Government incentives make electric cars more affordable

FRESNO, Calif.

"The cruise control is my friend because I always set the cruise control so I don't go too fast," the car's owner, Lance Dunn, said.

This Tesla Roadster owned by Lance Dunn accelerates from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. That's two to three times faster than the average car and better than nearly every high performance car.

"A roller coaster. It's almost like a go-cart roller coaster." That's how Lance describes it.

But Lance says, this car is not just about speed, it's economy. It's electric. That means No gas. And no pollution.

"So it's a lot of fun, because you don't feel guilty when you hit the gas or the pedal, because you are not wasting any gas you are not doing any emissions to the valley, it's really fun."

New, a Tesla Roadster like this cost well over $100,000 but now there are more practical and less expensive electric car alternatives out there.

Ash Desai is the General Manager of Lithia Nissan. He's selling the all electric Nissan Leaf :"If you are in city driving this is the best car."

The Leaf is the first mass market all electric vehicle. The four cars on the lot at Lithia Nissan are already sold.

They aren't quite as fast as a Tesla, (0-60 in 7 seconds) but a lot cheaper. The list price of $37,000 can be offset by $13,000 in tax credits and rebates. A $7,500 federal tax credit, a $2,500 rebate from the state and in the central valley a $3,000 rebate from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Spokesperson Jamie Holt says the incentive was added this spring.

"Electric vehicles not only are they great for air quality they are also really good for your pocket book," Holt said.

The big question about electric cars is how far can you go. The Tesla has a range of 250 miles, the Leaf, about 100. More than enough for most daily commutes.

Quick charge stations like the one at the Nissan Dealership are few and far between right now, so home charging is the best option.

Lance Dunn says it's easy: "When you plug it in you don't think about it. It takes like ten seconds, you go to bed and forget about it. Charges at night every day you have a little charge it's like having a full tank of gas every day."

The technology is changing quickly and more electric cars and chargers are coming on the market.

Ash Desai is optimistic:"I tell you in the next three to five years this is going to be the future."

Plugging in an electric car at home will cost about fifty dollars a month. The equivalent of more than 100 miles per gallon. Charging takes several hours. Quick chargers are an option but they cost a couple thousand dollars.

PG&E offers a special rate for electric cars, with a separate meter and that's a couple of hundred dollars.

But, electric cars can save money in the long run and the long run becomes even shorter if gas prices keep climbing.

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