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Electric vehicles proving popular

PANAMA CITY — What’s the most beloved automobile by its owners? The answer may be shocking.

For the second year in a row, Consumer Reports’ ranked the Chevy Volt as the most-loved car by its owners. Also ranking high atop the magazine’s findings was Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, Prius, Prius C and Nissan’s Leaf.

Chris Cramer, sales manager at Bill Cramer Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC, said he’s glad the Chevy Volt is getting good press.

“It’s a great car and the customers we have love them,” he said. “They’re a nice car to drive, even if they weren’t an electric car.”

After some bad press in the beginning due to safety hazards, hybrids and electric cars are gaining some momentum, even in Bay County. Shane Smith, a sales consultant at Bill Byrd Kia, said they sold three Kia Optima Hybrids in about a week. John Davidson, customer relations manager at Panama City Toyota, said there were about 40 hybrid cars in their lot on one recent day and that they sell about 15 to 20 per month.

Electric cars are powered by rechargeable battery packs and come with plugs or charging stations. According to Derrick Bierau, sales manager at John Lee Nissan, the fully electric Nissan Leaf doesn’t have a gas tank. It also doesn’t have a motor, so owners don’t have to change spark plugs or get oil changes, he said.

Plug-in hybrids, like the Chevy Volt, can use gasoline when the rechargeable battery pack is low, but don’t require it to run.

Hybrids have both gasoline engines and electric motors. A hybrid car will transition between the electric and gasoline engines, based on how much electricity is stored.

Several local dealership employees attributed the rising appreciation of hybrid and electric cars to a combination of people trying to avoid high gas prices, the “Go Green” movement and federal tax credits for car owners.
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