Washington State Looks at Extending, Increasing Plug-in Vehicle Incentives

The northwest state of Washington has some of the cheapest electricity in the whole of the U.S. It’s also home to the highest number of Tesla electric cars per capita anywhere in the country and home to the northern portion of the West Coast Electric Highway which Washington shares with its neighbour Oregon to the south.

Washington already has a large number of electric car charging stations, but Gov. Inslee wants more.

Washington already offers rapid charging of electric cars along the West Coast Electric Highway but Gov. Inslee wants more.

It’s no surprise then that Washington is one of the most pro-electric car states in the U.S., offering tax breaks on plug-in car purchases and charging stations. Despite a $100 per-year ‘road tax’ levied against plug-in owners which came into force last year, electric car adoption rates show no sign of falling.

Now state Governor Jay Inslee wants to further encourage the adoption of plug-in vehicles within The Evergreen State by extending the tax breaks for electric vehicles and introducing the same single-occupant HOV access program used in California.

On July 1 next year, Washington State’s existing electric vehicle tax breaks are due to expire, but Gov. Inslee — like many within the state — wants to see the incentives push well into the future.

Currently, no sales tax is levied against electric car purchases, which is usually somewhere between 7 and ten percent on other vehicles, depending on the location of the purchase within the state.

More than 40 percent of all electric cars in Washington State are Nissan LEAFs.

More than 40 percent of all electric cars in Washington State are Nissan LEAFs.

It’s worth noting too, that Washington has some of the highest gasoline taxes in the U.S., providing a metaphorical stick to accompany the carrot of zero sales tax on plug-ins.

Speaking at a clean-energy conference last month, Gov. Inslee announced his support for increased electric car incentives, but hasn’t yet given exact details. As The Associated Press reports however, those incentives are expected to include an increase in the number of rapid charging stations along Washington’s highways and offering builders incentives to include high-speed electric car charging in their new-built properties.

Specifics of the proposals are expected to come later this month, when Gov. Inslee will detail his budget propositions for the following year.

But while many plug-in advocates and environmentalists support the idea of continuing electric vehicle sales tax exemption and offering plug-in car drivers single-occupancy access to high-occupancy (carpool) lanes within the state, the idea of extending incentives also has a fair number of detractors.

Among them are people like Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, who leads the House Finance Committee. Like others who oppose the extension of existing incentives, Carlyle argues that plug-in car tax breaks only benefit those who can already afford to buy a plug-in car and do little to help the middle classes.

Washington could end up with an HOV-lane access program for plug-in cars like California.

Washington could end up with an HOV-lane access program for plug-in cars like California.

Sen. Curtis King, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee agrees. “Tell me that a person that buys a Tesla [Model S] for $70,000 or $80,000 shouldn’t’ have to pay sales tax?” he questioned. “They can afford to pay that kind of money, why aren’t they paying the sales tax?”

With a goal to put a total of 50,000 electric and other ‘clean fuel’ vehicles on the road before 2020 however, the state of Washington has a long way to go. Currently, around 10,000 plug-in vehicles are registered to Washingtonians, with about 70 per cent of those being fully-electric vehicles.

Do you live in Washington state? Do you think the incentives should be extended? Or do you think it’s better to follow Oregon’s lead when it comes to making the state a good place for plug-in car owners?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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