According to the Environmental Protection Agency, two-thirds of carbon monoxide emissions come from transportation sources – in particular, motor vehicles. At least half the ozone pollution comes from cars, buses, trucks and off-highway vehicles including construction equipment and boats.
Of all the activities the average person does on a daily basis, driving a motor vehicle is typically the most polluting. In Central Indiana, alternatives to driving, such as bicycling and riding the bus, are not always practical. Nevertheless, some choices can reduce pollution and emissions. For example, a natural gas vehicle can reduce CO2 emissions up to 30 percent and toxic pollutants by up to 90 percent. An electric vehicle can reduce emissions by 35-60 percent.
Rising fuel prices, growing environmental concerns and higher fuel economy standards are influencing public demand for gas-guzzler alternatives. But although more manufacturers are producing vehicles to answer that demand, they face challenges to sell them, in part because of their higher cost.
To offset the higher sticker price, the federal government has offered an income tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500 for natural gas, electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles purchased in or after 2010. The credit amount varies, based on the capacity of the battery used to fuel the vehicle.
President Barack Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget includes a new provision for hybrid and electric car tax credits that would broaden the range of eligible cars and eliminate caps on the number of rebates awarded. It’s part of the president’s plan to put 1 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015. While the plan would increase the rebate to $10,000, the tax credit shifts from the consumer to the dealer, although certainly the intent is for the dealer to pass along any savings. To sweeten the deal, some states have begun offering additional tax rebates.
California recently initiated a $1,500 rebate when a qualifying “green” vehicle is purchased.
But are the tax credits enough to encourage the average driver to buy a hybrid or electric car? Industry experts speculate that the rebate isn’t benefitting the market segment it could best serve because it isn’t enough to encourage them to purchase the more expensive alternative-fuel vehicles.
Of the 12.8 million cars and trucks sold in 2011, only 7,671 Volts and 9,674 Leafs were purchased. According to General Motors, the average Chevy Volt hybrid buyer makes $175,000 a year. The average household income for the all-electric Nissan Leaf buyers is $140,000.
With a wide selection of options that includes two new Prius models, a family-sized clean diesel from Volkswagen, an award-winning hybrid from Chevrolet, the most successful electric car from Nissan and the most affordable one from Mitsubishi, manufacturers hope to lure more drivers to where the “grass is greener.”