As part of the Obama administration’s proposed budget, the White House is revisiting and expanding upon the notion of changing a consumer tax credit to point-of-sale rebate for qualifying alternative-energy vehicle purchases.

The proposal would include not just plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, but will ask for consideration for other advanced-tech cars, including natural gas vehicles.

It was more than three years ago that the White House first put this idea on the table and a sufficient number of legislators have yet to give it their approval.

“The President is proposing to transform the existing $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles into a rebate that will be available to all consumers immediately at the point of sale,” said the administration in February 2011. This it said in an Energy Department report after that year’s State of the Union speech outlining a plan to promote one million electrified vehicles on American roads by Dec. 31, 2015.

More Fairness Needed?

Presently, consumers who buy a plug-in vehicle eligible for an end-of-year tax credit from $2,500 up to $7,500 must front this money with the total price of the sale. Their tax situation must furthermore warrant it. That is, they have the following year to recoup that money, and if their tax liability is less than the potential credit, it is forfeit.

This state of affairs has been viewed as less than equitable, and ironically it’s made more-costly plug-in cars a more-clear decision for higher earners when lower income folks are the ones who are seen as needing the savings and relief the most.

As before, the latest White House proposal includes a $10,000 credit that would be offered as an immediate point-of-sale rebate, not a tax credit to help speed acceptance of alternative energy vehicles.

Congress has yet to create a rebate that substantial, but has seen work on a similar proposal.

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Be 30-Percent of the Way To Obama’s 1-Million Plug-in Goal

Last spring, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Electric CARS Act. The bill sets a point-of-sale rebate at $7,500 for “new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles,” though it doesn’t define vehicle type specifically. Officially titled HR Bill 4584, the act would extend credits to the end of 2020.

“One of the biggest contributors to climate change in Vermont and across the country is vehicle emissions. It is essential that we transition to cleaner, more efficient transportation like electric vehicles,” said Rep. Welch. “The battery life and fuel efficiency of electric vehicles are steadily improving making them more accessible and practical to drive. This legislation will make them more affordable while saving Vermonters money at the gas pump and reducing their environmental footprint.”

The bill was referred to a House committee for further review, and hasn’t received any further action since.

What’s next for the president’s latest plan is unclear. We’re looking into it now, and will report back with more as we’re able.