A valley lawmaker wants to help put a charge into the sale of electric vehicles in the commonwealth.
Sen. Emmett W. Hanger, R-Mt. Solon, has introduced legislation that would exempt plug-in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf from the 3 percent state title tax for a period of three years.
The measure would save consumers about $1,300 on the purchase of a new vehicle, on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit.
General Motors representatives and Chevy dealers met with legislators in Richmond on Tuesday to promote the measure, and a new Chevy Volt was on display outside Old City Hall throughout the day.
Hanger said while he didn’t get to test drive the car, he was impressed with what he saw.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “It’s got the look and feel of a regular vehicle.”
Because the Washington metro area is one of a handful of test markets for the 2011 Volt, GM attorneys approached Virginia lawmakers about sponsoring the incentive, Hanger said.
“I’m sometimes hesitant to use tax policy for something like that,” he said, “but in this particular case, I felt the incentive was worth it.”
The state would be forgoing the tax revenue for a few years, he added, but the public benefits of alternative vehicles, including a cleaner environment, less dependence on foreign oil and economic development opportunities for Virginia industry, should trump any lost revenue.
“Plus, GM is a company that is on the rebound,” Hanger said. “They seem to be making the right decisions with their products and their marketing. … They’re a company that we want to do business with in Virginia.”
Since hitting the market late last year, sales of all-electric vehicles have been sluggish, and they’re likely to stay that way for some time because of limited supplies.
According to the Associated Press, GM sold less than 350 Chevy Volts last month, and Nissan’s sales totaled less than 10 Leaf sedans in the first two weeks of December.
Production is slowly ramping up, but if you’re interested in buying one, you’ll need to get your name on a waiting list.
Stutzman Chevrolet-Cadillac in Winchester lies just outside the Washington market, so it doesn’t yet carry the Volt. But proprietor Jim Stutzman said he hopes to sign on in 2012 when GM rolls out the vehicle nationwide.
“We’re getting a lot of questions,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of demand initially.”
The 2011 Volt has a range of about 40 miles on battery power alone. But it comes with a backup gas-powered generator that can kick in on the fly to recharge the car’s batteries, extending its range to 375 miles.
“For anybody who commutes from [Winchester] to Martinsburg or Front Royal, the Volt has the capability of driving 40-plus miles a day without ever using a drop of fuel,” Stutzman said.
“It’s definitely a game-changer,” he said. “Is it the answer to all of our powertrain issues with the internal combustion engine? No. But I think it’s a step in the right direction.”