Early in March, Toyota said that it had sold more Prius C cars in its first three days on the market than Chevrolet sold plug-in Volts and Nissan sold battery-powered Leafs in all of February. The statistic highlights that even within the fuel-efficient car market, hybrids have a big leg up on electric cars, which are far more expensive.
According to TrueCar, a buyer who chose the Leaf instead of a Nissan Versa would need to drive it for almost nine years at today’s gas prices or six years at $5 a gallon before the fuel savings outweighed the nearly $10,000 difference in price.
The Volt, which cost nearly $40,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, could take up to 27 years to pay off versus a Chevrolet Cruze, assuming it was regularly driven farther than its battery-only range allows. The payback time could drop to about eight years if gas cost $5 a gallon and the driver remained exclusively on battery power.
The Lundberg Survey, which tracks fuel prices, said in March that gas prices would need to reach $12.50 a gallon for the Volt to make sense purely on financial terms. It said the Leaf would be competitive with gas at $8.53 a gallon.