Global hybrid and plug-in truck sales will almost double this year as more companies and public entities turn to advanced powertrains to cut fuel costs, green-technology research firm Pike Research said.

In 2012, hybrid and electric-drive truck sales around the world will reach about 19,000 vehicles and will increase by more than 45 percent for each of the next five years until it hits more than 100,000 vehicles by the end of 2017, Pike Research said.

The increase reflects a combination of a broader range of electric-drive models for utility vehicles and a rebound in the retail industry, which will free up cash for companies to pay more for alt-fuel vehicles, according to Pike Research senior analyst Dave Hurst. Industry analysts have predicted rapid growth for electric-drive trucks because of the potentially substantial fuel-cost savings relative to conventional diesel trucks, which usually get well below 10 miles per gallon.

AT&T, Coca-Cola, FedEx and UPS are among companies that in recent years have stepped up efforts to buy hybrid or plug-in trucks in order to cut both fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions from their fleets.

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