Despite the federal government’s obstinate refusal to increase vehicle fuel efficiency, consumers are increasingly setting their own standards higher. Hybrids are rocketing off car lots, according to Polk, an auto industry research firm. US sales of hybrids in 2004 outpaced the previous year’s sales by 81 percent. Not surprisingly, California led the surge, with as many new hybrid registrations, 25,021, as the next seven states combined.

The Northwest, however, can still pride itself on strong hybrid sales. Washington consumers were 3rd; Oregonians were 11th. (And on a per capita basis, Washington and Oregon would have performed even better: Washington is the 15th most populous state; Oregon is the 27th.) By the same token, the Seattle metro region was the 5th biggest buyer of hybrids; the Portland metro area was 11th. Polk did not provide data for hybrid sales in Canada.

The Toyota Prius still dominates the market, accounting for nearly 2/3 of all hybrid sales.