As Fuel Gets Cheaper, Hybrid Drivers Opt for Gas-Guzzling SUVs

We know it's not a hybrid. Read the story.
We know it's not a hybrid. Read the story.
Photo by Tesla

The hybrid driver cares about the planet. She's not just eco-friendly, she's fashionable. She is, above all, a better human being than you.

But a funny thing happened as she cruised by the gas station: Hybrid and electric-vehicle owners have seen the same plummeting pump prices we have. And now they want their SUVs back.

So says Santa Monica–based car-buying platform Edmunds.com. Three years ago, the site says, 11.9 percent of hybrid and EV owners traded in their vehicles for SUVs. Last year that rate increased to 18.8 percent.

And now that rate is 22 percent so far in 2015. That means that more than one in five electric or EV drivers are opting for gas guzzlers, according to Edmunds.

The site's director of industry analysis, Jessica Caldwell, says:

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. 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.

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In other words, hybrid and electric vehicle owners are phonies! Well, one in five of you are. The sentiment seems to ring true in the shadow of Hollywood, where the otherwise modest Prius has become a fashion accessory for celebrities.

It would be sad to see the Prius go the way of the Chihuahua

Americans, in general, don't seem to learn from history well. Those days when unsold Hummers lined dealer overflow lots seem so far away now.

Edmunds says hybrids and electrics represented just 2.7 percent of all new car sales so far this year. That's a slide from 3.3 percent during the same time last year.

SUVs? Sales are up from 31.8 percent of new vehicle sales during the first quarter of 2014 to 34.2 percent during the same time frame this year.

If the economy tanks and gas prices head north of $4 again — God forbid — you're going to regret not hanging on to your hybrids.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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