Plugging into savings with electric vehicles

By Tom Temin

You want to save gas, but you might be tired of waiting for the pricey Chevrolet Volt, and you also might be thinking twice about taking a motorcycle to work in the D.C. region. But the federal government is creating incentives for people who commute via plug-in electric vehicles.

Q: What sorts of vehicles are involved in this program?

A: The IRS has announced tax incentives for what are commonly called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. They are primarily battery powered, and you plug them in at night to recharge them. The incentives cover the waterfront: two-wheeled, three-wheeled and four-wheeled vehicles. But they apply to low-speed, street-legal machines, which means if you are looking to commute from Springfield to Fort Meade, this probably isn’t the right program. But from Falls Church to McLean, or Rockville to Gaithersburg, or Capitol Heights to downtown D.C., these vehicles might fit the bill.


Q: What incentive is the government offering?

A: The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the more recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created two new tax credits for people who buy these vehicles.

Under the more recent bill, ARRA, the credits are worth 10 percent of the price of the vehicle, up to a maximum of $2,500. These apply to low-speed vehicles, including scooters and trikes. Two-wheeled scooters must have a battery with at least 4 kilowatt hours, and for three-wheeled vehicles at least 2.5 kilowatt hours.

Under the earlier EESA bill, tax credits can be applied to four-wheeled neighborhood vehicles. The credit for vehicles bought this year start at $2,500 and top out at up to $15,000, depending on the battery capacity of what you buy.

Q: What about off-road, all-terrain electrics?

A: No, they don’t qualify. Neither do golf carts. It must be made for street use.

For more information, see the IRS press release, Tax Breaks Available for Taxpayers Who Purchase Qualified Plug-In Electric Vehicles.

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