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Will Hybrid Sales Surge Along With Gasoline Prices?

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Nissan Leaf

Nisan Leaf plugs – the right is for home use 110/220 volts. (Credit: Nissan)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — As gasoline prices keep climbing, every driver is looking to keep more money their pockets.

As Dorothy Tucker reports, some are so fed up that they’re trading in their traditional vehicles for hybrids.

Darryl Lloyd is looking at the Prius.

“I was holding off, but once [gas prices] hit the $4 a gallon [mark], this started looking a lot more interesting,” said Lloyd, who had his eye on a royal blue model at Grossinger Toyota.

The spike in gas prices–the average is $3.75 across Chicago–is prompting scores of consumers like Lloyd to look at alternatives to traditional cars.

Grossinger, which usually sells 25 Prius cars in a month, sold 14 last weekend alone.

And even though the Chevrolet electric Volt hasn’t hit the showroom, interest is high.

“Pretty much in the last week, we’ve had e-mail inquiries, people calling for them.” said Brian Weinberg, director of retail operations for Grossinger. “People have been coming in wanting to drive them.”

But these cars cost more than traditional cars. So, is it worth it to buy one now?

“Buying a Prius will eventually pay off,” says Phillip Reed, senior consumer editor for Edmunds.com.

Here’s why: A Prius, the most popular hybrid, averages $24,000 and gets a 50 miles to the gallon. Most compare it to the fuel efficient Toyota Camry, which cost $22,000 and get 25 miles to the a gallon. That’s a $2,000 difference, but experts say you begin to see the savings in about a year.

“If gas prices keep going up, you may be very happy that you got it even though you paid a little more than you expected,” Reed said.

What about an electric car?

The Nissan Leaf is the most economical at $27,000 with tax breaks. That’s only $3,000 more than the Camry, but experts say until they hit the road, there are too many unknowns. For example, will it really get 99 miles a gallon, and how much will it really cost in electricity to charge the car?

The Volt will be selling for around $40,000.

Electric cars are expected to hit the showrooms this summer. But there won’t be many on the market. Dealers say if you want one you should order it now.

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