The signs of electric vehicle use abound as electric car owner Michael Beinenson drives around a parking garage by a Midtown Atlanta mall.
"You see here, we have three chargers that are charging on level two,” said Beinenson, president of the EV Club of the South. “(T)he lower level (is) where you'll see ten Tesla supercharges"
Beinenson said many people in Georgia who got into an electric vehicle did so, not because of the environment.
"They wanted to get in because of the math,” he said.
The math for those who bought or leased an electric-only car included a five-thousand dollar tax credit. A Georgian with an EV could divide that credit over a two-year lease and recoup about 200 dollars a month.
At one point last year, Atlanta Georgia was one of the top markets in the nation for electric vehicles ownership.
But Georgia lawmakers recently ended the tax incentive to find savings that offset a transportation spending bill. Since the tax break ended in July, electric vehicle registrations are off by 90 percent.
Tim Echols, a Republican on the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates energy, said that the credit did help jumpstart the EV market.
“But the market was not mature quite yet,” he added.
Echols said Georgia lawmakers may still see a bill calling for a smaller tax credit that would phase out over time. But he says they are unlikely to approve it.
“This has been a hipster, kind of north Atlanta experience in most peoples’ eyes and they are not about to let their tax money to benefit people in such a small geographic locale,” he said.
He said the timing for approving new tax incentives will improve in a couple of years when manufacturers like Chevy and Tesla promise to develop electric cars that can drive far longer distances on a single charge.
The immediate test for electric car acceptance will come when all those EV expire. Will drivers re-up without the tax break?
“If we don't have something out there when they release those cars you can argue that they will go back to gasoline cars, especially in this low gas pricing,” said Beinenson.
Don Francis, coordinator of the federal Clean Cities effort in Georgia, said the tax credit loss really hurts the middle income buyer.
“The people who no longer afford to buy the car are the schoolteachers, public safety people, middle income people who can't afford to buy a 36 thousand dollar car,” said Francis.
And there's a final policy blow to the once brisk Georgia EV market. Gas-powered cars contribute to transportation funding in Georgia through a gas tax. This year, lawmakers imposed a 200-dollar-a-year road use fee on alternative fuel vehicles, including electric cars