Gas-electric hybrid car to receive tax deduction benefit

Robyn Repya

Consumers who think green might soon be seeing it.

The Internal Revenue Service announced a tax deduction last week for people who buy gas-electric hybrid cars, which run on either gasoline or electricity.

Although the exact amount of the deduction will not be finalized for a few months, IRS spokesman Eric Smith said it would likely be close to the $2,000 deduction currently given to those who purchase all-electric cars.

Smith said the deduction for
all-electric cars is set by law but will be adjusted for hybrid cars.

“It depends upon the extent to which (the car) is a hybrid,” Smith said.

Some gas-electric cars run primarily on gas with a backup electric system, while others run the opposite way. Both kinds of gas-electric cars are better for the environment than regular cars, said Mark Sulzbach, spokesman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“They get twice the gas mileage, and they’re twice as clean,” he said.

When automobiles idle or are used excessively, they burn fossil fuels and create smog, Sulzbach said. The hybrids have a technique to solve that problem, he said.

“The new hybrid cars all have new mechanisms to shut off the car during extended idle time, but it will start automatically,” Sulzbach said.

He said he hasn’t encountered any critics of the deductions.

“Why should we not give a break to people trying to help our health and environment?” Sulzbach said.

Gas-electric cars first appeared for sale in the United States in 2000, said Vern Pettis, sales representative at Rudy Luther’s Hopkins Honda. The cars range in price, starting at $20,000, Pettis said.

Honda’s gas-electric car, the Insight, runs on gas with an electric backup. Electricity is generated from the friction created when the driver steps on the brake, Pettis said, so the car never has to be plugged in to recharge.

“All-electric had to be charged after you drive it 100 miles,” Pettis said.

In addition to decreased emissions and fuel consumption, Pettis said, hybrid cars are also more than 90 percent recyclable.

Low gas intake provides consumers with another reason for buying the car, Pettis said. He said Honda models receive 47 to 57 miles per gallon.

“You should be able to go 650 miles on one tank of gas – that’s to

Chicago and back,” he said.

Pettis said that because the hybrid cars cost approximately $3000 to $4000 thousand dollars more than a new Honda Civic, the tax deduction will help attract customers.

Currently, the car remains unpopular with consumers – the dealership only receives three or four hybrid cars every month from its manufacturer.

“It’s still low production,” Pettis said.

Even without a hybrid car, Sulzbach said, people can do their part to reduce automobile emissions, including driving less. Minnesotans drive more than 53 billion miles a year.

“Daily, that’s enough to drive to the sun and half way back,” he said.