Blowing Smoke: Why the Current Government Incentive Regime Makes EVs and PHEVs a Distant Prospect—and How to Fix It

An entire generation has greeted the arrival of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (“PHEVs”) with eager anticipation.  However, the rise of a trend does not necessarily imply that spending habits will change—much less in a permanent way.  The ambiguous prospects for popular PHEV and electric vehicle (“EV”) adoption demands discussion of what may keep them out of driveways, and how to overcome those barriers.

This Note seeks to analyze how, through proper government incentive programs, EVs and PHEVs might become one mechanism for reducing the United States’ carbon emissions from transportation.  Part I will set the backdrop for this analysis by discussing the history of EVs and PHEVs, and the government incentive programs already in place.  Part II will cover the issues impeding popular adoption of EVs and PHEVs by consumers.  Finally, Part III will propose a “model” government incentive program to overcome these issues.  This program can be broken into five parts:  educating consumers about EVs and PHEVs, switching the current tax credit scheme to an upfront rebate, reformulating the gas guzzler tax to make it more stringent, focusing on increasing fleet adoption of PHEVs, and establishing electrification “deployment communities” for EVs.

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