Lower prices, higher reliability and the ever-rising cost of fuel are all helping make hybrids look more and more attractive to the average consumer every year. Where just a short while ago buyers had only a handful of choices, by this upcoming model year it’ll be hard to find a car manufacturer out there not offering a hybrid option.
A growing number of smart consumers are realizing that the savings a hybrid brings can be too huge to ignore. And it’s growing every year. But what’s really driving the trend, and where is it going?
Average gasoline prices in the US are closely approaching $4.00, and in many parts of the country are well over that mark already. For most car owners, this has forced a change in their driving habits, but what about those not afforded that luxury? Many people have no other option than to rely on their vehicle for travel to, from and for work, or tend to their families and their activities.
Luckily, gas prices aren’t the only thing increasing. Battery storage and efficiency are increasing with every new model, even as the technology gets cheaper to produce. But with such substantial improvement year over year many consumers are worried about spending a large sum on something that may be outdated within just a few short years. For this reason, leasing has become and increasingly popular option among shoppers eyeing hybrids. Those looking for a new car don’t have to worry about being tied to a vehicle for decade anymore, and with banks finally beginning to loosen credit requirements again, many shoppers are being offered leasing options they couldn’t get just a few years ago.
Yet here are many people who aren’t interested in leasing but still want to go hybrid—or even full electric—and the industry is listening. With more modular approaches to design, some companies are looking to help future proof their vehicles by making not just components replaceable and affordable, but even parts of components re-buildable. So if a part of your battery has a malfunction or reaches the end of its lifespan, you can replace just that part, rather than the whole battery. An example of this will be seen in the Nissan Leaf starting with the 2013 model.
It’s been 13 years since the first mass-produced hybrid, the Honda Insight, hit the market. In terms of technological improvements that’s a lifetime, and it shows when you compare today’s hybrids and electric vehicles to their predecessors. After more than a decade, it’s safe to say that most of the bugs have been worked out of the systems driving these cars. Today’s hybrids are increasingly gaining in consumer confidence, and they deserve it. Mechanical and system faults are still slightly more common than with non-hybrid vehicles, but this risk no longer outweighs the benefits. In most cases, manufacturers will offer standard extended warranties on hybrids to ensure against any trouble down the road as well. The one area to still be cautious in is purchasing a used, high-mileage hybrid from anyone that’s not a dealer though, as these are unlikely to carry any warranty.
The past decade has also seen an explosion in alternate-fuel options. Where once there were just a handful of hybrid and electric vehicles offered from a small number of manufacturers, now a company would be foolish to not offer a hybrid option on its top-selling lines. In the end, more competition means better options for consumers, and the veritable arms race between manufacturers promises to make quality hybrids more affordable to buyers at every price point.
So where will be be in another decade? It’s a tough question to answer, but car manufacturers aren’t the only ones banking on this trend continuing. A number of energy companies are positioning themselves to be on the forefront of the all-electric era, with sizeable investments being pushed into rapid-charge technologies and infrastructures. Most anticipate a day in the not-too-distant future where a ten-minute, high-voltage charge can take you 200 miles or more. And when that day finally does arrive, what will you be driving?