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As a part of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., area — currently ranked as the worst metro area for traffic congestion in the country — Northern Virginia is experiencing an uptick in hybrid vehicle sales, according to car sales data and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

According to U.S. auto sales tracker WardsAuto, American consumers bought 427,605 hybrids in 2012, up from 261,507 in 2011.

Last month the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released the findings of its annual Urban Mobility Report, which measures regional traffic congestion. The D.C. metro area topped the list - beating out Los Angeles, New York and Boston - with area drivers spending an average of 67 hours and 32 gallons of gas sitting in traffic each year.

Accordingly, the Ford Motor Company says the D.C. metro area is now the second largest region for Ford hybrid vehicle sales in the U.S. “Ford has seen a 21 percent increase in sales of the Fusion hybrid in the D.C. region between 2011 and 2012, propelling the region to become the biggest market for hybrid vehicles sales for Ford in the U.S. outside San Francisco and Los Angeles,” said Jesse Lewin of corporate communications company Direct Impact, on Ford’s behalf. “In 2012, the D.C. area accounted for 8.8 percent of Ford’s hybrid sales nationally. In response, Ford dealerships across Fairfax County, including Ted Britt in Fairfax and Koons Ford in Falls Church, are becoming certified to sell electric vehicles to meet consumer demand.”

According to Gardner Britt III of Ted Britt Ford in Fairfax, rising gas prices are the impetus for hybrid sales so far in 2013, which he says are so far through the roof.

“In the first six months of 2012, I sold 51 hybrids,” he said. “In the second half of 2012, as gas prices rose, I sold 134. So far in 2013--basically in the last two months--I have already sold 40, the fastest sales start we’ve ever seen.”

According to its Environmental Protection Agency label, the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid boasts an average 47 miles per gallon, and owners can expect to save an estimated $6,250 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle. Hybrid vehicles also offer drivers other benefits in addition to gas savings.

In Virginia, qualifying hybrid vehicles allow their owners to purchase “clean special fuel” license plates which exempt them from the occupancy requirements of several HOV lanes across the state.

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 83 percent of all clean special plate registrations statewide are registered in Northern Virginia. “As of October 2012, there were 26,273 active Clean Special Fuel Plate registrations statewide, with 21,918 of those were in Northern Virginia, which includes the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford,” said DMV Spokesperson Sunni Brown.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com