Cheaper hybrid, electric cars on the way

How to cash in on tax credits

HOUSTON – Gas prices jumped about 4 cents this week. They're still pretty low, but everyone knows how quickly that can change.

Automakers aren't slowing down when it comes to building new hybrid and electric cars. Soon, consumers will be seeing new models that can travel as much 200 miles between charging. These new cars will also be a lot more affordable.

Eric Rowland is all about efficiency and sustainability, which is why he bought a hybrid vehicle years ago.

"At first, I thought of electric cars as just being economical and sort of glorified golf carts, and this one has certainly got it out of that range," Rowland said.

But now Rowland has ditched his hybrid and gone all electric. His high-performance Tesla is a six-figure investment, justified in part, by the lower maintenance costs.

"The other big savings with a pure electric car, you don't have oil changes. You don't have radiator flushes. You do have to check your brake pads, but the maintenance, in the long run, is significantly reduced," he said.

Angie Hicks, from Angie’s List, said the savings get better when you factor in possible government tax credits that can add up to $7,500.

"When buying your electric or hybrid car, be sure to check with the dealer about local tax credits or federal tax credits that may be available for you," Hicks said.

While many can't afford a luxury vehicle, both Tesla and Chevrolet are promising new electric vehicles in the $30,000 range in the coming months, about the average price of a new gas-powered car. These cars should double the current range of most electric vehicles, which is about 80 to 100 miles between charging.

Before deciding to pull the plug on a gas guzzler, make sure to have the right hardware at home.

"You want to make sure you have the proper outlet at your home or outside your garage so you can charge it. A lot of times people will use a 120-volt outlet, but you really would want a 240-volt. It's going to take less time to charge your car," Hicks said.

People will also want to research public charging stations around town. The city of Houston has an electric vehicle website that people can search by address. KPRC 2 found some located in city parks and several H-E-B stores have them in their parking lots.

Rowland said he hasn't changed his driving habits much. He just plans ahead for longer trips.

"At this point, I'd be really hard pressed to see going back to using a gas car. I just haven’t had any need," he said.

Home electric bills are going to jump with an electric car, but ask utility providers if they have a discounted rate for off-peak hours and do the charging overnight.

And don't forget about those tax credits. Tap or click here to read the IRS guidelines for alternative vehicle credits.

To see locations of public charging stations in Houston, tap or click here.