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Hybrid electric car sales hit record high in US in 2021, industry data shows



Pure electric cars are grabbing all the headlines, but their gasoline-electric hybrid rivals quietly achieved record sales in the United States last year, industry data showed.

While the likes of Tesla and Ford Motor pushed for electric vehicle sales, Asian automakers promoted hybrid vehicle line-ups, as many customers still shy away from EVs due to high prices, limited driving range or lack of charging stations. Huh.

US sales of hybrid vehicles grew 76 percent last year to 801,550 vehicles, which accounts for 5 percent of U.S. light vehicle sales, according to data from analytics firm Wards Intelligence.

Electric vehicle sales also rose 83 percent to 434,879, but this represents only 3 percent of the market.

Toyota Motor recorded record hybrid car sales for the US market, helping the Japanese automaker to overtake General Motors as the best-selling US automaker.

Toyota increased its hybrid, plug-in and fuel cell sales by 73 percent to 583,697, the majority of which came from hybrids. GM sold less than 25,000 electric vehicles after the Bolt EVs were recalled due to the risk of a battery fire.

“Hybrids offer a really interesting mix of fuel economy performance without some of the major drawbacks present in electric vehicles,” said Brett Smith, technology director at the Center for Automotive Research.

Pure EVs run only on electricity and require a charging infrastructure, while hybrid EVs combine a conventional combustion engine with an electric propulsion system.

Honda Motor, the No. 2 hybrid car seller in the United States, also reported a 67 percent increase in hybrid sales, compared to a record 107,060 last year in 2020.

“We expect hybrid sales of our core products, the CR-V and Accord, to increase as we prepare for battery electric vehicles in the coming years,” Honda Executive Vice President Dave Gardner told Reuters.

Honda, which plans to launch its first EV for the US market in 2024, expects the market to accelerate due to several new models launched by automakers and policy support by the Biden administration.

“It’s just a matter of time, but consumer acceptance, I think, will take some time to catch on,” Gardner said.

Hyundai Motor sees hybrid and plug-in hybrid as “enablers” that will help accelerate battery EV sales, its global chief operating officer, Jose Munoz, said.

“Some of our competitors, they jump straight into battery EVs… we still see many consumers who are hesitant to just get into battery EVs,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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