Are State Rebates Necessary for Electric Vehicle Sales?

Campaigners for the Sierra Club's electric vehicle initiative make the case that New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to offer a state rebate of $2,000 to $4,000 to make EVs more attractive to car buyers now that he's phasing out coal power.
February 17, 2016, 12pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"While New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced an important and much-needed phase-out of coal-fired power plants, New York has a way to go before it leads the pack cleaning up its transportation sector and supporting the transition to electric vehicles (EVs)," write Kathleen Benedetti-Fisher and Gina Coplon-Newfield of Sierra Club's Electric Vehicles Initiative.

New York has yet to join other northeastern states that provide crucial financial incentives for consumers: rebates. Massachusetts [$2,500], Connecticut [$3,000], Pennsylvania [$2,000], Delaware [$2,200] and Rhode Island [$2,500] offer a consumer rebate for purchase or lease of an EV.

These rebates are in addition to the federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 for for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Benedetti-Fisher and Coplon-Newfield acknowledge that New York "has subsidized 500 of New York’s 1,200 charging stations through its ChargeNY program and recently proposed funding for 900 more," but more needs to be done if the Empire State is to "lead the pack," presumable referring to its neighbors that offer $2,000 to $3,000 EV rebates.

Would EV personal rebates compete with public transit subsidies?

As it stands, Cuomo has announced an aggressive, "$100 billion Robert-Moses-like" list of capital projects, many of which benefit public transit. There's also MTA's $29 billion capital plan that needs funds. And transit projects not in those plans, such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's $2.5 billion BQX streetcar, maybe quashed by Cuomo.

In light of all those competing demands on New York's budget that benefit public transit, does it make sense to offer generous subsidies, on top of federal ones, so individual car buyers can be an electric vehicle, be it a $26,000 Chevy Spark or a $70,000 Tesla, vehicles that won't even pay gas tax to maintain roads and bridges? Subsidizing EV infrastructure programs such as ChargeNY that benefit all EV drivers, not individual EV purchases, may be a more egalitarian approach.

A list of state incentives and special fees for electric and hybrid vehicles as of Dec. 3, 2015 is compiled here by the National Conference of State Legislators and here by Plug-in Cars.

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Published on Friday, February 5, 2016 in Sierra Club Compass
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