In Washington D.C., current local tax advantages for buying certain so-called “green cars” may become a thing of the past. Mayor Adrian Fenty proposed stricter guidelines with respect to tax breaks for city residents purchasing hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles. Under existing law, a D.C. resident who purchases a “new clean fuel or electric vehicle,” regardless of fuel economy numbers, pays no excise tax and half the $72 vehicle registration fee.
The new legislative language eliminates the excise tax exemption for any hybrid vehicle that gets less than 40 miles per gallon in combined driving. The proposed rules indicates a shift to promote high-efficiency, rather than vehicles that simply wear the “hybrid” label.
Casualties of the reform would include hybrid versions of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu, and Saturn Aura. And not a single hybrid SUV would qualify under the updated law. That includes the Ford Escape Hybrid, with its combined 32 miles per gallon rating. But the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid would make the cut, as those vehicles achieve combined fuel economy of 46 and 42 miles per gallon respectively.
The State of California drew the line at 45 mpg when granting carpool lane access to solo-driving hybrid owners. HOV lane stickers are no longer being granted in California. The Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Honda Insight were the only vehicles that passed the 45 mpg limit, which was established prior to the issuing of new EPA fuel economy numbers in 2007.
Some critics say the proposal removes incentives for consumers to buy slightly more fuel efficient versions of the worst gas-guzzlers. Jim Kliesch, senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ clean vehicles program, likes the emphasis on fuel efficiency levels rather than a specific technology. But he sees the 40 mpg line as restrictive. He said, “You’re basically removing most vehicles from the possibility of getting this [incentive].”