Falling gas prices might be leading more drivers to switch from fuel-efficient vehicles to SUVs, according to a report from automotive website Edmunds.com.
The analysis found that so far in 2015, 22 percent of people exchanging hybrid or electric cars bought a sport-utility vehicle instead, a jump from the 18.8 percent that made a similar switch in 2014 and the highest ever recorded by Edmunds.
Only 45 percent of hybrid or electric owners, meanwhile, switched to another fuel-efficient vehicle this year, the first time that rate fell below 50 percent. In 2012, the percentage exceeded 60 percent.
Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell said the report appears to show that "hybrid and EV owners are driven more by financial motives rather than a responsibility to the environment."
Edmunds projected that at current gas prices, it would take the driver of a hybrid Toyota Camry more than a decade to realize enough savings at the gas pump to eclipse the $3,770 difference in price compared to the conventional model.
"Three years ago, when gas was at near-record highs, it was a lot easier to rationalize the price premiums on alternative fuel vehicles," Caldwell said. "But with today's gas prices as low as they are, the math just doesn't make a very compelling case."
Edmunds also found that SUV sales increased as a percentage of new vehicle sales from 31.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 34.2 percent in the first three months of 2015. Electric and hybrid vehicles, meanwhile, slipped from 3.3 percent to 2.7 percent over that span.