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Why hybrids are more popular than EVs — even if they aren't quite as splashy

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hybrid vehicles - you know, the ones that use both gas and electricity - do not get a ton of attention these days because everybody's talking about pure electric vehicles. But hybrids remain more popular than EVs. NPR's Camila Domonoske reports.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: At the DC Auto Show last month, Mason Bond said his favorite car was the Toyota future car.

MASON BOND: It recognizes your personality with artificial intelligence, so whatever mood you're in, the car will ask you if they can drive you.

DOMONOSKE: AI - it's everywhere these days. But his grandpa, Steve, was checking out something less whiz-bang. Call it the Toyota today car, a hybrid Highlander.

STEVE BOND: I think it's time to go from straight gasoline to a hybrid model for the better mileage.

DOMONOSKE: Nearby, Carla Grenell was also planning to check out the latest and greatest tech.

CARLA GRENELL: And I think there's a BMW here that changes colors. I don't know. Is that a real - have you heard of that?

DOMONOSKE: Real thing. But when it comes to the next car that Grenell will consider buying, it won't change colors, it won't read minds and it probably won't have a plug.

GRENELL: Hybrids would be nice to afford, like, kind of like the Prius. That sort of hybrid.

DOMONOSKE: These old-school kind of hybrids are still popular - in fact, much more popular than electric vehicles. Michelle Krebs is with Cox Automotive.

MICHELLE KREBS: About 11% of all new car shoppers look at EVs. About 20% shop for hybrids.

DOMONOSKE: Right now, lots of those shoppers wind up disappointed. For both hybrids and electric vehicles, demand outstrips supply right now, But it shows that a lot of people want hybrids, including people who say they would eventually like to have an electric vehicle. And it's not just because hybrids tend to be a lot cheaper.

KREBS: There's still people who have trepidation about range anxiety and charging and that kind of thing with EVs. And so they see hybrids as a stepping stone.

DOMONOSKE: Apartment dwellers might not have a place to charge at home. Or take Steve Bond. He says, sure, he'd drive an EV someday.

BOND: But not yet.

DOMONOSKE: As for why, he said road trips.

BOND: Availability of charging stations, or I should say lack of.

DOMONOSKE: Meanwhile, hybrid shoppers also have a lot more options these days. The Prius got a sportier redesign - still gets 57 miles to the gallon. But there are also hybrid SUVs and trucks, like Toyota's hybrid RAV4 - 41 miles to the gallon - and the Ford Maverick pickup, which gets 42 miles to the gallon. Or, if you're looking for something sportier...

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

DOMONOSKE: ...The new Corvette E-Ray has a big beast of a gas engine in the back...

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

DOMONOSKE: ...And an electric motor about the size of a Folgers coffee can tucked between the front wheels. As for fuel economy - come on, it's a Corvette. Here's chief engineer Josh Holder.

JOSH HOLDER: That's not what this car is about. This is all about enhancing the performance of the Corvette.

DOMONOSKE: Performance, as in going hybrid meant better traction and the fastest Corvette ever - zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds. So, no, hybrids aren't the newest or the hottest technology, but they've moved firmly into the mainstream and they are still very popular. And I probably don't need to tell you that. According to surveys, NPR listeners are twice as likely as the average American to drive a Prius.

Camila Domonoske, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF C Y G N'S "ESCAPE WORLD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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