Beyond the federal tax credit: a guide to clean-car incentives


Chevrolet Bolt EV being charged outside Go Forth electric-car showroom, Portland   [photo: Forth]

Chevrolet Bolt EV being charged outside Go Forth electric-car showroom, Portland [photo: Forth]

The king of all financial incentives for plug-in cars is, of course, the federal tax credit of up to $7,500.

It’s not the only one, though.

With Tesla’s federal tax credit already on its way to expiring and GM’s close behind, it’s worth knowing where to look for other incentives for those who want an electric car. The incentives are designed to make them more affordable, since electric-car batteries are still costly, and many models cost more than equivalent conventional cars.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 45 states and the District of Columbia offer incentives for electric cars. Some however, are only incentives on paper, because the programs have run out of money. (Even those who keep the lists of what incentives are still available sometimes run out of money, so the lists aren’t always current, either. Lists of state incentives are available here and here and here and here. Some need updating.)

Eight of the largest financial incentives come from the following states:

- Colorado offers the largest incentive outside the federal government. Electric-car buyers there can get a $5,000 tax credit for purchasing any electric “light duty passenger vehicles” through 2020. Electric trucks of up to 10,000 pounds are eligible for a $7,000 tax credit in the same period. Best of all, consumers can use the incentive up front to reduce the purchase price of the car by allowing the dealer to keep the money.

- California provides rebates of up to $2,500 to those who purchase or lease eligible new vehicles, including qualified natural gas and plug-in electric vehicles. Those who buy fuel-cell cars can get $5,000 rebates. Plug-in hybrids are eligible for $1,500 rebates, and electric motorcycles $900. Battery-electric cars, fuel-cell cars and plug-in hybrids also get access to the carpool lanes with a solo driver. The state sets income limits for the buyers, so not everyone is eligible.

- Connecticut offers up to $3,000 towards the purchase or lease of a new clean vehicle (depending on its range) and $5,000 for fuel-cell cars. Like Colorado's program, buyers can take the rebate directly off the price of the car to get lower loan or lease payments.

- Maryland offers an excise-tax credit of $100 per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity up to a maximum of $3,000 for purchase of an electric car up to $60,000.

- Texas incentivizes state residents with a rebate of up to $2,500, as long as the cars are purchased from a dealership in Texas. (Tesla is forbidden from selling cars in Texas.) Buyers should act fast. The state's program has already run through 85 percent of its funding.

- Massachusetts gives buyers $2,500 rebate for new vehicles, but buyers have to apply after they've bought the vehicle. The Massachusetts program is also nearing the end of its funding, with only a little over $500,000 remaining.

- New York rewards EV buyers with a rebate of up to $2,000 for new vehicles with a base price under $60,000. More expensive vehicles are only eligible for $500 off. The rebate can be discounted at the dealership at the time of purchase.

States aren’t the only place to find good incentives. Cities, counties, and power companies also offer incentives that may be financial or otherwise, including carpool-lane access for solo drivers, discounted registration, free parking, excise-tax waivers, and toll discounts.

One of the best incentives in the country comes from Duke Energy, which offers customers in Kentucky, Ohio, and South Carolina a $3,000 discount on a Nissan Leaf.

Anaheim, California, provides a $400 rebate and a city permit fee waiver for a level 2 charger installation.

Buyers fortunate enough to live in one of these regions can still get a rebate that will help defray the cost of an electric car.

By Jim Motavalli

 
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