Senator Debbie Stabenow has introduced S. 3715, known as the Charging America Forward Act, which would extend tax credits for plug-in vehicles until 2014 and “front load” the credits, to create a dealership-level discount, among other provisions. Though inspired by President Obama’s call to put a million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015, Stabenow’s website plays up a single, all-important angle to the bill
Michigan is already a leader in emerging hi-tech battery and electric car production. Other countries are acting to develop their own advanced vehicle markets because they realize the tremendous economic potential this new technology represents. These initiatives will allow Michigan innovators to continue to out-compete the world and create new jobs here
Though the full text of the bill hasn’t hit Govtrack yet, the DetN reports that it’s chock full of plug-in subsidies, so it seems that Stabenow’s proposa is considerably more dramatic than the recent plug-in credit extension introduced by Rep Sander Levin. And that’s not necessarily a good thing…
For starters, we assumed that efforts to front-load plug-in tax credits were dead in the water before Stabenow resurrected them. After all, the only real beneficiaries of front-loaded EV credits (other than qualifying automakers) are wealthy EV buyers whose tax credit might be eaten up by the Alternative Minimum Tax. We assumed that tax breaks for the wealthy might not fly within the Democratic Party, but then, any form of EV stimulus amounts to a tax break for the wealthy as nobody is buying EVs as a purely financial choice.
Additionally, the DetN reports that Stabenow’s bill would
authorize the U.S. Energy Department to award another $2 billion in grants “for the manufacturing of advanced batteries and components, and provide facility funding awards” for vehicle batteries, hybrid electrical systems and components…
It would also extend and expand a tax credit for purchasing medium or heavy-duty plug-in hybrid trucks until 2014. The tax credit would be worth between $15,000 and $100,000, depending on the truck’s size.
The grants would be another round of DOE giveaways to plug-in efforts like DC Bus Capacitor manufacturing by KEMET, and the still-mysterious “Construction of U.S. manufacturing capabilities to produce the second-generation GM global rear-wheel electric drive system.” Not to be confused with retooling loans, these grants help some of the less-sexy suppliers, although they keep the fledgling EV industry at the whims of the DOE, which can drastically affect the fortunes of individual companies by making these grants. As for the truck credit, it sounds a lot like a greenwashed version of the old Bush-era SUV tax credits that Detroit loved and environmentalists loved to hate.The bill will also reportedly include increased tax breaks for home charging systems as well as home energy storage systems.
We will report back when a full text of the bill surfaces, but at this point, it seems that Stabenow’s bill is better pork than policy. That perception is only amplified by the fact that a number of Michigan-area companies have signed on, including
- General Motors
- Johnson Controls
- Edison Electric Institute
- Eaton Corp
- MEMA (Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association)
- Battery Electric Vehicle Coalition
- Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA)
- Hybrid Truck User Forum (HTUF)
- Azure Dynamics
- A123 Systems
- Arvin Meritor