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California Caps Income Eligibility for Electric Vehicle Rebates

Californians with incomes of $250,000 or more, or couples earning half a million dollars or more, have lost their eligibility to receive most state electric vehicle rebates as a result of a required vote by the California Air Resources Board.
August 31, 2015, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The vote stems from 2014 legislation (SB 1275) authored by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), now Senate President pro Tempore, described here last year "that directs the state to put 1 million low- and zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2023," writes Patrick McGreevy for the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to requiring the California Air Resources Board (CARB or ARB) to cap eligible incomes to receive the rebates, the bill calls for assisting lower income Californians and "communities most impacted by air and climate pollution," according to the Greenlining Institute, to reduce their emissions through the Charge Ahead California Initiative.

"Money for the subsidies comes from a surcharge on vehicle registration fees and a portion of the smog fee paid by California motorists," adds McGreevy. In other words, a small percentage of the flat, i.e., doesn't vary with the type or year of vehicle, registration and smog fees for an old vehicle paid by a low-income motorist, goes to subsidize wealthy motorists who purchase new, expensive electric vehicles (EVs) - not exactly an equitable situation. 

The rebate subsidies come from the California Clean Vehicle Retirement Project. Rebates for eligible vehicles range from $900 to $5,000, with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), e.g., Chevy Volt, receiving $1,500, and all-electrics, e.g., Nissan Leaf, receiving $2,500. This state rebate is on top of the federal Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit of up to $7,500.

Residents with income above the cap level have four to six months from June 25, when the ARB voted to add the income caps, to purchase an eligible vehicle and receive the rebate. All residents can still receive the $5,000 rebate for a fuel cell vehicle. The ARB chose to exempt the cap for those models.

I'm not sure whether qualifying for the $2,500 rebate for Tesla purchases will have much impact on sales of a vehicle that just received a perfect rating from Consumer Reports

"The new Tesla Model S P85D left the folks at Consumer Reports grasping for ways to properly rate the car, after it scored a 103 — out of 100," reports NPR. "It kind of broke the system," says Jake Fisher, director of the magazine's auto test division.

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Published on Sunday, August 23, 2015 in Los Angeles Times
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