Federal tax breaks provide incentives to buy electric vehicles

Francie Black gave up her gas-powered ride at the cost of a little more planning when taking a trip, to map out charging stations. (Photo Credit: WLOS Staff).

About 700 people in Buncombe County drive electric vehicles, according to Advanced Energy, a North Carolina nonprofit energy firm. Right now, there's an incentive for buying, in the form of a federal tax credit.

Francie Black has a Tesla Model S that she fondly calls “Sparkie.” She has had the electric vehicle for five years. She gives us her honest opinion as a technology consultant and blogger.

“Love it. It’s an incredible ride. It’s incredibly powerful,” Black said. “There’s been a few problems, but, overall, it’s a phenomenal car."

When purchasing her car, Black took advantage of the federal incentive – a tax credit worth up to $7,500.

“I don’t care what kind of electric car you have, not to have to go to the gas station, stand and smell those fumes, not pollute, it is phenomenal,” Black said.

Though the up-front cost of her Tesla was steep, she said it's saving her in the long run.

“For us, four kids, driving literally all over the county for events, we literally had about a $700 a month gas bill,” Black said.

She gave up her gas-powered ride at the cost of a little more planning when taking a trip to map out charging stations.

The Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition said there are about 50 public access chargers for electric vehicles in Buncombe County. Tesla has its own supercharger network. In most cases, there is a fee to charge.

“Restaurants, businesses are realizing it’s very inexpensive to give away electricity to encourage people to come and be a shopper there,” said Jennifer Rennicks, with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Rennicks said more charging stations for electric vehicles are popping up in the region. In fact, the nonprofit is even upgrading its charging capability for members, with the perk of prime parking near downtown Asheville. Work is set to get underway on the charger upgrade on Feb. 17, 2020.

“We will have four plugs that provide solar-generated electrons you can actually drive on sunshine,” Rennicks said.

Retired automotive engineer and college professor Dave Erb is also an electric vehicle owner. When asked why now is a good time to drive electric, he said it has been for about six years, ever since used electric vehicles started showing up online.

“You can buy used electric vehicles for $5,000 and get good service out of them,” Erb said, adding that a new electric car typically costs upwards of $20,000.

The fuel savings is a big factor to consider when comparing the total cost of ownership to a standard car.

“It costs about 3 cents a mile for an electric car, about 5 cents a mile to put gas in a Prius, about 10 cents a mile to put gas in the average American car,” Erb said.

As for the federal tax credit, “(It) exists so that the manufacturers can recover some of their development costs by pricing the cars higher in these early years,” Erb said.

As the tax credit phases out for manufacturers, which is now the case for Tesla, he said the asking price of electric cars is coming down.

“Basically, after the manufacturer has sold 200,000 cars, then there’s about another year before the tax credit is gone,” Erb said.

The good news is the credit is still available for other manufacturers besides Tesla. For example, "the Nissan Leaf, the various BMW plugins, the Mitsubishi, the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid,” Erb said.

Just keep in mind the tax credit is not a refund.

"If you owe $7,500 then it’ll take your taxes to zero. If you owe $3,500, it won’t get you a $4,000 refund,” Erb said.

Whether you're looking to better the environment, save on maintenance or bypass fuel costs, an electric ride may be worth at least a test drive.

You may recognize Francie Black from News 13’s Tech Time segments.

She recently got the scoop on some new electric vehicles in the works from Sony and Amazon.

“I just came back from the Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, and tech companies that aren’t car companies are building beautiful electric cars," Black said.

She said, within a couple years, it's projected that we will see electric vehicles hit the market from both companies.

Black added that if you are considering ordering a Tesla, you can use this special referral link to receive 1,000 miles of free supercharging.

For the latest events in the Asheville area, like Drive Electric Earth Day and National Drive Electric Week, click here.