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Atlanta's Success In Electric-Car Sales Highlights Incentives Role


2014 Nissan Leaf

2014 Nissan Leaf

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While West Coast cities have a reputation for electric-car friendliness, there's also an Eastern success story--one in which purchase incentives play a major role.

Georgia offers buyers of new electric cars a tax credit of up to $5,000--among the highest offered by any state--which is on top of the $7,500 income-tax credit offered by the Federal government.

Atlanta residents get other incentives as well, including solo carpool-lane access and plentiful charging stations. Georgia Power Co.--the city's primary utility--also offers electric-car owners a low off-peak rate of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.

2014 Tesla Model S

2014 Tesla Model S

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Now a new report from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) shows the impressive results such incentives have had on electric-car sales in Atlanta.

The Georgia capital has the second highest number of electric-vehicle registrations among major U.S. cities, just behind San Francisco.

That still represents a small fraction--just 2.1 percent--of total registrations in Atlanta, but it's more than five times the national average.

The policies primarily benefit the Nissan Leaf, assembled just 230 miles away in Smyrna, Tennessee. While Atlanta has been the Nissan's top market for the past eight months, the Georgia tax credit only applies to fully-electric vehicles, so the range-extended electric Chevrolet Volt doesn't qualify.

This approach differs from that of California, which offers different incentives for battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids (the Volt falls into the latter category under the state's rules).

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

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Meanwhile, Tesla Motors' sales in Georgia are capped at 150 units per year under an exemption to an auto-dealer registration law, which normally prohibits the sale of cars by manufacturers.

Buyers that do qualify for the state and local incentives stand to save a lot of money. One Atlanta dealer estimates that customers effectively pay $28 per month on a two-year Leaf lease--once per-mile fuel savings and the $5,000 Georgia tax credit are factored in.

Sometimes, saving green can matter more than going green when selling electric cars, but the money for incentives has to come from somewhere.

Earlier this year, Representative Chuck Martin proposed legislation that would kill the tax credit, arguing that electric-car purchases shouldn't be subsidized by taxpayers.

Politics aside, incentives have helped boost electric-car sales everywhere from the small town of Normal, Illinois, to the nation of Norway.

The way these subsidies are implemented varies greatly, but--when it comes to getting electric cars in driveways--they generally work.

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