Excerpted from an article in the Marietta Daily Journal by Michael J. Pallerino. View full article here.

When Tesla Motors, the granddaddy of electric cars (EV), opened its Marietta showroom Jan. 19, it sent a strong message that Atlanta, particularly Cobb, would be at the epicenter of the ever-growing electric car movement in the Southeast.

There was chatter in the EV community that the company, started in 2003 by Internet entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk, was seeking a place for an Atlanta vehicle showroom and service center, with areas such as Lenox and Buckhead thrown around as possible landing spots. In the end, Tesla decided on South Marietta Parkway, just off Cobb Parkway.

The decision helps put Cobb at the forefront of the EV movement in the metro area. Driven by a combination of state and private incentives, metro area drivers continue to be among the nation’s biggest consumers of electric cars, with sales reportedly up 52 percent quarter-on-quarter at the end of last year, according to vehicle-charging network ChargePoint. More than 3,000 electric cars were sold to Atlanta area drivers in the fourth quarter 2013, followed by the Washington, D.C. area, Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles. In addition, Georgia ranked fourth in the United States in EV registrations in 2013, according to an Edmunds.com study.

“When Tesla decided to open its showroom here, it was a big deal,” said Dave Ellis, vice president, brokerage, for Ackerman & Co., which represents owners and tenants of commercial office and industrial space in the Cobb area. “I was surprised that there really wasn’t more of a big deal made about it. Of all the places in the state of Georgia, they chose Marietta. It says a lot about what this area offers. It’s all about our ecosystem — the accessibility, the quality of our consumer base.”

In a time of environmental and economic consciousness — when green meets green ­—­­­­ the call for electric cars is growing locally. For example, Nissan Motors reported Atlanta was the No. 1 market for its Leaf EV in December, with nearly 1,000 models sold. In addition, EVs and hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, Kia Optima Hybrid and Wheego Life, to name a few, are gaining traction among Cobb drivers.

Part of the attraction are the state and federal incentives, which are $5,000 and $7,500, respectively. Passed in 1998 by the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia EV tax credit continues to be more enticing than its neighboring states. For example, Tennessee offers a $2,500 rebate for the first 1,000 vehicles sold; South Carolina has a $1,500 tax credit; while Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina don’t offer any EV tax credits. 

Georgia Wheego owner Keith Cristal of Marietta stands in between the Wheego Whip (left), and the Wheego LiFe (right). Photo by Sam Bennett. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Cobb s Electric Connection

Georgia Wheego owner Keith Cristal of Marietta stands in between the Wheego Whip (left), and the Wheego LiFe (right). Photo by Sam Bennett.
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Cobb s Electric Connection

The incentives are enticing. Take the Wheego LiFe, an all-electric, two-seat subcompact car with a 115V lithium battery pack that can be charged from a standard 120V outlet, a 240V outlet or on any standard public charging stations.

Led by CEO and former MindSpring entrepreneur Mike McQuary, Wheego Electric Cars has become a leader in the integration of advanced technology components. The Atlanta-based company (the cars are assembled in Ontario, Calif.) is one of the first EV companies to deliver affordable fully capable, street legal, all-electric cars for everyday consumer use.

“We have found that our buyers are typically using our LiFe as a commuter car — meaning, they use it to drive to and from work and for around town driving,” said Susan Nicholson, spokesperson for Wheego, which has a dealership on 1794 Roswell Road in Marietta, as well as ones in Atlanta and Conyers. “It goes 100 miles on a charge, so as long as the round trip to and from work is under that, this is a great car for the job. They need to have a place to plug in the car to recharge it each night. So, typically our driver puts a charging station in their carport or garage.”

Jim Nolan, executive secretary of the Electric Vehicle Club of the South, said the make up of the metro Atlanta area is conducive to the rise in electric car popularity. “People (around here) spend a lot on gasoline for their cars. Now they are taking notice of EVs. They are learning they can save enough money on gas to help pay for the EV lease. The tax credits are a good investment for improving air quality and keeping us in compliance with Clean Air Standards, which helped avoid switching to more costly fuels for the rest of the drivers.”

Nolan said that it is not surprising to see more dealerships dotting the landscape. “Competition among manufacturers is helping to bring down prices. Dealers are getting more enthusiastic about selling them and are maintaining attractive inventories. They were hard to find and more expensive when I got mine in 2011, but now you can’t miss them. And once you drive an EV, you never want to go back.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Cobb s Electric Connection 

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