Environmentally conscious California is considering a bill that would dramatically cut the sales tax on new green cars. According to Green Car Reports, the proposed law calls for reducing the sales tax on battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to 3.06 percent, compared to the current 7.5 percent. If passed, the sales tax reduction would be an absolute shot-in-the-arm for the burgeoning EV industry – and not to mention the consumers that will keep more money in their pockets.
The measure being debated in Sacramento comes as no surprise, as California leads the nation in pro-plug-in legislation. In fact, the legislature tried to pass a similar version of this bill in 2013, but it lost momentum due to concerns over funding. This time the measure stands a better chance of passing thanks to the state’s improved fiscal outlook, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s strident stance on reducing California’s carbon footprint.
The main obstacle – as is the case for any tax break – is finding a way to make up the lost revenue. The Los Angeles Times estimates that $96 million per year would be lost between 2016 and 2020 – the period for tax cuts specified in the bill. The Times calculated that number by using the total number of plug-in sales in California (60,000) for 2014, and baselining that with the national average transaction price of $34,700. Plug-in sales, particularly in California, are growing year-over-year, so it’s possible that substantial increases in the sales volume would help ameliorate the tax situation.
Notable EV-friendly actions by Gov. Brown of California:
- Gov. Brown signed an executive order in 2012 calling for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025.
- In his inaugural address last month, he proposed cutting petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50 percent between now and 2030.
Everyone enjoys a good list – top 10 films of all time, Forbes 100 list, America’s best universities, and, really, we can go on for days. One list that seems to fly under the mainstream radar is the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) list of the “greenest” and “meanest” vehicles on sale, based on comprehensive environmental ratings.
The scores are based on an assortment of factors like fuel efficiency and emissions, as well as estimations of environmental impact from manufacturing, the materials used, and the distribution of fuel.
So which ride topped the list of greenest car for the 2015 model year? To no one’s surprise, the vehicle is a pure EV – the Mercedez-Benz Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. This was the electric minicar’s second year in a row at the number-one spot, with an environmental-impact score of 61 (out of 100).
Narrowly missing the top spot were the tied for second place, GM-made Chevy Spark EV and the Fiat 500e with identical scores of 59. The Toyota Prius C was the highest scoring hybrid, sharing a 57 with the world’s best-selling pure EV Nissan Leaf. It comes as no surprise that 4 out of the top 5 greenest cars are pure EVs.
In case you’re wondering, the “meanest,” or the biggest environmental offender, is the Dodge Ram 2500. The heavy-duty pickup truck came in with a score of 17. Most others on the “meanest” list are cargo vans, large trucks, exotic super cars, or SUVs.
One of the first things you notice when turning on an electric vehicle is how quiet it is. It feels more like booting up a computer than turning on a gas-burning car. Missing is the whine of the starter, the chuff of the first cylinders firing, followed by the hum, purr, growl, roar, or whatever noise your gas engine makes when it idles. No puff of smoke from the tailpipe either. The electric vehicle gives its start-up chime, runs its diagnostics, and is ready to drive without a further peep. Once you put it in gear, there car moves quietly where you want it to go.
This quiet has caused some concern, especially with the first electric cars. They were so quiet, that drivers could sneak up on people without being heard. Newer model EV’s have a speaker that generates a low hum when moving forward and a back-up signal when going in reverse to warn pedestrians of the car’s approach. Once an EV gets to highway speeds the tire noise is loud enough to warn people the car is coming.
While I still get road noise when driving on the highway, I hear a lot more of the world around me than I would in my gas-burning car. The reduced noise also means better quality when I’m listening to my tunes too, and who doesn’t like that? Another reason why I like my electric car.
This post is courtesy of Gina Coplon-Newfield, Director of Sierra Club’s Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative
Some utility companies are starting to encourage consumers to make the switch to plug-in electric vehicles (EVs). JEA, a utility company in northeastern Florida, recently began offering to its nearly half a million household and business electricity customers a rebate of up to $1,000 for the purchase or lease of a plug-in electric vehicle. That’s a lot of cash toward buying a car that is already significantly cheaper to fuel than a conventional gas guzzler.
Recently, Georgia Power, the largest utility in the peach state, announced it will invest$12 million in a pilot program through which it will offer its residential customers incentives of $250 (and up to $500 for businesses) if they install certain types of EV chargers. The utility also now offers special electricity rates for EV drivers and plans to install 50 public charging stations. The company also provides a strong EV web sitefor prospective and current EV owners.
In Michigan, Consumers Energy currently offers a reimbursement of up to $2,500 to help customers cover the purchase, installation, and wiring of a Level 2 EV charging station. If you’re an interested customer, act quickly because the program will likely expire at the end of this year, and only 2,500 households are eligible.
San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDGE) offers two electricity rate options specifically for EV owners. One uses a separate meter for the EV, and the other uses the existing meter to provide a combined reduced rate for EV charging and typical household use. Both plans calculate the price of electricity based on the time of day you choose to charge your car. Through these ‘time of use’ programs, SDGE expects to encourage customers to “limit daytime usage of electricity, when demand for electricity is highest.”
According to the Edison Electric Institute, there were at least 23 electric utilities around the US that were offering EV specific rates at the end of 2013.
Some utility companies and agencies are way ahead (and others way behind) in promoting EVs. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities is working to catch up by holding technical conferences on a number of EV topics, including electricity rate design for EV drivers, demand response programs, and grid planning (this is wonky but important stuff). Ideally, they will accept public comment and create regulatory changes that will get Massachusetts utilities into the pro-EV mix in the near-term.
According to a 2014 report by the Edison Electric Institute, customers are more likely to trust their local utility than the US Department of Energy for information about EVs, demonstrating that utilities are a crucial ally in today’s EV market. In addition to encouraging EV programs for customers, EEI has also requested that each of its member utilities spend 5% of their annual fleet purchase budgets on plug-in vehicles, including electric forklifts. Companies such as Pacific Gas and Electric Company in Portland are already moving in this direction, with the recent unveiling of the first electric hybrid drivetrain Class 5 truck and battery powered lift systems on bucket trucks, which eliminate the need for trucks to idle at work sites.
Environmental advocates have a long history of going to battle with utilities (and industry associations like EEI) on issues related to dirty energy sources and energy efficiency programs. Just this past summer, several Florida-based utilities presented testimony to the Florida Public Service Commission arguing they should be allowed to roll back energy-efficiency goals, and environmental groups -including the Sierra Club– have been pushing back. These fights will surely continue.
However, EVs offer an opportunity for agreement and collaboration among strange bedfellows. More electricity used by customers is desirable for utility companies -even those where electricity has been ‘de-coupled’ from total profits. And more consumers switching to plug-in electric cars is sought after by environmental groups that have done the math and found that EVs are a much cleaner choice compared to conventional vehicles, even using electricity to charge them based on today’s energy sources. With more renewable sources of power, EVs become even cleaner over time.
Sierra Club’s online EV Guide, now updated with a short online quiz, gives a wealth of information about EVs, including location-specific utility incentive programs that may be available where you plug in.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) Board will vote for an unprecedented Resolution to Cut Bay Area Refinery Emissions this Wednesday, Oct. 15, in San Francisco.
The Bay Area is home to five of the dirtiest oil refineries in California.
These five companies produce twice as much gasoline and diesel than we even use in our region. They spew pollutants of every sort, including huge carbon emissions, damaging the health of their neighbors and the health of our planet. For far too long, people living in communities surrounding the Bay Area’s refineries have paid a heavy price in their health and well-being for these over-producing and under-regulated behemoths.
This past Friday, BAAQMD staff sent Air District Board members a draft Resolution that will include a commitment to require the refineries to reduce emissions, including GHGs, by 20% or show that they have the best emission controls available on ALL the large emitting sources.
The Refinery Cuts Resolution is the result of persistent and painstaking grassroots work led by Communities for a Better Environment and local organizing efforts in each town, such as Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, later joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Idle No More, Forest Ethics, the Sunflower Alliance, the Sierra Club and others.
The Refinery Emissions Cut Resolution, if passed as proposed or even improved, will be a clear grassroots victory over the refineries. Hopefully this is the first of many victories to come, as we put the brakes on extreme crude coming into the Bay Area and eventually wind the whole industry down.
Deep cuts in refinery-related emissions are necessary for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to actually accomplish its Mission:
“To protect and improve public health, air quality, and the global climate.”
Our strong presence at this meeting will demonstrate community enthusiasm for aggressive emissions control. Please attend to show your support for the historic resolution that comes to a vote at this meeting—and for the Board members who have been its champions.
GO HERE for WEBCAST LINK and AGENDA to watch from your computer or mobile device.