Incentives May Help Power Hawaii Electric Car Sales


Think you can’t afford an electric car?

Several carmakers are set to release all-electric vehicles this year, including to the Hawaii market, and while the cars have yet to hit showrooms, the eco-friendly models already carry the stigma of being overpriced.

But incentives at the state and federal level — up to a total of $12,000 in rebates and tax credits — are available to Hawaii residents to help ease the sticker shock of electric vehicles, some of which are priced at least twice as high as similar gasoline-powered models.

For example, Nissan will release its all-electric Leaf hatchback in November 2010 with a suggested retail price of $33,720. Meanwhile, General Motors will do a limited release of its Chevy Volt plug-in, also in November, with an expected price tag of $40,000. Those prices compare to the $15,450 starting price for the 2010 Toyota Corolla.

Car manufacturers and auto experts point to battery technology as the most expensive component of electric vehicles, which they say impact the retail cost. Depending on an electric vehicle’s size, batteries can cost between $6,000 and $15,000. The cost, which already has come down from between $15,000 and $20,000 a few years ago, is expected to decrease as the technology improves and demand for electric vehicles increases.

“The costs of creating an automotive market dominated by electric and hybrid cars are prohibitively high,” according to a 2009 report by The Boston Consulting Group called, “The Comeback of the Electric Car?” The report estimates that hybrids and plug-in electric cars cost about $7,000 more to make than gas-powered cars because of their pricey batteries. “Clearly, government subsidies will play a major role in brining the cost to own electric vehicles down to an attractive level for the consumer.”

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