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USA: What Uncle Sam Wants You To Drive

Renewable energy scored a victory on Friday when Congress passed the Obama-GOP tax bill, extending a 30 percent tax credit, up to $1000 for personal electric vehicle chargers and $30,000 for businesses. The tax bill expands upon federal initiatives to push consumers toward clean energy vehicles, including a $7,500 federal tax credit on most electric cars.

The Department of Energy, last year, took the first steps to creating a national infrastructure for electric vehicles by awarding ECOtality North America $115 million in grants to install 15,000 charging stations in sixteen cities.

States have also put in place incentives for drivers to go electric. California offers rebates of up $5,000 while Washington and New Jersey exempt zero-emission vehicles from sales tax. Other states offer similar tax rebates, as well as free meter parking and the use of carpool lanes without meeting occupancy limits.

So what cars does the government want you driving?

The leading plug-in cars on the market are the zero-admissions Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt hybrid, both are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. Consumers will pay $25,280 for Nissan’s Leaf and $32,780 for the Chevy Volt after the credit. State tax incentives may further reduce the price.

For buyers the savings will not be immediately felt. “One big issue consumers have, is that people can be able to buy cars in January or February, but they won’t be able to get the credit until they file their taxes,” said Jay Friedland legislative director of Plug in America, an electric car advocacy group.

The tax credit is intended to make the cost of an electric vehicle comparable to petroleum power cars. Though, some have argued that the credit targets the wrong group of consumers. Early buyers may not be deciding between gas and electric. Instead, they are likely to buy an electric car to have the newest green technology, similar to Apple fans that upgrade with every new iPhone release.
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