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As consumers pump the brakes on EV purchases, hybrid production ramps up

There’s been a noticeable change at the Ford F-150 plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Production manager Cortni Reeves said that on one particular day, one out of every seven trucks is a hybrid. 

“Every 53 seconds,” she said, “we have a truck come off this assembly line.”

A year ago, only one out of 10 trucks produced was a hybrid, marking a 30% increase in hybrid production and showing that hybrids are what consumers are demanding.

It is a sharp about-face for electric vehicles. A recent AAA survey indicates a decline in American interest in purchasing electric vehicles, with only 18% of U.S. adults likely to buy an EV, down from 23% last year. 

In contrast, the survey found interest in hybrids is growing, with 31% of consumers expressing a likelihood of purchasing one. The main concerns deterring potential EV buyers are high costs, limited charging infrastructure and range anxiety.

Meanwhile, hybrids, which run on both battery power and gasoline, saw sales surge 53% in 2023 to a record high. Hybrids now make up 9% of new car sales, compared to about 7% for electric vehicles, according to MotorTrend, an American automobile magazine and the Department of Energy.

“There’s really no compromise for the hybrid customer,” said Andrew Frick, president of Ford Blue, which makes the company’s gas and hybrid vehicles. 

Ford recently set a new record for monthly hybrid sales and plans to quadruple production in the next five years. Frick said the company wants to cater to customer demand and can do so by finding a “balanced approach of gas, hybrid and electric vehicles.”

The Biden administration’s regulations are pushing automakers to rapidly electrify their vehicles since transportation is the top source of planet-warming emissions in the U.S. Over its lifetime, an EV produces 50% less CO2 than a gas-powered vehicle, while a hybrid cuts it by 25%, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Decarbonizing the American auto fleet would take longer if consumers choose hybrids over EVs.

But while EV sales are seeing a decline, Eric Tingwall, testing director with MotorTrend, says EV sales are still happening, but are “growing much slower than they had been a year ago or two years ago.” 

Tingwall believes hybrids may be the bridge to an electric future for mainstream buyers. 

“The near-term future is hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and some gas vehicles as well,” Tingwall said.