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Electric car rebates now good till January

By Alan Yonan Jr.

LAST UPDATED: 2:26 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

The state's rebate program for plug-in electric vehicles and charging stations originally scheduled to expire at the end of September has been extended until Jan. 31, thanks to a sizable cushion in the fund.

Hawaii residents are eligible for cash rebates of up to $4,500 for vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, and $500 per charging station.

The program is funded by $1.4 million in federal stimulus money and administered by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. From January through mid-July the program has awarded rebates for 68 vehicles and 60 charging stations totaling about $330,000. There is roughly $1.07 million left in the fund. The program will continue until Jan. 31 or the funding runs out, whichever comes first.

Officials said they decided to extend the deadline for an additional four months because of the high level of remaining funding and the expectation that consumer demand for electric cars will continue to increase as local dealers increase their inventory. High demand for the Leaf and Volt combined with limited supply has resulted in waiting lists at dealerships. Nissan has delivered just 4,000 Leafs to dealerships nationwide since launching the car late last year.


Electric vehicles that qualify for the state tax rebate and the federal tax credit:
» Nissan Leaf
» Chevrolet Volt
» Tesla Roadster
» Mitsubishi i
» Wheego LiFe Electric Vehicle
» CODA Sedan
» Think City EV
» Smart Fortwo
Source: IRS and DBEDT

In addition to the state rebate, electric car buyers can receive a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 per vehicle and $1,000 per charging station, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The tax credit for vehicles applies to the first 200,000 cars sold nationally. The tax credit for charging stations expires at the end of this year.

Car buyers who combine the state rebate and the federal tax credit can save up to $12,000 on the price of the electric vehicle and as much as $1,500 on the charging station. Nissan recently announced that the price of the 2012 Leaf, which goes on sale this fall, will go up by $2,500, to $35,200, for the SV trim level, Nissan has said. The state and federal incentives would drop the 2012 price to $23,200.

"We want to empower more Hawaii residents with the opportunity to contribute to Hawaii's goal of becoming more energy efficient and increase our energy security," Estrella Seese, the state's acting energy program administrator, said in a news release. "Our top economic priority as a state is energy independence."

Hawaii was among the states chosen for the early release of EVs such as the Leaf, Volt and Mitsubishi i. Among the reasons cited by manufacturers was a high level of enthusiasm in the state for EVs, discounted EV charging rates by Hawaiian Electric Co., moderate climate and limited driving distances. Also, DBEDT has provided $2.6 million in grants for the installation of charging stations across the state.

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