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New House Bill Would Add Incentives for Battery Cars

2011 Nissan Leaf2011 Nissan Leaf

A new measure up for debate in the U.S. House of Representatives could add significant incentive to get more motorists driving electric.

The proposal would increase the current, $7,500 federal tax credit for buyers of qualifying electric vehicles to $9,500.  And it would provide up to $300 million in funding to 10 cities to help them promote the sales of battery cars.

Similar to an outline floated by the White House, the measure could gain traction at a time when gasoline costs are once again approaching all-time records.  But the bill comes at a time when the House is now dominated by the GOP, a party that has dismissed the threat of global warming and put its focus on deficit cutting over seemingly all else.

The so-called Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act, which counts Massachusetts’ powerful Cong. Ed Markey among its backers, would provide a mix of consumer and community incentives while also promoting the update of utility infrastructure to ensure energy providers can deliver the power needed for a national fleet of battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Though some observers believe the measure has an uphill battle it does enjoy some bipartisan support, Illinois Republican Judy Biggert among the four initial sponsors.

“If we’re ever to break our addiction to expensive foreign oil, we’re going to have to give a jump-start to sound alternatives. Consumers want to enjoy a cheaper, gas-free commute, but they need to have confidence in their access to things like charging stations,” the Congresswoman said.

The bill would dispense up to $300 million to 10 communities chosen as central to the promotion of electric propulsion.  They would serve as the hub for producing and deploying the vehicles.

In January, President Obama asked Congress for up to $10 million in funding for each of 30 communities – with the fund capped at $200 million nationwide.

Meanwhile, up to 500,000 buyers a year – 50,000 in each of those communities – would be offered an additional $2,000 above the current federal tax credit for buying a battery car or plug-in.

The proposal would also call for new funds to increase research on advanced propulsion systems.

Though there is strong support in some Congressional quarters for efforts to curb dependence upon foreign oil, other government leaders have been pushing to trim current electric vehicle funding programs as part of the broad deficit reduction effort.