Some recent sales numbers from New York show the impact of rebates on getting people to switch from gasoline-powered cars to electric ones, even if the overall number of buyers remains small.
In the three months after New York’s $2,000 rebate took effect, sales rose to 2,574 compared with 1,476 in the same period during 2016, an increase of 74 percent.
Year-on-year sales had increased, but more rapidly after the rebate took effect. Overall, electric vehicle sales rose 61 percent to 4,209, compared with 2,609 in 2016, according to an announcement last week from the governor’s office.
Gina Coplon-Newfield, the Sierra Club’s clean transportation director, said the results are particularly striking, especially in light of what happened in Georgia when that state curbed its incentive program.
Georgia, whose fleet of private electric vehicles had become one of the largest in the nation after the state offered up to a $5,000 state income tax credit, has seen sales plummet since the state legislature pulled back. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in January that the state registered 1,427 electric vehicles in July 2015 when the tax credit expired. In the following month, only 242 were registered.
Meanwhile, the office of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said more than $3 million in rebates were given to the purchasers of 26 electric car models, including the Toyota Prius Prime, which accounted for more than 40 percent of the rebates. New York doesn’t even have the most generous incentives, Coplon-Newfield said.
“We really found these rebates worked,” she said in an interview. “These numbers out of New York are the latest evidence that electric vehicle rebates work to incentivize people to make the switch to these cleaner cars.”
Many states now offer rebates, tax breaks or other incentives. D.C. allows businesses and individuals to obtain an income tax credit worth 50 percent of the purchase or conversion cost of vehicles, up to $19,000. Maryland offers electric vehicle purchasers to take a tax credit of up to $3,000. In Virginia, the commonwealth doesn’t offer similar incentives, although local jurisdictions are free to give tax credits, according to the Sierra Club’s guide. But even so, Virginia electric vehicle owners don’t have to put their vehicles through emissions testing, and Dominion Power offers a special rate to electric-car owners who charge the vehicles at home.
On a national level, electric-car owners can obtain a tax credit of as much as $7,500, Coplon-Newfield said. You can find out what your state offers by going to the Sierra Club’s electric vehicle buyers’ guide here.]
Critics of such programs often argue that the government shouldn’t be using tax dollars to help people buy cars, and bureaucrats shouldn’t be picking and choosing winners of emerging technologies and products when markets do that more efficiently. But Coplon-Newfield said the electric vehicle incentives are different.
“Reduction in air pollution benefits all of us,” she said. “So the more people who switch to cleaner vehicles, with lower greenhouse gases that threaten our planet [and other pollutants], the better off we’ll be.”