In 1901, Ferdinand Porsche created the first hybrid car, which used a combination of gasoline and electric energy to power the vehicle. It wasn’t until 1997, though, that Toyota released the Prius, a Japanese car that’s very namesake is often considered synonymous with electric vehicles today. Since then, the hybrid model has come a long way, spanning various manufacturers and technological advances. Today, however, 17 years after their introduction into the mass market, the automotive industry is struggling to substantially integrate the hybrid automobile.
The vehicle that, ten years ago, boasted the reputation of “the car of the future” is now flat-lining on the auto market, though not for a lack of trying. A hybrid model is carried by 27 various automakers, but with classic models becoming more fuel-efficient while maintaining lower price points, the case for an electric vehicle is wavering. While hybrid mpg is still unbeatable, traditional vehicles are advancing their technology at a quicker rate. While the fuel-efficiency of a hybrid may be 50-mpg, that holds less weight when some gas-fueled engines can reach up to 40-mpg. Additionally, the model count is expanding with 44 hybrid models currently available, which spreads the sales even more thinly among producers.
Thus far, Prius sales are down 11.4% this year, though they still make up nearly half of the hybrid vehicles in garages today. As gas prices lower, manufacturers are forced to lower sticker prices of their electric vehicles as well, whose high sales were based entirely on gas conservation. And though they are finding some success, with Ford Focus Electric sales up 60% this month from last year, the numbers are still inconsequential, with only 176 sold.
Experts are saying that the only saving grace for the hybrid industry will be new technology. With cutting costs the industry’s profit is steadily shrinking and can only look forward to declining sales as gas prices decline. Unless industry leaders find a way to cut production cost while increasing sales, the hybrid may be doomed.