Georgia's income-tax credit for the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle will become history in about six weeks.
That poses a problem for the state's electric-car shoppers: Buy before June 30 to take advantage of the expiring credit, or wait for improved battery-electric cars expected to arrive within two years.
First, the facts: The highway-funding bill passed six weeks ago by the Georgia Legislature eliminated the $5,000 credit for purchase of a non-emitting car as of June 30.
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It also imposed a $200 yearly registration fee on zero-emission vehicles, which makes Georgia one of only two states to impose fees on electric-car drivers that are higher than the gas taxes paid by an average gasoline vehicle in the state. (Virginia is the other.)
Buyers interested in electric cars in Georgia have a handful of electric-car choices, of which by far the highest-volume is the Nissan Leaf (starting around $29,000).
Traffic in Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour (via Wikimedia)
There's also the Tesla Model S, starting at $75,000; the BMW i3, at $42,000 or so; and the low-volume Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Ford Focus Electric.
Nissan has said that the Atlanta metropolitan area is one of its top regions nationally for Leaf sales, so we reached out to see if the company was planning any special incentives to encourage sales in Georgia before expiration of the tax credit.
"We currently have attractive offers in the Atlanta market for leases and purchases," responded Brian Brockman, senior manager for corporate communications at Nissan North America.
"And we are offering No Charge to Charge there (which began November 1, 2014)," a program in which use of certain public charging stations is free to buyers of new Leafs for a period of time.
2015 Nissan Leaf
2015 Nissan Leaf
Meanwhile, a report prepared in late April by the Center for State and Local Finance looks at the effect of Georgia's tax credit for zero- and low-emission vehicles, first enacted in 1998.
It notes that the credits were almost entirely concentrated on the metropolitan area around Atlanta, with very few in the dozens of counties that make up the rest of the state.
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And it gives the dollar figures in tax revenue sacrificed, which rose significantly with the arrival of modern electric cars for the 2011 model year.
In 2009, Georgia lost exactly $2,222 in tax revenue due to the credit. By 2014, that number had risen to more than $14.2 million.
Georgia alternative fuel tax credit data 2000-2014 (Don Francis)
The report notes the inequity of the $200 registration fee: "Assuming an average of 23 miles per gallon, the $200 fee means Georgia’s electric drivers would have to travel 14,000 miles to break even on what would otherwise have been their state and local gas tax liability."
But its concluding paragraph presents the challenge for Georgia's buyers.
"Higher ranges, lower price tags,and improvements in battery technology are expected to make these cars more affordable for an increasing number of households," it concludes.
MORE: Electric Vehicles Come Out Ahead Of Gas Cars On Taxes--Except In One State (Dec 2014)
"However, lower gas prices and the elimination of Georgia’s ZEV credit may temper electric vehicle growth in the short term."
And that's the thorniest part of the challenge: Within the next 18 months, a second-generation Nissan Leaf is expected to offer an expanded range, somewhere between 120 and 200 miles.
That's not all: The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will also offer a 200-mile range at a pre-incentive price of $37,500.
Georgia state capitol (pic by Andre M. via Wikimedia)
So the best advice we can offer to Georgia residents is this:
- Buy the right car for you, at the right time, and do your research
- If you're in the market now, and a battery-electric car meets your needs, move fast
- If you wouldn't have bought a new car until next year, follow the news on upcoming models--as you may find a choice of better models