State tax credits would encourage use of hybrid vehicles

Editor’s note: Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) has proposed a new bill that would abolish Wisconsin’s automobile emissions tests and encourage Wisconsin residents to buy next-generation vehicles. This is the second column in a series Stone has written about the impact of the bill.

 
Wisconsin has an opportunity to create an industry hub around advanced energy storage and battery development. This was the end result of a workgroup that was formed to explore how we could better prepare and attract the new generation of vehicles being introduced into the marketplace.

The original intent was to provide consumers with choices and the needed infrastructure to purchase and use extended range electric vehicles and in the future plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. It is the impact on the consumers that we will now explore.

The new legislation has a number of components that directly will impact the consumers in Wisconsin. The first of these elements is the exemption from sales tax for the purchase of these vehicles. Compared to a standard sedan, the new extended range vehicles will carry a price tag that is expected to be $8,000 to $10,000 higher than the similar standard vehicle. The increased price is in large part due to the added cost of the battery.

This sales tax exemption will help reduce the final price that the consumer pays for the vehicle. This will help for either purchase or lease of these vehicles. While this exemption creates an incentive for the purchase of this new generation of vehicles, it allows consumers to choose the product in a competitive market rather than government dictating which product the consumer must purchase. This exemption will sunset after a number of years. At that point, this legislation will divert the sales tax collected to the transportation budget. By doing this, we will be able to offset the reduced revenues that the gas tax will generate to support our roadways. This one particular item is a fundamental shift in how we expect to fund our transportation needs in the future.

Another key component for the consumer in this legislation is an exemption from increased property tax as a result of the installation of charging equipment for these vehicles. While this will have limited impact on a homeowner, this item will remove any disincentives for companies or businesses to install this type of equipment. Under current law, this type of investment by a company for their employees or customers will result in an increased value to the property where the equipment will be installed. By creating this exemption prior to the installation of this new type of charging station, there will be no reduction to municipal property tax collections.

To maximize the benefit of an extended range electric vehicle, there will need to be a network of charging stations to keep the vehicles’ use of its internal gas powered generator to a minimum. With this legislation, if an employer wishes to install charging stations for its employees, there will not be an additional property tax burden for the company to bear. Additionally, a parking ramp at a mall or spots at privately held parking lots could offer charging stations that, for a fee, could charge your vehicle while you shopped or dined.

With the first versions of the extended range electric vehicles, the range on pure electric power is expected to be between 25 and 40 miles. This falls well within the average commute to work or other normal uses of your vehicle. If you can charge the battery both at home and at your destination, the amount of gas used to generate electrical power would be minimal if any is used at all.

This availability of charging stations will help increase the consumer confidence in this new technology.

The final and most compelling benefit to the consumer is the ending of the auto emission testing program. If this program is indeed ended, it will indicate that we have made substantial progress in improving the air quality in the region. As more of these new electric powered vehicles come into use in the region, we will see more and more reductions in the vehicle based emissions. During the development of the legislation it was made clear that the modeling used must not shift an additional burden of air quality improvement to industry in the region.

It is clear that everyone, not just those who will operate these vehicles, will benefit from this new technology becoming commonplace in the region and across the state. Additional benefits will be seen in the creation or expansion of employment in our area along with expanded educational opportunities. A look at those two areas will follow as we continue to delve into this exciting opportunity.

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