded the 'return on investment' of a close ICE equivalent, over a five year period of ownership. (Several articles and comparison studies can be found on the BCAA website.) Comparisons are always going to vary in different areas, with the price of gasoline and motor vehicle models varying due to tax, pricing, rebates or available taxation benefits. Neil Blanchard makes and interesting point when he says that the extra cast of a 'green' version should be regarded in the same way as someone choosing the upmarket "loaded" version of a particular model. Both buyers are motivated by personal choice of features. Such comparisons are very favourable for EV technology, especially with government tax incentives.
      Ford Future
      • 4 Months Ago
      From the Business Week article, even Honda is having a good hybrid year. Higher gasoline prices have provided a lift to Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s Civic hybrid sales, which more than doubled last month and are up 29 percent for the year, said Tetsuo Iwamura, head of the automaker’s North American operations.
      garylai
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a ridiculous article, especially the comparison of a Nissan Leaf to a Versa. Talk about fuzzy math. I own a Leaf and have driven a Versa many times as a rental car. Even forgetting about the engine, a standard Leaf is a much higher end car than a standard Versa, with standard features like Bluetooth, Satellite Radio, navigation system, heated seats/wheel, and voice controls. Here's a real comparison - I went to the Nissan website and priced a Versa that has comparable specifications standard equipment to a Leaf - a 1.8SL Hatchback automatic transmission with navigation system. The MSRP was $19,970. Acccording to the EPA, this model gets 30 mpg combined city/highway mileage. Assuming driving 15,000 miles a year at this mileage and $4 a gallon gas, this car would cost $2,000 per year in gasoline. Now, the Nissan Leaf MSRP after tax rebate is $27,700, or $7,730 more than the comparable Versa. According to the EPA (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/32154.shtml) the Nissan Leaf costs $600 per year in electricity if you pay the national average electricity rate and drive 15,000 miles. So the Nissan Leaf requires $1,400 less per year for energy than the Versa. To make up the $7,730 sticker difference requires 5.5 years, not 9 years as quoted in the article. But the Leaf has more going for it than that. Compared to the Versa, it has virtually no required maintenance. The lifetime recommended maintenance for the Leaf consists of servicing the brakes and rotating the tires. The Versa as with any ICE car will require much more maintenance. Add to that the fact that in many states, there are more tax incentives for the Leaf, like additional tax rebates and waiving sales tax. I intend to hold on to my Leaf for 8 years/100,000 miles. I have calculated that its total cost of ownership over that time period is comparable to a $15,000 ICE car in the state of Washington, like a low-end Versa or Corolla.
        Grendal
        • 4 Months Ago
        @garylai
        Well said. It's easy for someone to dismiss new technology and an upfront higher price. The reality is that the Leaf is also more fun to drive. People spend lots of extra money for sporty fun cars with crappy mileage and no one ever complains about that because they understand the need for fun. Spending extra for an EV just doesn't compute for most though...
      george costanza
      • 4 Months Ago
      any hybrid will immed. double typical gas mileage and will all pay off; gas isnt static. it is going to go up as Iran keeps cutting exports, right now Obama is trying to release all reserves as fast as possible with virtually no effect as it is offset by increased sanctions which he pretty much announced at the same time, and also live where you have public transportation and can grow your own food not polluted by big ag/big oil.....of course this would be thinking proactively which is now 'liberal' accor. to big oil which owns govt. and creates current 'labeling' of who used to be conservatives by supporting america...which as a democracy no longer exists.... current amerika supports communist china and foreign wars to protect oil while we as in brainwashed gullible 'patriots' whose brains are filled with garbage and rocks 'fear' unarmed democratic semihomeless hippies/jobless students but dont give a **** about neonaz!s patrolling in FL with things which are only usually found in war and should be illegal but right wing havent said sh*( about it...... what a fu*(ed up country.
        EZEE
        • 4 Months Ago
        @george costanza
        Mr. Lippman: It's come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct? George Costanza: Who said that? Mr. Lippman: She did. George Costanza: [pause] Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorence on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon... you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time. Mr. Lippman: You're fired! George Costanza: Well, you didn't have to say it like that. Share this quote
      • 4 Months Ago
      I’ve been driving a Honda Insight hybrid for over 11 years, a bit over 163K miles. When I was researching vehicles in 2001, I found that hybrids were far less popular among “progressives” than among “conservatives” (one treatment of this can be found at http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/talk-talk-dont-drive-car). Hybrid technology actually isn’t new; the Mother Earth News had an article in the early ’70s describing a homebuilt hybrid that got over 70mpg, but the technology to allow a hybrid to be driven like a normal car took a good deal longer (cars are, to put it charitably, not a very good environment for computers). I bought the Insight because it got an honest 65mpg on the Interstate (before I replaced the original equipment tires with some that had more rolling resistance, but weren’t so fragile that I had 4 catastrophic tire failures that destroyed the tires in the first 50K miles), and it has been a very reliable car, with no major problems not due to the aging of the battery pack, which the warranty replaced before 150K miles at no charge. A lot of people thought I was making a political statement by buying the hybrid (many think they can deduce my politics from the facts that I drive a hybrid auto and wear Birkenstocks), but I didn’t buy it because of my politics, or from a sense of helping the environment; if it had put out the maximum amount of pollution allowed and got the same mileage, I would still have bought it. I bought it because Honda had a good reputation, and it got really good gas mileage. And I have never had any real regrets for buying it (it would have been nice if it had been a bit bigger…).
      EZEE
      • 4 Months Ago
      That must be it!
      emailrobertcena
      • 3 Years Ago
      First of all it is a good news from that Hybrids lead fastest growing segment,it is great success for them and this shows that Hybrids are more in demand by car lover in automotive market. http://www.thetruckguide.com
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      The rhetoric that "most hybrids would take more than a decade to pay off" is not supported by the nytimes report. They list 3 hybrids that take longer than 10 years to payoff and 9 hybrids that payoff in less than 9 years. And they failed to include a raft of new hybrid models comming on the market including the priusV and priusC. And IF the price of gas goes up they pay off faster.
        paulwesterberg
        • 4 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        They also didn't report figures for the honda Insight which is one of the most affordable hybrids. I have no idea why anyone would buy a civic hybrid(starting at 24k) when the insight starts at 18k!!
        mylexicon
        • 4 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        It doesn't matter if they ever pay off. Consumers have been buying junk that doesn't pay off since the beginning. Hybrids reduce oil imports, and over time, they will probably reduce CO2 as well, even when the manufacturing process is taken into consideration. Hybrids are more high tech, more advanced, higher performance, and a half-dozen other utility concepts. The mere fact that you can buy auto options that pay for themselves is something of a minor miracle.
      American Refugee
      • 3 Years Ago
      Let's just keep repeating this until every article on this subject admits it up front: all these calculations mean nothing if you don't include resell value. How many people buy a new car and keep it until the junk yard? Resell value on the Prius, for example, has made that car a great deal, as much or more then gas savings. Repeat after me: All these calculations mean nothing if you don't include resell value.
        Spec
        • 4 Months Ago
        @American Refugee
        You are completely correct in that you need to account for resale value. However, the problem with that is that it is a very difficult value to predict and quantify.
          ec8094
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Spec
          Not really. KBB has used prius and camry hybrid numbers right now. Just use the published values, it's based on thousands of transactions.
    • Load More Comments