Although the Nissan Leaf goes for $32,500, some California residents could drive one for just about $17,000, thanks to incentives from the federal government, according to

Those incentives mean the Leaf would cost California residents about the same as a typical gas-powered compact sedan.

The federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit to buyers of plug-in cars. The state of California offers a $5,000 rebate, and local governments in California's San Joaquin Valley offer another $3,000 in rebates. Other states, cities, and counties offer their own incentives for plug-in cars.

The incentives are targeted toward car buyers who are willing to help the environment but who don't want to pay extra to do so.

Tax incentives for plug-in vehicles are available in blue and red states because efforts to reduce fuel consumption appeal to people who want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to people who want to cut dependence on foreign oil.

But some of the rules for getting these incentives can be confusing. Californians who buy a Nissan Leaf will be able to get a $5,000 tax credit and access to carpool lanes, but those who buy a 2011 Chevrolet Volt won't because, under state rules, the Volt does not qualify as a "zero emissions vehicle." However, the Volt qualifies for the federal $7,500 tax credit, as well as incentives in other states.

Another notable state package, according to Nissan, is in Colorado, where residents can get a tax credit of up to $6,000 for the purchase of a qualifying vehicle, plus a tax credit of up to 20 percent for the purchase of a charger.

In addition, California is offering a tax rebate of up to $5,000 for the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle, plus use of carpool lanes. Many California localities offer additional incentives, including tax breaks and free parking.

Georgia offers an income tax credit of up to $5,000 and a tax credit of 10 percent for the cost of charging equipment. Qualifying vehicles also have access to carpool lanes.

Hawaii residents get a rebate of 20 percent of the vehicle's purchase price up to $4,500. Rebates of up $5,000 are available if the purchase includes a charging station.

To view a database of federal and state incentives for electric vehicles, go to