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USA:Plug-in hybrid sales soar; all-electric cars stay in low gear

‘Pure’ electric cars post underwhelming sales. Their limited range and higher prices, plus the lack of a strong public infrastructure for recharging their batteries, hurt their appeal.

Toyota sold 4,374 of its Prius plug-ins in the first half of this year, about 60% of them in California. (Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images / December 31, 1969)

Since a new generation of electric cars went on sale 18 months ago, the results have been far from jolting.

Sales of what are considered “pure” electric cars — they run off just a battery — have risen to slightly over 4,100 during the first six months of this year, up just 6% from the same period a year earlier, according to auto information company

The gain, which amounts to just 234 cars, comes even though Ford, BMW, Honda and Mitsubishi all have joined pioneer Nissan in offering electric vehicles. Analysts say electric cars’ limited range and higher prices, as well as the lack of a widespread public charging infrastructure, have hurt the appeal of the vehicles. The pure electric cars have no back-up to power them when their batteries run out.

“Range anxiety just kills it for a lot of day-to-day consumers,” said Ivan Drury, an analyst with

But sales of plug-in hybrids — vehicles that can travel some miles on battery power before a traditional gasoline engine kicks in — are soaring.

Thanks to a resurgent Chevrolet Volt and Toyota’s introduction of a plug-in version of its popular Prius, sales of such vehicles have jumped 381% to more than 13,000 in the first half of this year, according to


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