“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.”
This year’s first-quarter automotive sales figures have revealed an interesting finding: a hybrid vehicle is now the third top-selling car in the world. That’s right: the Toyota Prius is selling very well. The car has been around for fifteen years so everyone is already familiar with them. And given how many I see out there, I knew they were doing well, but I had no idea it was this impressive.
The increase in sales is being attributed to better incentives in Japan. Trailing behind the Toyota Corolla and the Ford Focus, it has been steadily picking up steam. The name Prius now applies to a family of three vehicles available in Canada and the US: the Prius, Prius C and Prius V all offer hybrid technology. Since the vehicle launched in 1997, more than 4 million of them have been sold worldwide, with 1.5 million of them in the US alone.
I’m happy to see the three top-selling cars are all smaller vehicles, and that a hybrid is among them. But when you find out what people are really thinking about when it comes to driving, this isn’t surprising news really. The sales figures were announced on the heels of a recent poll from Consumer Reports showing that fuel efficiency is the most important factor people take into consideration when buying a new vehicle. Thirty seven percent of people in the poll ranked fuel efficiency number one, more than any of the other factors they take into consideration.
Given the rising cost of gasoline—a trend that’s only going to get worse as we search for more difficult sources of oil like offshore drilling and the Alberta oil sands—people are looking at a variety of ways to save money at the gas pumps. If a greener option is one way to do that they’ll go for it, not because it’s green but because it’s more economical. People tend to choose cheaper over greener. It’s a fact of life. That’s why once renewable sources of energy are competitively priced with fossil fuels, we’ll have a much better chance of solving the problem of climate change.
Drivers are considering downsizing their bigger vehicles as one way to save money, since bigger vehicles guzzle more gasoline. When choosing replacement vehicles, they frequently consider those with diesel engines, hybrids, and even in some circumstances electric vehicles as options. Certainly electric vehicles are more of an oddity at this point, but fifteen years ago hybrids were just as much of an oddity, and they’re a mainstream option today. (For the record, I drive one as well—a 2010 Lexus RX450h.)
All told, the poll revealed that 73 percent of people were prepared to switch to alternatively fuelled vehicles. Not surprisingly, younger drivers were more likely to switch than those over the age of 55.
Since transportation contributes so much toward our emissions (about 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year worldwide), it’s nice to see that some headway is being made. Electric vehicles are slow to catch on at this point, but in fifteen years don’t be surprised if the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are among the top 10 selling cars for 2027.
Probably by then the cost of gas will be so ridiculously high, people won’t have a choice.