Eight years ago, then-Tennessee Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen said that during the coming decade we’d see a surge of electric vehicles on the state’s roads and highways.
So certain of it, he handed out $2.5 million in government money to encourage people to buy EVs.
But we’re not talking about all EVs. Nope, we’re only talking about the Nissan Leaf, manufactured in Smyrna.
People who bought the Chevy Volt or any other brand of EV did not qualify. At the time, a Franklin-based businessman who sold electric cars complained he got shortchanged as well. That businessman, Josh Womack, said Bredesen, in this instance, picked winners and losers.
Now that the decade is nearly out, evidence indicates Bredesen, now the state’s U.S. Senate Democratic candidate, was no visionary.
No one at Bredesen’s campaign returned The Tennessee Star’s request for comment Monday.
As the Tennessee Watchdog reported in the fall of 2010, just as he was leaving the governor’s office, Bredesen announced a rebate to the first 1,000 Tennessee residents who bought the Leaf.
Specifically, that was a $2,500 rebate to the first 1,000 people who bought it. Tennessee residents who paid for the Leaf also received a federal tax credit of $7,500. That equated to a $10,000 government-funded deduction for some people for a car that, at the time, cost $34,000.
Franklin-based businessman Josh Womack, who converted gasoline-powered vehicles into electric-powered ones, said Bredesen acted unfairly.
“The governor just said ‘I’m going to give taxpayer money to one specific company,’” Womack told Tennessee Watchdog.
Bredesen and members of his administration paid for the rebate using fines the U.S. Department of Energy levied against oil companies who overcharged consumers in a Petroleum Violation Escrow fund. Government officials could only use that revenue to pay for energy-related programs.
Womack said his vehicles would have cost half what the Leaf did. Thusly, the state and federal credits would have driven his EVs’ ultimate cost down to $8,000.
“If I had comparable access to that taxpayer investment, then I could have put a lot more electric vehicles on the road today. I could hire more employees too,” Womack said at the time.
“Why is the governor (Bredesen) picking just one manufacturer and wanting to divert $2.5 million in taxpayer money? Let me compete. If the government is going to meddle and incentivize, then meddle and incentivize fairly.”
Until that time, Tennessee officials, whether under Bredesen or any other governor, had never given a tax credit or rebate to state residents who purchase a specific type of motorized vehicle, Tennessee Watchdog reported.
State officials said at the time that only Nissan qualified for the rebate program as it had participated in something called the EV project. The Arizona-based ECOtality North America spearheaded that enterprise to deploy more electric vehicles around the country.
Six years later, in 2016, Womack said his company, VerdeGoh! had long since ceased operations.
As reported in 2015, Tennessee had 2,568 registered EVs on the road.
In three years, that number has increased, slightly, to 3,735 EVs. Davidson County, meanwhile, currently has 746 registered EVs, according to Kelly Cortesi at the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
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