The Prius is officially part of the big leagues. Rather than just leading the hybrid niche, it is now the third top selling car in the world.
On the road for 15 years, sales of the new four-model Prius family doubled in the first quarter to 247,230. Only Toyota's Corolla and Ford's Focus beat it, at 300,800 and 277,000 sales respectively.
The small version of the Prius, called Prius c in the US and Aqua in Japan, is the top selling car in Japan right now. In Japan, Prius family sales tripled from 52,507 last year to 175,080 in the first quarter of 2012. Japan offers rebates and tax deductions for hybrids.
All told, Toyota has sold 4 million hybrids worldwide, including 1.5 million in the U.S., which has been the top market for the Prius.
Fuel economy tops the list for car buyers' criteria, followed by safety.
Still, experts see hybrid sales going down again as gas prices drop. They don't see a steady market for hybrids until gas prices levelize at $5 a gallon.
Along with the Honda Civic, the Prius has the highest indoor air quality in the industry.
Senate Passes "Something" Unanimously
Although few of them probably own electric cars, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that will put charging stations at the Capitol.
But only on the Senate's side of the Capitol, where it has control over the parking lot! Installation and maintenance of the EV charging stations will be paid for through user fees ... let's hope there are some users.
"S. 739 works on a simple premise: the more people who drive electric cars on campus, the more plug-in stations the [Architect of the Capitol] will install," says Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). "S. 739 ensures demand for plug-in stations will match the number of dues-paying participants who fund the program."
China Supports Clean Vehicles
Starting this year, China plans to spend $315 million annually to cultivate a clean vehicle industry, including hybrid buses.
The funds will support R&D and the industry supply chain, accelerated installation of charging stations and promotion of advanced vehicles to industries for their fleets.
It also calls for cities to implement preferential policies for advanced vehicles on parking and tolls, and the ability to get a car without participating in a lottery and being limited to using them on only certain days.
In April, China released a plan that makes EVs the the top priority for transportation to "promote the transformation and upgrading of the auto industry, speed up the cultivation and development of energy-saving and new energy automotive industry, and to ease pressure on energy and the environment."
The 2012-2020 plan clarifies regulations and incentives for automakers, state officials and car buyers, which currently get a $9520 subsidy in pilot cities.
Because of this certainty, China's EV market is expected to expand faster than that in the US, which lacks any concrete policy.