Electric-car advocates can end the year on a high note, thanks to several provisions in the final Federal transportation bill approved earlier this month.
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) was signed by President Barack Obama on December 4.
It authorizes funds for highway construction and maintenance and public transportation, but also includes a few provisions that should help promote electric cars.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: As several readers have pointed out, our original article neglected to mention that the home-refueling tax credit that covers electric-car charging stations was renewed as well. We've added that below.]
One of the items in the final bill is a mandate for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to designate corridors for electric-car charging and hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling on the nation's highways.
These corridors will be chosen based on perceived demand for the infrastructure, the strategic importance of a stretch of highway, and pre-existing charging and fueling infrastructure.
BMW and Nissan electric car fast-charging station
The DOT must designate these corridors by December 2016, with an update and re-designations every five years. Once a corridor is designated, officials will set goals for the deployment of infrastructure there.
Another infrastructure-related measure authorizes the General Services Administration to install charging stations at its facilities for use by its employees and those of other Federal agencies.
These stations will be made available for charging privately-owned electric cars; the people using them will pay for the electricity used.
Electric-car drivers will have to pay fees substantial enough for the agencies to eventually recover the costs of installing and operating the stations.
An additional measure extends provisions related to carpool-lane exemptions to plug-in electric cars and alternative-fuel vehicles through September 30, 2025.
And beyond the measures related to electric cars, there were a couple of other noteworthy items related to reducing transportation emissions.
2015 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel Natural Gas
The bill also calls for the establishment of fuel-efficiency standards for passenger-car tires by December 2017.
There is also a provision calling for "regulatory parity" for natural-gas vehicles by 2016, rather than 2019, as previously discussed.
One of the expected outcomes of this measure is a new method for calculating fuel economy for natural-gas vehicles that allows more direct comparisons with gasoline and diesel cars.
UPDATE: In practical terms, this means that the excise tax credit for liquid natural gas and compress natural gas used or sold after 2015 will be approximately $0.29 per gallon and $0.36 per gallon, respectively.
For now, though, Congress does not appear ready to approve a tax credit for natural-gas vehicles similar to the one already available for plug-in electric cars.
UPDATE: Congress also renewed the tax credit of up to $1,000 for home refueling, which covers the installation by taxpayers of electric-car charging stations at their private residences during both 2015 and 2016.
In addition, a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of installing alternative-vehicle refueling infrastructure for businesses was renewed. It is capped at a maximum of $30,000.
And a tax credit of up to 10 percent of the cost of purchasing an electric motorcycle was renewed for both 2015 and 2016.
The existing Federal income-tax credits of $2,500 to $7,500 for purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle with a battery pack of 4 kilowatt-hours or more remains unchanged; the precise amount of the credit depends on the pack's energy capacity.
[hat tips: Tyler Svitak, Dave Roberts]