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Electric cars get charge from stimulus

New legislation expands tax credits for electric cars to cover smaller, but not bigger, vehicles.

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New rules expand eligibility
New rules expand eligibility
Thanks to President Obama's stimulus package, Americans can now get big tax breaks on more types of electric vehicles.

The credits originally would have stopped after they had been claimed on 250,000 vehicles across the whole industry. Now the credits will apply on up to 200,000 vehicles from any single manufacturer.

The old rules, passed in the fall of 2008, applied only to cars in the traditional sense, i.e., four-wheeled vehicles. Now three-wheeled and even two-wheeled electric vehicles are also eligible. Tax credits for these vehicles are calculated differently.

The changes also removed really big vehicles from eligibility. Given the environmental impact of heavy-duty trucks, some electric vehicle advocates call that a really big mistake.

The Internal Revenue Service still has to pass its own rules clarifying exactly how this new law will be implemented and what the tax credits will be. The ones shown here are our estimates, based on the legislation. The IRS declined to comment for this story.

So, if you plan to buy a plug-in vehicle, check with a tax accountant before you do anything, and carefully check out any vehicle manufacturer or seller before committing your money.

Go through the gallery to see some of the options coming soon or available today.

NEXT: Chevrolet Volt
Last updated February 23 2009: 1:53 PM ET
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