Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Without state subsidies, electric car sales in Georgia crash
For more than 15 years, Georgia offered one of the country’s most generous tax credits for people who bought electric cars.
But the $5,000 subsidy went away three months ago and a look by Watchdog.org at how the tax credit’s expiration has affected sales shows a dramatic drop in the number of all-electric cars such as Teslas and Nissan Leafs purchased in the Peach State.
“That’s the assumption we’ve been making,” said Don Francis, coordinator of Clean Cities-Georgia Coalition, who was opposed to getting rid of the subsidy.
“I thought the credit turned from an incentive into a virtual entitlement,” said state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, who spearheaded the drive in the state Legislature to sunset the tax credit.
The subsidy expired July 1 and Francis shared motor vehicle data with Watchdog.org obtained from automotive information company R.L. Polk & Co. to see how sales were affected.
According to Georgia car registrations, sales shot up as electric car buyers rushed to take advantage of the tax credit before it expired. But the numbers declined sharply in July and took a swan dive in August — the most recent month tabulated.
The decline from 1,338 in June to 148 in August represents a drop of 88.9 percent.
For Francis, the numbers mean bad news.
The tax credit “was an economic benefit to the state, it was an environmental benefit to the state, it helped jobs because all of a sudden we had people putting in charging stations and things like that,” Francis said. “And all of that was taken away in one fell swoop.”
But Martin said the credit was unfair.
First, the Georgia subsidy applied only to all-electric vehicles, not hybrid cars like a Chevy Volt or a Toyota Prius that use both gasoline and electricity.
“A Kia Optima hybrid, and full disclosure, I own one of those, got no credit from the federal level or the state level,” Martin said.
Second, when the state break of up to $5,000 was added to the credit of up to $7,500 the federal government already gives electric car buyers, drivers in Georgia could lease one of the lower-priced electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf for about $200 a month and end up spending very little money out of their own pocket.