Following Failed Attempt Last Year, Electric Car Incentives Back on the Cutting Block in Georgia

The state of Georgia, thanks in part to generous state incentives of $5,000 in tax credits for each and every new electric car purchase within state — not to mention the efforts of some really enthusiastic, pro-electric car enthusiasts and salespeople in the Greater Atlanta area — is one of the quickest-growing electric car markets in the U.S.

Atlanta, Georgia is currently the number one market for the Nissan LEAF.

Atlanta, Georgia is currently the number one market for the Nissan LEAF.

Electric cars are so popular that Atlanta, Georgia is Nissan’s number one U.S. market for the LEAF electric car, outselling San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

If Georgian Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) gets his way, that will soon end, courtesy of a new bill he plans on introducing to the Georgia House later today.

Enter Georgia House Bill 122, a bill designed to end the current $5,000 state tax credit for electric vehicles on July 1 this year, leaving those who want to purchase a plug-in car after that date a far higher sticker price to pay.

Despite being known for its high numbers of plug-in car owners, Georgia’s electric car history is far from smooth. Last year, a similar bill seeking to cut Georgia’s generous EV incentives passed the House twice, but failed to meet with approval from the state Senate.

Then in August last year, the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association filed papers at the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings, claiming Californian electric automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] was in violation of O.C.G.A. §10-1-664.1(7), a state law governing the relationship between auto dealers, automakers and customers and the way in which cars could be sold int he state.

Georgia has had a turbulent history with electric cars, including legal challenges from its Auto Dealer Association against Tesla.

Georgia has had a turbulent history with electric cars, including legal challenges from its Auto Dealer Association against Tesla.

This time around, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  says Martin had more than 60 signatures of support for his bill as of yesterday evening. While that’s far from the majority needed to pass the bill to the upper house, it does seem likely that Martin will yet again receive the support he needs on the house floor when it’s time for the vote and all of the usual whipping has taken place.

“Is it really good state policy to pay $50 million per year to let a select group of 10,000 or more individuals drive a particular type of car for free or almost free?” asked Martin in a rent political discussion piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In the same post however — which allowed both sides of the electric car tax credit argument to make their case — Nissan LEAF owner and member of the Georgia Public Service Commission Tim Echols argued passionately for keeping the credits. Aside from the environmental benefits and the positive message sent to millennials about the importance of moving away from polluting fossil fuels, Echols found it easy to make an economic argument.

“For every 1 percent of petroleum-based miles displaced by electric vehicles in Georgia, approximately $201 million dollars remain in the state annually. Each pure electric vehicle keeps $2,242 a year in state by fuelling with electricity rather than petroleum-based products. For a state without a single oil well or refinery, this is huge,,” he said.

While one bill would end electric car tax credits, another suggests widening them to include plug-in hybrids.

While one bill would end electric car tax credits, another suggests widening them to include plug-in hybrids.

If we had to guess, we think Martin’s bill — which is supposedly kinder than previous versions of the bill to plug-in owners — will yet again pass the lower house. But this time, it does face some competition from a similar bill by Representative Ben Harbin, (R-Evans).

What’s more, Harbin’s bill could find supporters in the plug-in community.

Harbin’s bill ultimately has the same end-game as Martin’s bill, but does so in a very different way. Instead of ending the credits abruptly this year, it proposes cutting the size of the electric car tax credit available, gradually phasing it out in stages by 2019. Unlike current legislation, Harbin’s bill would include plug-in hybrid and range-extended electric cars for the first time in the bill, meaning that while the total individual credits available to individuals would be less, more Georgians would ultimately benefit.

As with all plug-in legislation, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this story as it develops, so be sure to check back regularly to find out the latest news as we have it.

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