"It's the gas prices, stupid." Five words sum up Edmunds' findings - and we've heard that somewhere before, haven't we? Not only are overall hybrid and EV sales falling, down a half-percent so far this year, but Edmunds' numbers show that the number of green-car defectors is rising: in 2012, 60 percent of green-car owners traded in for another green car; so far this year that's down to 45 percent.

The greater heresy: many of those buyers are trading in for SUVs. In 2012 just 11.9 percent of hybrid and EV owners traded their car for an SUV, while 18.8 percent did the same last year. The average national gas price three years ago was $4.67. Checking the American Automobile Association, at the time of this writing, the price is $2.46 per gallon.

The 50-percent discount on the annual gas bill is making it hard to buyers to justify the cost premium for hybrid cars. Or put another way by Edmunds, "it looks like many hybrid and EV owners are driven more by financial motives rather than a responsibility to the environment." The press release below has more information.

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Hybrid and Electric Vehicles Struggle to Maintain Owner Loyalty, Reports Edmunds.com
Earth Day Analysis Shows Car Buyers Trading in Alternative Fuel Vehicles for SUVs More than Ever Before

Earth Day Analysis Buyers Trading in Alternative Fuel Vehicles for SUVs More than Ever Before

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Car buyers are trading in hybrid and electric cars for SUVs at a higher rate than ever before, according to a new analysis from car-buying platform Edmunds.com. The analysis offers a surprising look at how today's gas prices are drawing hybrid and EV owners toward gas-guzzling vehicles at a much more accelerated pace than in recent years.

According to Edmunds.com, about 22 percent of people who have traded in their hybrids and EVs in 2015 bought a new SUV. The number represents a sharp increase from 18.8 percent last year, and it is nearly double the rate of 11.9 percent just three years ago. Overall, only 45 percent of this year's hybrid and EV trade-ins have gone toward the purchase of another alternative fuel vehicle, down from just over 60 percent in 2012. Never before have loyalty rates for alt-fuel vehicles fallen below 50 percent.

"For better or worse, it looks like many hybrid and EV owners are driven more by financial motives rather than a responsibility to the environment," says Edmunds.com Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell. "Three years ago, when gas was at near-record highs, it was a lot easier to rationalize the price premiums on alternative fuel vehicles. But with today's gas prices as low as they are, the math just doesn't make a very compelling case."

To underscore the point, Edmunds calculates that at the peak average national gas price of $4.67/gallon in October 2012, it would take five years to break even on the $3,770 price difference between a Toyota Camry LE Hybrid ($28,230) and a Toyota Camry LE ($24,460). At today's national average gas price of $2.27/gallon, it would take twice as much time (10.5 years) to close the same gap.

Edmunds' analysis comes at a time when overall sales of alternative vehicles have continued to slide. EVs and hybrids accounted for just 2.7 percent of all new car sales in the first quarter of 2015, down from 3.3 percent during that same period last year. The share of SUVs, meanwhile, has increased from 31.8 percent in Q1 2014 to 34.2 percent in Q1 2015.

Shoppers who want to learn more about hybrid and electric vehicles on today's new and used market are encouraged to visit Edmunds.com at http://www.edmunds.com/hybrid/. Shoppers can also calculate "breakeven" times using Edmunds' Gas Guzzler Calculator at http://www.edmunds.com/calculators/gas-guzzler.html?sv.

About Edmunds.com, Inc.
Car-buying platform Edmunds.com serves nearly 18 million visitors each month. With Edmunds.com Price Promise®, shoppers can buy smarter with instant, upfront prices for cars and trucks currently for sale at 10,000 dealer franchises across the U.S. Shoppers can browse not only dealer inventory, but also vehicle reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories on both Edmunds' wired site and on its acclaimed mobile apps. Regarded as one of the best places to work in Southern California, Edmunds.com was also named one of "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Automotive" by Fast Company. Edmunds welcomes all car-shopping questions on its free Live Help Line at 1-855-782-4711 and help@edmunds.com, via text at ED411 and on Twitter and Facebook. The company is based in Santa Monica, Calif. and has a satellite office in downtown Detroit, Mich., but you can find Edmunds from anywhere on YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Flipboard.

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