Plug-in electric cars can cut the per-mile cost of driving significantly for most U.S. households.
But their purchase prices as new cars are still higher than gasoline cars of the same size and segment.
That's why Federal, state, and local governments offer an elaborate--and often bewildering--array of financial and other incentives to ease the sticker shock and get drivers into their first plug-in vehicles.
But aside from carpool-lane access in California, used electric cars entirely forgo the incentives that help alleviate the higher cost of cars with large and expensive battery packs.
Colorado is the sole state to offer a tax credit that can be applied to used electric cars, if they're imported from out of state, as well as new ones.
2012 Nissan Leaf
But the prices of used electric cars are falling as larger numbers of used Nissan Leafs come onto the market after their three-year leases have expired.
Certain residents of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (covering some of Greater Los Angeles) or the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District can now receive additional incentives for the purchase of used electric cars, as well as new ones.
As we described two weeks ago, the new regional Plus Up! program applies only to buyers who reside in “a zip code that contains a disadvantaged census tract."
(This document includes a series of localized maps that clarify the specific locales.)
2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012
One purpose of the program is to make plug-in electric cars more affordable for low-income drivers, hence the census-tract requirement.
Subsidies of $5,000 to $9,000 are available to qualified buyers, depending on their specific household income and the type of vehicle--battery-electric or plug-in hybrid--that they purchase.
For new cars, this is in addition to Federal tax credits of $2,500 to $7,500, depending on battery size, and state purchase rebates of $1,500 for plug-in hybrids and $2,500 for battery-electric vehicles.
But it's worth highlighting the rare extension of these substantial new incentives to used electric cars as well as new ones.
2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012
While plug-in cars sales this year will likely end up somewhere between 115,000 and 150,000 vehicles, there are three times that number of electric cars already on U.S. roads.
Enabling them to qualify for incentives too will make them far more attractive as used cars, and help overcome some of the natural worry on the part of unfamiliar buyers over their longevity.