Washington State To Give Electric Cars Tax Breaks, Carpool-Lane Access?


Seattle Center as night falls (photo by Jeffery Hayes)

Seattle Center as night falls (photo by Jeffery Hayes)

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Several states have tried to boost electric-car adoption with cash incentives, tax breaks, and perks like carpool-lane access.

The West Coast states of California and Oregon are two of the most enthusiastic proponents of incentives, and they may soon be joined by their neighbor to the north.

RELATED: Washington State Follows CA, Imposes Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

Washington state is considering a similarly robust array of incentives to promote electric cars, according to the Associated Press.

The measures are being promoted by Washington Governor Jay Inslee as part of a broader effort to combat climate change.

Dignitaries at Electric Highway charging station site in Bellingham, WA; photo: Washington State DoT

Dignitaries at Electric Highway charging station site in Bellingham, WA; photo: Washington State DoT

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Inslee announced his support for electric-car incentives at a clean-energy conference in early November, but details likely won't appear until the proposed budget for next year is submitted sometime this month.

The governor also reportedly wants to promote the installation of more charging stations, including incentivizing builders to include provisions for electric-car charging in future projects.

RELATED: Fees Start April 1 On WA Electric Highway: Same Price As Gas?

Washington is already home to a portion of the Electric Highway of CHAdeMO DC fast-charging stations. There are 12 stations along the route--which continues into Oregon--in Washington, which are used more than 1,000 times each month.

Before any of those plans can be enacted, though, lawmakers will have to decide the fate of Washington's sole existing electric-car incentive.

Electric cars--along with hydrogen, natural gas, and other alternative-fuel vehicles--are exempt from the state sales tax, which ranges from 7 percent to 9.6 percent, depending on the area.

Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

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The tax break is set to expire July 1, 2015, and not everyone wants to renew it.

Opponents claim Washington shouldn't give preference to electric-car buyers, especially those for whom cost isn't an issue.

ALSO SEE: Income Cap Coming For CA Electric-Car Rebate, Tesla Most Vulnerable?

Knowing that many of the tax breaks will go to wealthy buyers purchasing Tesla Model S luxury cars, some lawmakers have proposed an income cap--echoing a move recently made in California.

There's also concern about the amount of revenue the state will lose by continuing the tax break.

The state revenue department doesn't track how many people have gotten the tax break so far, but it does anticipate a loss of $13 million in revenue in fiscal year 2016, and $17 million in 2017 if it's renewed.

2014 Tesla Model S

2014 Tesla Model S

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Proponents, meanwhile, say the tax break brings the purchase price of electric cars closer to comparable gasoline models.

Washington will also likely need strong incentives to reach its goal of putting 50,000 green cars on its roads by 2020.

There are currently around 10,000 plug-in cars on Washington's roads, of which about 7,000 are all-electric.

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