Tax credits for hybrids, alternative vehicles


Because of the serious budget issues the U.S. has, it is anticipated that the valuable federal income tax credits for companies that purchase fuel-efficient hybrid, electric or diesel vehicles that are soon to expire, will.

That was the message from two Congressional staffers, delivered in a general session at HTUF 2011 National Conference & Expo held last week in Baltimore, MD.

HTUF (Hybrid, Electric and High Efficiency Truck Users Forum) is a national, multi-year, user-driven program to speed the commercialization of medium and heavy duty hybrid and high-efficiency technologies.

It is operated by CALSTART in partnership with the U.S. Army National Automotive Center (NAC), with project support from the Hewlett Foundation and the Department of Energy.

CALSTART serves as the leading catalyst organization for the global clean transportation technology industry. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world.

There is goodwill in Congress for extending the tax credits, but there is a lack of monies available because of the budget crisis, said JJ Brown, legislative assistant, office of Senator Orrin Hatch, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance. Congress’ focus now is on balancing the budget.

Congress really can’t do much else until the budget is determined, Brown pointed out. When a budget is determined, priorities for spending can be set.

New technologies are not a real high priority for Congress at present, added Michael Carr, senior professional staff member, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

However, new technologies usually need a “kick” by government to get them started.

The problem is, the prevailing feeling in Congress is that the government doesn’t need to put federal money into private enterprises, he noted.

Both Carr and Brown concurred that the tax credits could be restored later on. There is the will in Congress to do this, they said, the mechanics and money for doing this aren’t here.

When it comes to determining whether or not a request for new technology funding makes sense, Senator Hatch uses four criteria, Brown explained. They are: Is it affordable, abundant, dependable and domestic.

He allowed that the senator sees electric vehicles and electrification of the transportation sector as making sense.