Electric Car Rebates and Tax Credits

If you buy an electric car now, you can benefit from rebates and tax credits. These financial incentives are time-sensitive and change from year to year. They are being offered to early adopters to "break the ice." While this article focuses on Los Angeles, it can get you started on finding out about the rebates and tax credits available in your part of the country.

People are calling them "electric cars" or "Electric Vehicles" or "EVs." I'll use the terms interchangeably.

What financial incentives are available for purchase of electric cars? If you purchase an electric car in 2011, you may be able to reduce your federal tax bill by $2,500 to $7,500 with a tax credit. Other tax credits are also available. Converting your Prius or other non-plug-in hybrid to a plug-in can reduce your federal tax bill by 10% of the cost of the conversion. Purchase of an electric motorcycle or low-speed "around the neighborhood" electric cart can reduce your federal tax bill by up to $2,500.

Californians who buy an EV and act quickly enough can qualify for a rebate from the State of up to $5,000 on an electric car and up to $20,000 on a commercial vehicle. These rebates apply to many kinds of electric vehicles, including all-electric, hybrid, motorcycles, and low-speed "around the neighborhood" carts.

What rebates are available for installing an electric charger? Electric cars come equipped with a charging cord as standard equipment. This is called a "Level 1" charger. It charges an all-electric Nissan Leaf in about 20 hours and a hybrid Chevy Volt (which has an auxiliary gas-burning engine) in about 10 hours.

To charge your car faster, you need to buy and install a Level 2 charger in your garage or carport. A Level 2 charger works more than twice as fast as a Level 1 charger. With a Level 2 charger, you can easily take your electric vehicle from empty to full overnight. A homeowner who installs a Level 2 electric charger can receive a 2011 tax credit of 30% of the cost of the purchase and installation, with a cap of $1,000. This means that you can reduce your 2011 tax bill by 30% of what you spent on purchase and installation of a Level 2 charger, up to a $1,000 tax cut.

If you are a customer of the L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP), you may qualify for a $2,000 rebate on installation of your electric charger. To qualify, you need to also install a separate electric meter for your new car. Ask your electrician to see if you will save money with this approach.

Does EV charging receive any special break in electric rates? In Los Angeles and many areas of the country, yes. In L.A., both Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Department of Water and Power (LADWP) offer special reduced rate plans for charging EVs at night, during off-peak hours.

Both power companies encourage people thinking of buying an EV or installing a charger to contact them. Call (800) DIAL-DWP or call SCE at (800) 4EV-INFO. SCE has extensive information on its website at http://www.sce.com/PowerandEnvironment/PEV/default.htm. Both companies are particularly interested in customer plans regarding EVs because they need information for planning power demand.

Are there any other incentives for electric car owners? Some states, like California, provide a sticker to qualifying electric car owners so that they can drive in freeway carpool lanes regardless of the number of occupants.

Where can I get more information? Here's a link to EDTA, an industry organization for electric transportation, http://goelectricdrive.com/Incentives.aspx where you can find out more about incentives in L.A. and also check out incentives for electric cars in other zip codes.

Why are governments and utilities offering financial incentives for purchasing electric cars? Driving an electric car, rather than a gas burner, is one of the best ways to wean our country off oil and to help the environment. We Americans use 60% of the oil that we consume in our vehicles. That's approximately the amount of oil that we import each year. So, if we stopped burning oil in our cars, we wouldn't need to import foreign oil. Electric cars also give us the ability to transition to clean and renewable sources of electric energy like solar and wind.

Kim Hopkins has been a Los Angeles electrician since 1979. His company, The Electric Connection at http://www.theelectricconnection.com/, is one of the foremost electrical contracting companies in the L.A. area. One of the specialties of The Electric Connection is installing chargers for electric cars. For a $25 off coupon on your first electrical job as well as other coupons, go to http://www.theelectricconnection.com/coupon.php.

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