How to Buy a Nissan Leaf for Just $12,280

All the different incentives to purchase electric cars can be confusing.

But if all the stars align and you're the lucky person who can take advantage of multiple incentives, there’s a slim chance that you could buy a brand-new 2011 Nissan Leaf for a mere $12,300.

Here’s how it works: Start with the $32,780 list price of a Leaf base model. You’ll have to wait until next year, when you file your taxes, to cash in, but the Leaf qualifies for the highest $7,500 Federal tax credit for the purchase of a plug-in vehicle. (The Leaf should appear in the list of eligible vehicles on the website once it goes on sale.)

That takes the effective cost down to $25,280.

Next, if you live in California, the state will send you a check for $5,000 as part of its clean-vehicle rebate project—once you submit paperwork to the Center for Sustainable Energy, which manages the program, showing you bought a Leaf or any other qualifying zero-emissions vehicle. Now you're down to $20,280.

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(Incentives in other states include a $6,000 tax credit in Colorado, a $5,000 credit in Georgia, and a $4,500 purchase rebate in Hawaii.)

Now, if you live in one of the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin portion of Kern), you can apply for an additional $3,000 rebate for the purchase of a zero-emissions vehicle. Total: $17,280.

And, finally, if you work for Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company just announced it will offer employees a $5,000 allowance for the purchase of an electric vehicle. For this one, there's an eligibility application to fill out, then the buyer submits proof of purchase, and Sony sends a rebate check.

The Sony scheme expands on a similar program for hybrid cars it began in 2009, and is similar to a much-publicized program for hybrids from Silicon Valley software maker Hyperion Solutions several years ago.

If you’re a Sony Pictures employee who lives in one of those San Joaquin Valley areas, we really want to hear from you. While you'll have to write a check for $32,780 up front (plus tax, title, registration, insurance, and any other fees), you will end up getting a remarkable $20,500 of that back, one way or another.

(And, yes, that's the same Sony Pictures that distributes Chris Paine's Who Killed the Electric Car?)

That's even better, in percentage terms, than Colorado's notorious (and now-ended) $42,000 tax credit for buying a 2009 Tesla Roadster.

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