House Bills Put Electric Car Owners On The Defensive

An electric plug decal is seen on the back of a Tesla electric car as owners, environmental and business advocates rally in front of the Statehouse, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., to call on legislators to pass a bill that will allow Tesla to resume sales in New Jersey. The Assembly unanimously approved a bill that would allow zero-emission carmakers to sell directly to consumers in New Jersey. The state Motor Vehicle Commissioner earlier this year approved regulations that require new-car dealers to have franchise agreements, effectively banning Tesla's business model. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Credit Mel Evans / Associated Press
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The state’s electric vehicle owners are on the defensive due to a pair of new bills backed by Republicans in the Georgia House.

One of the bills would eliminate a popular $5,000 state tax credit to help purchase electric cars. Another would impose a $200 annual fee on most electric car owners. The fee is part of a broader bill aimed at raising a billion dollars for the state’s ailing network of roads and bridges.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner and electric car advocate Tim Echols says elimination of the tax credit would have a devastating impact on electric car ownership.

“They’re trying to solve a transportation problem. I feel their pain,” said Echols. “It’s just we only have 10,000 electric vehicles in the state. You cannot build a transportation system on the backs of electric vehicle owners.”

Echols, a Republican, is urging his fellow Republicans in the House to take a more gradual approach – for example, phasing out the tax credit over 10 years.

The state’s roads and bridges are largely maintained by revenue generated from gas taxes. More fuel efficient cars have meant less money coming in to state coffers.

Both bills are backed by top GOP leaders, including the chairs of the transportation and appropriations committees.

Chris Campbell, an electric car advocate and manager of the website ElectrifyAtlanta.com, says the bills neglect all the positives that come from electric car ownership.

“Not only do they help clean up our air and get us off fossil fuel but analyses has shown the tax credits are revenue positive for the state,” said Campbell.

He says lawmakers should go after new money from those that actually do the most damage to the roads. He suggests charging drivers by mileage and vehicle weight.  

Campbell recognizes that’s unlikely, but he’s keeping a level head.

“Both bills are opening moves to this process. There will be negotiations,” said Campbell. “They’re looking for money to close their budget and maybe they picked on a group that they think is politically weak in this state but I think they’re going to find that they’re wrong.”