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Leaf seeks sales traction in electric, hybrid market

Richard Peterson bought a battery-and-gasoline-powered Chevrolet Volt three months ago, just as gasoline prices started to spike.

Since then, he’s managed to drive it on electric power only for his daily commute between home in Brentwood and work in Franklin. His total gasoline consumption the past 90 days has been a mere 1.2 gallons.

He laughs every time he passes a gas station and sees prices tick higher by another dime or two. The Volt, when operating only on electricity, costs about 50 cents a day to operate.

The only thing electric-and-hybrid car enthusiasts need now are more Richard Petersons. Only the Toyota Prius has turned in recent stellar sales totals, finishing among best-selling autos of all types in March, but other alternative vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt don’t come close.

The Leaf was delivered to fewer than 600 buyers in March nationwide, while the Prius tallied more than 18,000 sales. The Volt, which is the most expensive of mainstream hybrids and electrics, registered just under 2,300 sales last month.

“Consumers aren’t ready to embrace pure electrics such as the Leaf in significant numbers yet, even with the higher gas prices,” said Jim Hall of auto consulting firm 2953 Analytics in Detroit.

“It’s a new technology, and it requires too many compromises,” he said. “You have to have your own charger and your own garage, and you have to plug it in.”
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