Hybrid Car Tax Credits: Incentives Fade into Memory

They were nice while they lasted, but the tax credits available to hybrid gas-electric cars bit the dust on Dec. 31, 2010. The incentives that President George Bush signed into law, as part of The Energy Policy Act of 2005, had granted up to $3,400 as a tax credit for the most efficient hybrid cars—and $4,000 for a compressed natural gas vehicle. They are gone, with little prospects for returning.

Instead, legislators have jumped to the next technology breakthrough: tax credits for plug-in hybrids and electric cars. A combination of local and national credits—up to $7,500 at the federal level, plus a $2,000 credit for charging equipment installation, plus state-based incentives (of $5,000 in California)— represent so far the largest bundle of incentives ever for private purchasers of green electric-drive vehicles.

With hybrids remaining below 3 percent of the new car market, some green car advocates wonder if the hybrid tax credits have vanished too soon. But Mike Stanton, president and CEO of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, summed up the situation, in an interview with Detroit News. “The intent was to provide an incentive for new technology,” Stanton said. “Hybrid technology is now pretty well-known.”

Training Wheels Come Off

At this stage, the viability of steady growth of the hybrid car market—as well as so-called “clean diesel” vehicles and cars that run on compressed natural gas—will have to stand on its merits, with no assistance from federal tax credits. In fact, for the most popular hybrids, the tax incentives have been long gone—because The Energy Policy Act of 2005 called for a phase-out of tax credits when any specific automaker sold more than 60,000 hybrid or clean-tech vehicles. Toyota and Lexus hybrids became ineligible in September 2007. Honda lost its eligibility on Jan. 1, 2009, and Ford’s expired March 31, 2010.

Many observers believed the 60,000-vehicle threshold was designed to limit the advantage for Japanese automaker, such as Toyota (and some degree Honda), which dominated the hybrid market since its introduction more than 10 years ago. With American companies very much in the plug-in game, the new incentives for plug-in cars have a bigger limit of 200,000 cars.

Other perks, such as the ability for solo drivers to use carpool lanes, have also shifted from conventional hybrids to plug-in cars—although California hybrid drivers with yellow stickers had their HOV privileges extended until June 30, 2011. Then, cars with yellow stickers are out, and those with white ones—for zero emission vehicles—take their place in the carpool lanes.

California issued yellow carpool lane access stickers to 85,000 hybrids between 2004 and 2007. To alleviate concerns about highway congestion from solo green car drivers, there will be a cap of 40,000 for Enhanced AT-PZEV plug-in hybrids allowed in the HOV lanes. There is currently no limit set for the number of all-electric, or zero emission vehicles, that can receive white HOV access stickers.

Speeding Up Adoption of Electric Cars

Support for electric car incentives is apparently accelerating. There are multiple proposals to enhance the $7,500 tax credit for electric cars to an instant rebate available at the time of purchase. This would help avoid EV shoppers not being able to claim the full credit when it comes to tax time—a common problem when hybrid shoppers lost some of the value of their credits due to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

As it stands now, buyers of plug-in hybrids and electric cars benefit from a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the size of the battery in the car. On the low end of the spectrum, cars with 4 kWh battery packs will qualify for a $2,500 tax credit. The credit maxes out at $7,500 for cars with a 16 kWh battery pack, like the Chevy Volt. Drivers converting a car into a plug-in hybrid, or a gas-powered car into an electric vehicle, will receive a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the conversion cost. The maximum credit is $4,000 for a $40,000 conversion. The credits were provided as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “stimulus bill.”

In late Dec. 2010, the federal government saved the tax credit for installation of home-based charging equipment that was set to expire at the end of 2010. It was a bittersweet victory, because the amount of the credit dropped from 50 percent to 30 percent. EV buyers can now claim a credit of 30 percent of the purchase and costs of the charging equipment, up to $1,000 for individuals and $30,000 for businesses. The new rules are in effect until December 31, 2011.

There is a long list of incentives for electric cars and plug-in hybrids at the state level. We will track those incentives—to the best of our available, things are changing fast—on our sister site, PluginCars.com.

Previous Incentives

Here’s a handy-dandy reference of tax credit amounts for clean vehicles that might have been purchased in 2010—that you’ll want to claim at tax time in April 2011.

See a summary of the hybrid and clean deisel tax credits for all years, and the appropriate forms. The exact amount of your credit may vary. Please consult a tax professional.

Current Models
Make Model Tax Credit
Audi A3 TDI (Clean Diesel) $1,300
Audi Q7 TDI (Clean Diesel) $1,150
BMW 335d (Clean Diesel) $900
BMW X5 xDrive35d (Clean Diesel) $1,800
Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid $1,300
Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid $2,200
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid $2,200
Ford Escape Hybrid (2wd) $3,000*
Ford Escape Hybrid (4wd) $2,200*
Ford Fusion Hybrid $3,400*
GMC Sierra Hybrid $2,200
GMC Yukon Hybrid $2,200
Honda Civic Hybrid $2,100*
Honda 2005 Civic Hybrid (auto) $1,700*
Lexus GS 450h $1,550*
Lexus LS 600hL $450*
Lexus RX 400h $2,200*
Mazda Tribute Hybrid (2wd) $3,000*
Mazda Tribute Hybrid (4wd) $2,200
Mercedes GL 320 Bluetec (Clean Diesel) $1,800
Mercedes R320 Bluetec (Clean Diesel) $1,550
Mercedes ML 320 Bluetec (Clean Diesel) $900
Mercedes S400 Hybrid $1,150
Mercury Mariner Hybrid (2wd) $3,000
Mercury Mariner Hybrid (4wd) $2,200
Mercury Milan Hybrid $3,400
Nissan Altima $2,350
Toyota Camry Hybrid $2,600*
Toyota Highlander Hybrid $2,600*
Toyota Prius $3,150*
Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Clean Diesel) $1,300
Volkswagen Touareg TDI (Clean Diesel) $1,150

* Credits for Toyota and Honda hybrids no longer qualify at all for tax credits. Ford hybrids were cut in half from amounts listed above starting April 1, 2009. In October 2009, the credits were cut in half again, and completely ended on April 1, 2010.

The basic rules:

  • The vehicle must be placed in service after 12/31/05 and purchased on or before 12/31/10.
  • The original use of the vehicle must begin with the taxpayer claiming the credit. The credit may only be claimed by the original owner of a new, qualifying, hybrid vehicle and does not apply to a used hybrid vehicle.
  • The vehicle must be acquired for use or lease by the taxpayer claiming the credit. The credit is only available to the original purchaser of a qualifying hybrid vehicle. If a qualifying vehicle is leased to a consumer, the leasing company may claim the credit. For qualifying vehicles used by a tax-exempt entity, the person who sold the qualifying vehicle to the person or entity using the vehicle is eligible to claim the credit, but only if the seller clearly discloses in a document to the tax-exempt entity the amount of credit.
  • The vehicle must be used predominantly within the United States.

These rules are relatively straight-forward. But there’s more and these are more foggy:

  • The credit amount is based on the purchase date of the vehicle.
  • The new law for the hybrid tax credit might require taxpayers to recapture their hybrid tax credit if they re-sell their hybrid car or truck.

Surprisingly, for taxpayers who take a lot of deductions or use the Alternative Minimum Tax, the previous tax deduction (which bit the dust in 2005) was more valuable. Details:

  • The credit will not reduce your alternative minimum tax, if that applies to you. As stated in Toyota’s statement about the new tax credits: "The benefit of the hybrid vehicle tax credit will also be substantially reduced or eliminated if the individual purchaser is subject to the federal alternative minimum tax."
  • The credit will reduce your regular income tax liability, but not below zero.
  • If you are eligible for multiple tax credits, the hybrid tax credit is taken last after all the other credits (e.g., child care tax credit, mortgage credit, retirement savings credit) have been taken. Any tax liability left over by these reductions will be the maximum dollar limit of your hybrid tax credit. If your hybrid tax credit exceeds your maximum dollar limit, the excess is not refundable, and is lost forever.
  • The excess cannot be carried over to another year, or given away to another person.

As you might guess, it’s a good idea to get advice from a tax professional before filing.


  • MrEnergyCzar

    I converted my home to a net-zero solar home knowing that I’d be getting a Volt this year to partially power it with the sun. I attached a video showing what I did…..

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  • Priusmaniac

    How can conventional ICE vehicles receive credits? This is non-sense especially for diesel vehicles that pollute the air with carcinogenic particulate matter.

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    MrEnergyCzar

    You are the man.

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  • Dom

    “How can conventional ICE vehicles receive credits? This is non-sense especially for diesel vehicles that pollute the air with carcinogenic particulate matter.”

    News flash Priusmaniac , your precious Prius emits particles. In fact, I’ve heard there is some speculation that gasoline particles may in fact be worse than diesel’s because they’re smaller and easier to inhale. Even if they’re not you are totally uninformed on the current state of diesel emissions… very clean now.

    On topic, I’ve never much liked these Incentives. I see no reason why I as a taxpayer should foot the bill for somebody else’s luxury item.

  • Alex J

    I guess that depends what angle you’re approaching this from, Dom. When it comes to speeding the adoption of technologies that boost long-term efficiency, and helping them achieve economies of scale, such credits could be seen as a good investment. And not in “luxury”, but in helping to improve America’s 18+ million barrel daily oil consumption, and countering the trend toward unconventional, more carbon-intensive fuels. If we’re not going to recognize the externalized costs of fossil hydrocarbons via a carbon pricing and incentive system system, or at least drop Big Oil subsidies, we can at least make the higher up-front cost of alternative technologies more manageable.

  • Scott

    The Government is broke, but they continue to provide incentives for these vehicles. I agree with Dom, why should taxpayers foot the bill so some guy in California can plug his car in? The government has spent billions subsidizing ethanol and look where that has gotten us…higher food prices. If a product can’t stand on it’s own, it’s not our responsibility to make it work. Besides, what is so great about electric vehicles given the fact that much of the electricity is generated by burning coal…the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

  • Alex J

    What’s so great is that electric propulsion with regenerative braking is much more efficient than your typical internal combustion setup. Even with half the electric supply being coal (assuming a full electric or plug-in), it’s an improvement over burning oil, especially from tar sands, at low efficiency. And to me it’s a much better investment than corn-based ethanol, since it means a faster transition from reliance on oil, and reduction of the national and global risks therein. Not to mention that anything that helps reduce demand benefits the pocketbook as prices rise along with the competition for resources. Otherwise, I’m sure we’ll hear lots of Americans complaining when more Chinese and Indians seek to emulate the high-consumption, high-waste Western lifestyle, and drive oil prices through the roof.

  • Susan C

    This posting shows prius is covered in tax credit but when I got to irs site prius is not on the list. Does anyone know more detail about this?

  • Ben M

    Above is posted in bold that Toyota and Honda hybrids no longer qualify. I guess the federal government wants to stimulate interest in non-Japanese Hybrids.

  • lmclosson

    The purpose or one of the purpose of the government is to move the country in a direction that is suppose to be better for the people, granted based on one perspective. With that being said, The reason we as taxpayer’s pay into the government is to fund these goals, because These incentives help bring the cost of a new technology that most people would not see a cost benefit if left to purchase on their own. The overall and end goal is to eventually lower cost of the technology. You do this buy more people buying, this is also why once it reached a certain level the incentives stopped. Taxpayers for the most part pay in to help secure their future. This is just one more step the government is trying to help with that goal in mind.

    I doubt this actually convinced you to understand the reasons why the incentives are in place most people have a hard time seeing and understanding the big picture, and this too is ok.

  • msmith

    wow what an article this is a lot of money!

  • Jimbo2620

    Great then I am sure you are all for the billions of dollars taxpayers subsidize the oil industry who puts up multi-billion dollar profits each quarter but somehow need the taxpayers to support their business.
    Check the carbon output created in generating the electricity needed to charge the car and compare it to the carbon output on an ICE. No comparison, hands down the EV wins.
    Let’s end all the corporate subsidies. This program is a drop in the bucket compared to what we are throwing away on other programs.

  • mikemike

    great article! mike. I’ll recommend it to all my friends!

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    great article! mike. I’ll recommend it to all my friends!

  • Gateway10

    MrEnergyCzar, I am 16 years old and today I was going on the internet to research for my Electric car project for my Physics class. I stumbled upon this website and I saw your comment saying you had a video showing that you have a net-zero solar home. I was intrigued by this because I really don’t know many people who can say that. I ended up watching all 4 of your videos and was very impressed with what you’ve done. All of the tips you provided in the videos I will definitely invest in when I build my own home in the upcoming years after college. I have land and I intend on building a net-zero solar home on that land once I become financially established in my computer engineering career. As for the books you recommended, I plan on reading these and hope that I can become more informed in this field. I just wanted to say thank you for your post and I hope you can inform many others with your knowledge.

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  • Darrell Jackson

    The phase out of the tax credits couldn’t have come at a worse time, because I need these breaks to buy. This 4 dollar a gallon gas hurts my pocket.

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  • Green Power

    Holy cow! Those are some great numbers! I was looking around for information about green cars and green power and didn’t realize there were so many awesome tax breaks involved with all of it. I mean I knew there were some involved, but that’s fantastic. Nissan Leaf here I come!

  • Ernie Lindsey

    Lots of great information about green cars and green power. I didn’t realize the tax breaks had moved on to electric cars though. Nissan Leaf, here I come!

  • Jonathan Hughes

    I’m intrigued by how the Toyota and Honda hybrids no longer qualify for tax credits at all. Anyone know the reason for this?

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  • Kettlebells

    I personally don’t think that the government has any business at all throwing money out in this economy. Let the market dictate!

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  • Derrick

    I am ready to give up the big rig for an electric. My question is how much coal and oil does it take to build my electric car, generate the electricy and power the maintenace facilities compared to those for an oil/gas based car?
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  • colten45

    I dont think I would want an electric car, unless they build one with a lot of power :) I dont think I would want an electric car, unless they build one with a lot of power :)

  • James Jones

    Hybrid cars are not as great as people think. The battery aspect drains a lot of juice and takes a lot of energy to make them. So not sure how “green” they really are. Tax incentives are nice but are we kidding ourselves with being eco-friendly? At my firm I work with lots of CEO’s on helping them to get tax write offs and we discussed this option. Not sure if its the best though. http://executivecoachingx.com

  • Bill

    The electric car is 170 years old. This may sound surprising, but e-cars predate automobiles with a combustion engine. They were driven out of the market in the beginning of the 20th century because petrol engines had significantly better mileage. One century later, the electric car still faces the same – fundamental – problems. Furthermore, the need for batteries makes them eco-unfriendly by nature.
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    Hi There,

    The whole idea of electric cars is really great as it will save our planet in the long run. However, the cars are not powerful enough so I think it will take some years and more research before we get to that level. So until them, we at charm bracelet charms believe that most people will continue to drive their gas-driven cars for now.

  • ken henry

    Do not expect insurance to be cheaper on these new cars. they seem to be more expensive and fewer people repair them.

  • GlennW40

    I think the main point that people are missing here is where the electricity is coming from to actually power the cars. Never mind build them. Mostly from oil and gas anyway I would think.

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  • MarkEtin

    The way gas prices are going the idea of getting a hybrid or an all electric car is looking like a good idea. Austin Windows

  • joe

    I am disappointed that the hybrid car tax credits have been removed and this would have hurt a lot of pockets! But I suppose the government must look into the financial viability as and when the situation arises and keep the interest of the larger issue in focus!! But it is a pity that they have completely stopped the relief for the hybrid and are encouraging the purchase of plug-in hybrids and electric cars – wish a small percentage was allotted to the earlier allotted hybrid gas-electric cars as well – it would keep everyone happy!!
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  • Brad

    Hybrids maybe slower at this point in time but with price of oil and the fast pace of technology it will not take long before we see hybrids with speed.elliptical definition

  • chiropractic marketing

    I bought a hybrid in 2006 thinking I would get the tax credit. However, after doing my taxes, I am getting most of my money back due to only working part of the year and real estate tax deductions. Next year I think my income will be higher. Can I wait and take the credit next year? How will someone know I purchased in 06 and not 07? I bought the car factoring in the credit, dont want it wasted.

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    This was really a beneficial aspect of buying bybrid car. I think I should have also invested in it.

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    This was really a beneficial aspect of buying bybrid car. I think I should have also invested in it.

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    Car makers have come up with an innovation by producing vehicles that can help both the environment and the driver’s budget. They have manufactured a certain type of car that can function with more than one power-source option. These are the hybrid cars. custom php

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    There is a great deal of useful and informative information in this post thank you for showing me this

  • Lin Davenport

    Hybrids are definitely taking off.
    It is the in thing now to own one. Especially if the more glamorous marques start offering them, people will buy them.

  • James Orcutt

    Thank you for posting this. It will be a good guide for those who are planning to buy a car and have less ideas on which car is good. My guy loves girls who know more about cars. This will help me make him love me more. :)

  • dennishunter

    I think hybrid cars would help a lot in the environment than those car using gas. i hope government will support in this kind of programs. ~Blinds For French Doors

  • Felix Unger

    Thanks for the info. I’m purchasing a used Ford Escape Hybrid for my maryland web design business and wasn’t sure if used cars would receive incentives.

  • Fred B.

    If the tax credits worked so well, why have they not been renewed ? I have some friends that have bought hybrids to take advantage of the tax credits.

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  • Jon

    If the tax credits worked so well, why have they not been renewed ?

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  • Doug

    I agree with Derrick. Right now it is taking a lot of power and energy from dirty sources to build and power the Hybrid and electric cars. However, they are a step in the right direction until we can find a better alternative.

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  • People Search Canada

    Hybrid car is really fantastic. Good idea, I would prefer to invest in such an amazing car.
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  • Abbs

    I think the authorities need to focus more on supporting any one kind of environmentally friendly form of transportation. If we look more closely at electrical cars, we need to see where America gets its electricity. Most of it is from burning oil, coal and gas. This is unfeasible in the long run because changing over from direct fossil fuel insertions to electric cars will not make much difference overall. It may change consumption distributions but not consumption overall. This constant seesawing should stop and hybrid cars should be supported fully.

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  • Glenn Watson

    Most of the energy that is used to run hybrid cars is coming from fossil fules anyway. If we burn coal to get electricity to fuel the car is it not the same as using gas?

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  • ikeehot

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  • Kevroll

    As much as I like your idea of “why should someone pay for someone elses stuff” don’t forget how much these vehicles really do help our situation in pollution, consumption, and overall effect on our planet. Also don’t forget that no matter how electricity is produced the carbon footprint is much lower than that of a car running on it’s own gas or diesel power. Do your homework you will see! Buy a hybrid, get 40+ mpg and you will never look at things the same. :)

    Sincerely
    Kevroll

  • Kevroll

    No it’s not the same, the carbon footprint is extrememly lower now matter how dirty the electricity is produced. The payoff is huge, plus just the idea of getting 40+ mpg is amazing! I love my Prius, if you ever get a chance to drive a new one I highly recommend it they are nice cars and are almost sports car like to drive especially with the high end Prius 5 tire and wheel package.

  • Joe the plumber

    Don’t really see much benefit in hybrid cars when you consider the cost of the batteries over time. However it’s always good to have early adopters to test out the waters first and help improve a system.

  • Mike the elliptical fitness man

    Are cars with a small carbon foot print fit cars? Fit for purpose or fit pysically?

    It is great that we are finally looking at different options in automobiles other than conventional gas driven models. I wish an urgent focus was similaly given to our fitness. The cost of degenerative disease treatment in this country is staggering – may be if we relied on our cars less and walked orrode push bikes more it might help reduce it.

  • event management Cape Town

    I’m glad the federal government is giving incentives to people to shift onto hybrid cars. However, I think this money would be put to best use if an even more environmentally friendly car was developed. Hybrids are good for the medium run but not the long run. Nonetheless, a good measure and it will definitely help the environment. I am glad our government is more serious than others about saving the environment.

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  • Anonymous

    you are silly. A republican will drive a prius for his wallet and a dem will drive for the environment. Everybody wins. If you don’t believe me, visit northern va.

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  • Eve Perro

    This is great! A couple of months ago I went with my husband to Nissan Philadelphia to buy a Nissan Altima. I am so pleased with this car and I am happy that the tax credits are not available anymore. It is a step forward for the car industry, for the economy and why not, for our planet.

  • Amie Steffey

    When I decided to buy a car I started checking up all the auto dealer websites I could find. I read all about hybrid cars too, and I decided I wanted a Toyota Prius. I was being worried about the taxes I was going to pay, but when I ran into this article, all my doubts vanished. This is great news. I am going to buy a Prius!

  • Dean Lickten

    It’s unfortunate that the U.S. isn’t taking full advantage of this opportunity in terms of it’s intrinsic shift, leveraging it via marketing to both help the world and stimulate the economy. Not to mention, the oil and car companies could keep their stronghold if only they shifted their perspectives to a greener one. Hopefully the big money that shapes the daily world will catch up to universal investment practices.

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  • Bob Smith

    Interesting article. Did you know that in 2009 the Japanese government implemented a set of policies and incentives that included a scrappage program, tax breaks on hybrid vehicles and other low emission cars and trucks, and a higher levy on gasoline that raised prices in the order of USD 4.50 per gallon. New hybrid car sales for 2009 were almost triple those for 2008.

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  • al demsky / kia of coatesville

    does anyone know if there are going to be any tax credits for hybrid’s for the 2011 tax season??

  • Healthy Bodies

    Hybrid cars are awesome and more incentives need to be introduced by worldwide governments for consumers to buy more of them.

    Great post!

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  • Tony Jameson

    Governments need to bring back tax credit incentives for hybrid cars as soon as possible. In this day and age of knowing how much regular vehicles contribute to the world’s problems it is ridiculous they aren’t an option for consumers of hybrid cars.

    Thanks for the post

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    This is great! A few months ago bought a Nissan Altima. I am very happy with this car. It is a step forward for the car industry and for the economy.
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    Um, have all of these comments written by bots? The hybrid car industry has quite the public relations machine.

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    what is this? :( man, i just bought myself a hybrid and now suddenly they’re gonna increase the tax? that’s ridiculous things i’ve ever know so far. I wonder what it will be after this one, increasing tax for some Kitchen Ideas ???.. hahaha LoL

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    Knew it would be a flash in the pan with these incentives… seem to be just vote winners?

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    Nobody ever had a problem with the govt subsidizing all sorts of other BS, like corn. The justifications were parroted in defense of those backwards subsidies, but when the govt wants to encourage a vital technology that will take us off the payroll of wahhabist theocracies and take us away from dependency on fighting for our fuel in far-off sandpits, all of the sudden people get their skivvies in a twist. Unbelievable.

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