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The new $7,500 federal tax credit for a new electric car is complicated, factoring in where a car and its battery are made, what it costs and when you buy it. To make that easier, here’s a short list of the cars that qualify. It’s based on research by Consumer Reports and the Department of Energywith my margin notes.
Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV
The Bolt is a real solid choice though it has a black eye from a past battery flaw associated with some fires. That, along with the fact that GM is about to switch to its new Ultium electric platform for all its EVs, might give you pause. If you do select a Bolt, wait until Jan. 1, 2023, when GM is allowed to offer federal tax credits again after maxing out of the old program some time ago.
Ford F-150 Lightning
The F-150 Lightning is currently the only electric full-size pickup on the market and it’s a huge hit. You’ll have to keep its total price under $80,000 to qualify for the new tax credit, which shouldn’t be too hard even though the truck’s had two big price hikes: The original base of $41,669 with destination is now $53,769. You may also want to wait to compare it to the electric Silverado coming in 2023 — a suggestion of brand-hopping that used to be almost unheard of in truck country.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
The Mustang Mach-E sits squarely among a bunch of Teslas at the top of sales chartsinspiring Ford to double production plans. Its next major redesign is way off in the 2026 model year so the main question is whether you wait until calendar 2023 for somewhat better Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries it will get and to compare it to the electric Chevy Blazer that should be the Mach-E’s most direct competitor.
The Leaf doesn’t set anyone’s hair on fire — it’s lacking soul in reviewer Jon Wong’s opinion — but Nissan knows how to build a good piece of electric transportation. Word is that the Leaf might be discontinued for the US in 2026 but that’s far enough out to be unrelated to buying one today.
Rivian R1S and R1T
The Rivians are truly fresh and exciting but you’ll have a tricky time fitting even the least expensive one under the $80,000 tax credit price cap for trucks and utilities. Another concern is that to tighten a nut. It’s an important fastener, related to steering control, but I’m less concerned than if it was for a battery, motor or computer.
Tesla Model 3 and Model Y
What hasn’t been said about these two Teslas except that you can’t get the new federal tax credit on one until 1/1/23 when Tesla re-enters the program after being the first company to max out of the old program. Because the Model 3 is classified as a car you’ll face a price cap of $55,000 while the Model Y is classified by the EPA as a utility vehicle so should enjoy the higher $80,000 price ceiling. Both allow enough room to get most options except the $15,000 Full Self Driving technology, but that might be a good thing.
This one’s a little tricky: The new tax credit rules specify cars made in North America, which means they apply if you buy an ID.4 from made in the brand new plant in Tennessee, which just started cranking out cars as I write this. Previous ID.4s were made in Germany, which is verboten under the new tax credit rules. Since the ID.4 is classed as a small SUV it should have an $80,000 price limit; no problem, you could buy two for that amount.
When we turn the corner on Jan. 1, 2023 not only will some manufacturers qualify for the tax credit again, but some new models hit the market as well.
The Lyriq is the sexiest member of an electric phalanx that GM will introduce in 2023-2024. It’s also a flagship for the company’s vaunted Ultium platform, upon which rides a whole new ball game at GM. As of this writing the Lyriq shows up on the EPA’s listings as a utilitywhich would mean an $80,000 price cap.
Chevrolet Blazer EV
This is the big shoe waiting to drop if you’re considering a Ford Mustang Mach-E. The new electric Blazer will channel the Camaro that way the Mach-E channels a Mustang. Know that the electric Blazer is a new model, not a conventional Blazer with an electric retrofit. As of today I don’t see an EPA classification for it but it’s clearly a utility that should have an $80,000 price cap.
Chevrolet Silverado EV
Ford has validated the electric pickup category but Chevy will be the first to bring it some choice, which any smart vehicle buyer should expect before making a move. While history indicates that truck owners seldom change brands, the move to electric power is so profound that I think many will consider switching. Fords never lost their eligibility for a federal tax credit unlike GM vehicles that won’t get it back until 1/1/2023, so if you need an electric pickup right now, say for business tax reasons, the F-150 Lightning is your huckleberry. And it’s not clear to me that Chevrolet will offer many versions of the electric Silverado in 2023 that fall under the $80,000 price cap, especially when you consider dealer price gouging which will count against you. Here’s a wild card: The electric RAM pickup arrives in 2024 and while it will be late to the party it may learn from first movers’ mistakes.
Thissupposedly is coming next year, when Tesla vehicles will again qualify for federal tax credits for the first time in years. I don’t have any confidence in the Cybertruck’s promised $39,900 base price in a world where Ford couldn’t hold the line on about the same base price for an electric F-150. On the other hand, I can’t imagine a single buyer of the Cybertruck would change their mind if it doesn’t qualify for a tax credit.